What is Abuse?
Abuse Within Jewish Community
What is Abuse?
Abuse is the systematic control of one person over another through intimidation, threats, insults, emotional or economic pressure, through forced isolation or physical or sexual assaults.
Who is a victim? What is Abuse?
Such abuse happens in all kinds of relationships – it may be a married couple, and it may be teenagers who are dating. It may be a young couple, and it may be a couple who has been together for many years. The vast majority of victims are women and children, but men experience domestic abuse as well.
Signs of an abusive relationship:
Physical Abuse: Hitting, kicking, pushing, punching, slapping, choking, grabbing, throwing objects at a partner, threatening with a weapon, driving recklessly with partner in a car, refusing to help a sick partner.
Emotional Abuse: Constant criticism, making humiliating remarks, name-calling, mocking, yelling, swearing, making victim think she is crazy, making victim feel guilty, making impossible rules and punishing victim for breaking these rules.
Economic Abuse: Withholding money, credit cards, keeping a partner from work or school, interfering with partner’s work or school, giving an allowance, withholding information and access to family finances.
Sexual Abuse: Forcing sex on an unwilling partner, demanding sexual acts that the victim does not want to perform, degrading treatment, being treated as a sex object.
Threats and Intimidation: Threatening to harm victim, children, family members, and pets. This includes putting partner in fear using looks, actions and gestures, shouting, smashing things and destroying property.
Using "Male Privilege": Treating partner like a servant, making all the “big” decisions,” acting like the master of the house.
Isolation: Controlling what partner does, who she sees and talks to, where she goes, monitoring phone calls, reading mail, taking car keys.
Statistics (from the American Bar Association Commission on Domestic Violence)
- According to conservative estimates, 1 million women suffer nonfatal violence by an intimate partner. Other estimates state that more than four million women a year experience a serious assault by an intimate partner.
- Violence against women occurs in 20% of dating couples and 25-33% of adolescent abusers reported their violence served to “intimidate, frighten or force the other person to give me something.”
- Each year, approximately 3.3 million children are exposed to violence by family members against their mothers or female caretakers.
- In homes, where partner abuse occurs, children are 1,500 times more likely to be abused and 40-60% of men who abuse women also abuse children.
- Domestic abuse has immediate and long-term detrimental effects on children. Although children may not be physically scarred, they may suffer emotional, behavioral and physical effects from witnessing abuse.
- While relationship abuse is perpetrated by both men and women, most victims are female. According to the National Crime Victimization Survey for 1992-1996, men were the perpetrators in 85% of intimate partner abuse.
Abuse within the Jewish community
Domestic abuse occurs in Jewish families at about the same rate as in the general community – about 15% and the abuse takes place among all branches of Judaism and at all socio-economic levels. Studies show that abuse occurs in every denomination of Judaism in equal percentages, and we see abuse in all communities including the unaffiliated. Abuse takes place at all socio-economic levels.
Cultural issues facing Jewish victims:
Shalom Bayit [peace in the home]: Shalom bayit – or peace in the home – is a central tenet of Judaism but it is not the reality in homes, where the constant threat of domestic abuse– physical, emotional, sexual, technological and financial – continues to erode the fabric of Jewish family and community life. Shalom Bayit is one of the few mitzvot [commandments] given primarily to women. The home is a source of family identity, education and affection. Women who strive to achieve shalom bayit may feel that admitting they are being abused in any way reflects poorly on the individual. There may be feelings of guilt, shame and stigma for shattering the myth of shalom bayit. There is also a fear that this admission may cause a backlash and a victim may be blamed or ostracized for coming forward.
Denial: According to the Centers for Disease Control, 1 in 4 women and 1 in 9 men experience domestic abuse during their lifetime and research shows that abuse occurs in the Jewish community at the same rate as the community at large (15-25%). With a Jewish community of more than 215,000 people in the Washington Metropolitan area, applying these statistics means that over 30,000 people have or are experiencing domestic abuse. We must acknowledge that domestic abuse does occur and shatter the myth. As we begin to lift the veil of secrecy around domestic violence in our community, we can help those at risk. Once this denial is erased, then women, children, and men will be able to seek the help that is necessary to break these destructive patterns.
Religious observance: Observant women’s concerns about leaving the home include the need to have kosher food at a shelter, the need to be able to observe Shabbat and other observances and be close to their children’s school.
Secretiveness: While JCADA is raising awareness about abuse within the Jewish community, it is still an issue that many people do not feel comfortable discussing publicly. It is only in recent years that Rabbis and lay leaders have begun speaking about domestic abuse in a public forum. However, the secretive nature of abuse still results in many victims not wanting others to know about the abuse they are enduring.
Shanda [shame]: There is a perception that abuse does not happen in the Jewish community and if abuse does happen in the community, it happens to someone else. Victims may feel that they are alone, that no one else in the Jewish community is living with abuse and that no one will understand or believe them. In a smaller community, relative to the total population, one’s partner may be a communal or business leader. Victims fear that no one will believe that a pillar of the community can also be abusive. Victims may feel an obligation to remain with their partner and this prevents them from leaving the unhealthy relationship.
Socio-economic: A lack of access to finances can create an issue of entrapment for many middle to upper middle class victims. They may have only limited knowledge of the family finances, limited access to money or be threatened with financial ruin if they leave. This may include taking away credit and debit cards; changing passcodes to bank accounts; requiring receipts for every purchase made including gas, groceries and medicines; and moving all funds into an alternative bank account. Victims feel stuck in their abusive situation because they cannot support their family’s standard of living on their own. They may not qualify for public assistance because on paper it may show that they should have access to money. This can compound feelings of shame and embarrassment and a desire to keep this secret.
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Help Is Available!
You are not alone. No one deserves to be abused and we fully understand the challenges facing victims of abuse. Call our confidential helpline at 301-529-0073, our hotline at 1-888-883-2323, or our office at 301-315-8040.
If you are a domestic violence victim:
- Confide in someone you trust.
- Learn more about domestic abuse and its effects on the victim and children.
- Leave an “emergency kit” with a friend including money, extra set of car keys, change of clothes, copies of important documents for yourself and your children and other items that you may need if you have to leave your home quickly.
- Have a Safety Plan ready to protect you and your children and share it with a friend.
- Learn about the available resources (hotlines, domestic abuse programs, victim advocates) and the legal system.
- Keep important numbers handy.
Having a safety plan is extremely important whether staying or planning to leave. Leaving, even temporarily, can be the most dangerous time for a woman who is the victim of domestic abuse.
Safety in your home
- Identify clues as to when the violence may occur - holidays, pay day, etc.
- Identify ways to keep safe when there is escalation. Consulting a counselor or rabbi may be helpful and think about what has been helpful in the past to keep safe.
- Have an escape route planned and practice it.
- Teach the children how to phone 911 and discuss a safety plan with your children for when you are not with them.
- Develop a signal with a neighbor, friend or child that indicates help is needed.
- Think through where to go and who may help.
- Get a cell phone.
- Inform your children’s school, daycare, etc. about who has permission to pick-up your children.
- Call a domestic abuse hotline for help.
Safety at work
- Decide whom at work you will inform of your situation. This should include office or building security and your supervisor. Provide a picture of your partner if possible.
- Arrange to have an answering machine, caller ID, or a co-worker screen your calls at work.
- If your job is in a public place and your partner is harassing you at work, ask your company to check into getting a protective order that will keep your partner off the premises.
- If you work for a company with several locations in the area ask if you can be transferred to another location. Also see if your work hours can be varied.
- Devise a safety plan for when you leave work. Have someone escort you to your car or bus and wait with you until you are safely on your way home. Also vary your route home as often as possible.
Planning to leave
- Let someone you trust keep spare keys, money, documents (passports, birth certificates, lease, mortgage, insurance info etc., medications and other essentials for you and children.
- Open a separate bank account/credit card in your own name to establish or increase independence. Try to cut household expenses and put the money you save in your own account.
- Plan for a safe place to go with someone you trust.
- Have a back-up plan if the first one doesn't work.
- Acquire job skills.
- Get a post office box.
- Call a domestic abuse hotline for help.
- Keep shelter and emergency numbers close by.
- Consult about legal matters, and learn how it can help and what you need to do to provide for safety.
- Use the legal system and learn how it can help and what you need to do to provide for safety.
- If something feels like it is not safe, it probably isn't.
- Keep a journal of harassing behavior if this is happening.
- Meet with partner in a public place.
- Report threatening behavior (i.e. being followed) to the police.
- Follow court orders.
- Call a domestic abuse program for help and resources.
Relationship abuse occurs when harmful behaviors are repeated, creating a pattern of violence, power or control over another person.
- Nearly 1.5 million high school students nationwide experience physical abuse from a dating partner in a single year.
- One in three adolescents in the U.S. is a victim of physical, sexual, emotional or verbal abuse from a dating partner, a figure that far exceeds rates of other types of youth violence.
- One in 10 high school students has been purposefully hit, slapped or physically hurt by a boyfriend or girlfriend.
- One quarter of high school girls have been victims of physical or sexual abuse.
Why Focus on Young People?
- Girls and young women between the ages of 16 and 24 experience the highest rate of intimate partner violence -- almost triple the national average.
- Violent behavior typically begins between the ages of 12 and 18.
- The severity of intimate partner violence is often greater in cases where the pattern of abuse was established in adolescence.
- About 72% of eighth and ninth graders are “dating".
- Violent relationships in adolescence can have serious ramifications by putting the victims at higher risk for substance abuse, eating disorders, risky sexual behavior and further domestic violence.
- Being physically or sexually abused makes teen girls six times more likely to become pregnant and twice as likely to get a STI.
- Half of youth who have been victims of both dating violence and rape attempt suicide, compared to 12.5% of non-abused girls and 5.4% of non-abused boys.
Warning Signs of an Abusive Relationship
Does your partner . . .
- Criticize or humiliate you in front of family and friends?
- Isolate you from others?
- Manipulate you or lie to you?
- Threaten to hurt you or themselves?
- Force you to do things you do not want to do?
- Constantly text you or call you?
- Use your money or force you to buy things for them?
You have the right to
- Say "no".
- Change your mind.
- Have control over your own body.
- Set your own limits and have those limits respected.
- Not be physically, sexually, verbally, or psychologically hurt by ANYONE - friends, family members, dates, or strangers.
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