The following article was originally published in the Hadassah International 2022 Year In Review. To access the complete Hadassah International 2022 Year in Review – click here: Cure. Innovation. Humanity.
“The Bat Ami Center has consistently been ranked as the top rape crisis center by the Lobby to Combat Sexual Violence, based on victim feedback.” – Dr. Dvora Bauman, Director, Bat Ami Center
When notified that a patient has been admitted to the Hadassah’s Bat Ami Center for Victims of Sexual Abuse, Drs. Dvora Bauman and Mushira Aboo Dia prepare themselves for the worst. Every case at the rape crisis center is a difficult one…
The challenges facing disclosure of sexual abuse are often compounded by cultural and religious overtones of Jerusalem’s socially conservative ultra-orthodox Jewish, Muslim, and Christian populations. “Surprisingly, an increasing number of victims from these communities are breaking their silence and seeking help at the center,” explains Dr. Dvora Bauman, the Center’s Director.
As senior obstetricians/gynecologists at Hadassah, Drs. Bauman and Aboo Dia are among a group of rotating physicians on call at the Center, which functions as a dedicated emergency room and multidisciplinary treatment center.
Upon arrival at the Bat Ami ER, a team of nurses and social workers promptly attend to the patient, providing immediate care and support. This eliminates the need for the victim to endure standard hospital admission procedures or wait alone in the emergency room.
Specialized teams, including obstetricians/gynecologists, nurses, pediatricians, psychologists, forensic experts, and social workers, are on call 24/7, every day of the year to treat men, women, and children who have been sexually abused. The center guides them through medical examinations, evidence collection, and treatment for physical injuries and emotional trauma. “The primary goal of treatment at the Bat Ami Center is to return control to the victim,” Dr. Aboo Dia explains.
The gender distribution of victims at present is 89% female and 11% male, and more than a third of the victims are minors. Studies show that sexual abuse is a pervasive problem that affects both men and women, but men are less likely to report or disclose their experiences. Bauman teaches all medical students at Hadassah a course on sexual abuse, emphasizing the extremely low global disclosure rate, and promoting the students to encourage patients to disclose sexual abuse or violence.
Bauman and Aboo Dia are proud that Bat Ami consistently ranks as the top rape crisis center in the national survey conducted by the Lobby to Combat Sexual Violence, which is based on victim feedback. This is testimony to their dedication to providing sensitive care and support to those who have experienced sexual violence.
As a preventive medical strategy, “morning after” pills are given, and antibiotics and medications are administered to reduce the risk of sexually transmitted diseases, such as HIV/AIDS. The center adheres to a unique protocol that offers the alleged attacker the opportunity to take an anonymous AIDS test. If the test is negative, the victim can discontinue AIDS medication.
All incidents of sexual abuse are reported to the police, but it is the victims’ decision whether or not they wish to press charges.
To support patients after a devastating and traumatic experience, the center offers counseling and support services free of charge. By placing guilt where it belongs, the Center empowers survivors to speak about the abuse, testify in court, and move forward with their lives.
An expert in adolescent medicine, Bauman has established a program for minors to receive free follow-up professional medical and mental health care.
The Center is designed to be unobtrusive and consists of a lounge-style interview room, an examination room equipped for medical and forensic assessment and documentation, and a restroom. The center’s state-of-the-art colposcope, gifted by Hadassah Australia, allows for the collection of photo and video evidence for investigators and prosecutors. Specialized security software ensures the privacy and confidentiality of patient records.
The current space and facilities will need to undergo an expansion to accommodate the increasing number of victims seeking treatment.
Shaped by very different backgrounds, these two dedicated doctors work together in harmony, exemplifying Hadassah Hospital’s core value of coexistence, providing the best care possible to all victims, regardless of their backgrounds or beliefs.
On the Frontline at the Ukraine/Poland Border
In May and June 2022, Drs. Aboo Dia and Bauman led successive Hadassah medical missions to provide emergency primary healthcare relief to refugees at the Poland/Ukraine border. They worked 12-hour shifts with patients who had not seen doctors for weeks and even months.
Bauman, a native of St. Petersburg, Russia, believes that her ability to communicate directly with patients combined with her expertise in treating victims of sexual abuse gave her an advantage in caring for patients who had experienced personal trauma and violence.
Most patients they tended to were women, children, and men over the age of 60. Many refugees with chronic disorders had no access to medication for months, causing their medical conditions to regress.
Children exhibited terrible abrasions and infections from walking for kilometers to the border, and many suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
A group of Ukrainian refugees waiting in line for the Hadassah clinic told us, “There is nothing like Israeli doctors,” said Bauman. “We came with the Hadassah spirit of providing maximum care to every patient,” added Aboo Dia.
Bauman and Aboo Dia came home with a deep sense of fulfillment but exhausted and greatly saddened by the suffering caused by the war. Missions like these stay with a caregiver for life.
Main photo caption: Drs. Mushira Aboo Dia (l) and Dvora Bauman in the Bat Ami Center for Victims of Sexual Abuse at Hadassah Ein Kerem