'50% of gay teens physically or sexually abused'
Gay community reps meet with Social Affairs Ministry officials, introduce data suggesting 80% of gay teens in Israel suffer some sort of sexual orientation-related abuse. Minister Isaac Herzog orders office to prepare aid and intervention program meant to assist gay teens
The police are still trying to find a lead in Saturday night's shooting attack at a gay and lesbian youth center in Tel Aviv, which left two dead and 10 injured, and the investigation is currently focusing on the shooting being a hate crime.
In the aftermath, representatives of the gay community have met with Social Affairs Ministry officials and presented them with daunting information: According to their data, 80% of gay teens have been subject to verbal abuse due to their sexual orientation and about half of them have suffered some sort of physical and/or sexual abuse.
About one third of all teen suicides in the world are committed because of sexual orientation. Also, the age at which teens are "coming out" has drastically dropped over the past few years, from and average of 16 in the early 2000s, to 13 today.
One third of all gay teens define themselves a bisexual, while the rest have a cleared sense of their sexual orientation. According to the data, the more supportive the immediate surroundings are – i.e. family and friends – the healthier the teenager's mental being remains through adolescence.
Following the horrific attack, Social Affairs Minister Isaac Herzog ordered his office to prepare an aid and intervention program meant to assist gay teenagers in Israel. Herzog promised to look into the unique needs of the gay community and tasked the ministry's Director General Nahum Itskovitch to personally oversee the program.
"This attack against young gay people is nothing short of a social terror attack and we must administer unique aid to the community, one that caters to its special needs," said Herzog. "I have instructed my office to map out the community's immediate needs and to formulate the appropriate program.
"This attack has shocked us all. It seemed as if Israel was taking steps in the right direction over the past few years, as far as meeting the needs of the gay community, and all of a sudden we have reverted. We must bolster the system now and stabilize the situation."
Social workers and other professionals have been meeting with representatives of the gay community since the morning hours. The attack, they said, has left many traumatized. Community officials are exploring the possibility of making individual psychological and psychiatric care available to those who wish to seek it, as well as group therapy – under the guidance of a mental-health professionals – to help gay teens process the event better.
Itzik Dror, a spokesman for the gay and lesbian community, told Ynet that the phones in the community's crisis center "have been ringing off the hook since the attack. We've expanded our hours to meet the needs. People are calling in to report hate crimes. People who were never able to talk about it are finally seeking initial support and comfort."
Daniel Edelson contributed to this report