Connecting for Impact Fellow Secures Advancements for Victims of Domestic Violence
By Steph Black
National Council of Jewish Women’s Connecting for Impact Fellow and founder of the Lobby to Combat Sexual Violence, Yael Sherer saw a win in the Knesset this month as she watched a law she had been working on years advance in a major win for women’s rights. The new law declares that any DNA samples obtained in a forensic sexual assault examination — commonly referred to as a rape kit — remain stored with no expiration, ensuring victims of sexual violence can initiate investigations when they are able and prosecute their attackers.
Many victims of sexual violence do not report their attack immediately, as the trauma of the initial incident and subsequent tribulations can delay the time it takes for a victim to feel empowered and able to take a stand. The previous law states that forensic evidence obtained during the initial attach may only be stored for up to three months — often long before a victim can come forward.
Sherer was among the first advocates to speak up about the proper storage of such evidence and, for years, has been calling for the correct preservation of these rape kits. Poor storage conditions lead to damaged, unusable, and admissible evidence for when a victim can initiate an investigation, and it then becomes even harder to prosecute her attackers.
Sherer has also been a key player in expanding the number of “acute emergency rooms” in each major hospital where the initial exams and evidence collection occurs. According to the Times of Israel, only five hospitals in Israel have such exam rooms, and the bill would make rape kits available in every hospital.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Israel saw an increase in domestic violence cases due to women forced into quarantine with their abusers. National Council of Jewish Women pivoted our Connecting for Impact fellowship to prioritize work done to address the issues of domestic and sexual violence or organizations that had an anti-violence framework. Our 2021 cohort is now exclusively comprised of Chief Executive Officers, Founders, and Executive Directors who address this hidden pandemic of violence against women and the impact these initiatives will continue to have long after the COVID-19 pandemic ends.
The Connecting for Impact fellowship is just one of many initiatives NCJW facilitates in Israel. We speak out for gender equity, women’s empowerment, and strengthening Israel’s civil society. For more than 70 years, we have supported women, children, and families throughout Israeli society regardless of ethnicity, religion, and economic status. With our current grants to Israeli organizations, participation in advocacy coalitions, policy statements, and pioneering work in education and research, NCJW is a leader in Israel’s women’s and gender rights.