What is Abuse? Domestic violence occurs when one person systematically
controls another through intimidation, threats, insults, emotional or
economic pressure, through forced isolation or physical or sexual
Who is Abused? 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. Men
experience domestic abuse as well, but in smaller numbers.
Signs of Domestic Abuse 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. 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
Statistics (from the American Bar Association Commission on Domestic Violence)
*By 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
*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 within the Jewish Community
Yes, 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.
Cultural Issues Facing Jewish Abused Women
Secretiveness: It was not discussed in public forums, not mentioned by Rabbis until recently, and not written about in synagogue bulletins. As a result Jewish women never felt that the community was ready to listen and may have stayed in their abusive marriage too long. Jewish women tend to stay in abusive relationships 2 to 3 times longer than those in the general population. Non-Jewish women stay from 3-5 years, Jewish women from 7-13 years.
Socio-economic: This situation speaks to the entrapment that many middle to upper middle class Jewish women face around lifestyle issues. They feel stuck in their abusive situation because they cannot support their standard of living on their own. They cannot replicate their lifestyle so they remain in a lovely home that may feel like a prison. Many have no knowledge of the family finances, may have limited access to money or may be threatened with financial ruin.
Shanda (shame): Women experience shame as members of the Jewish community because they know that Jews are not supposed to be victims of abuse. These women 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. There are those whose husbands are communal or business leaders and they fear that no one will believe that a pillar of the community can also be abusive.
Shalom Bayit:Shalom Bayit is one of the few mitzvot given primarily to women; it is the pride and joy of the Jewish woman to create “peace in her home”.... a home that is a source of family identity, education and affection. If a woman admits to others that she has been abused in any way then, she loses the pride that she has in her home and in her family. She feels intense guilt, shame and stigma for shattering the myth of Shalom Bayit that many women work so hard to maintain. In some cases, this admission may cause a backlash and women may be blamed and ostracized for coming forward.
Observant women concerns about leaving the home include the need to have kosher food at a shelter, need to be able to observe the Shabbat and other observances and be close to their children’s school.
In our Jewish community there are as many as 7500 women who may be hurt by their spouses. 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 and to find more healthy ways to express anger and to cope with conflict.
Help Is Available
You are not alone. No one deserves to be abused and we do understand. Call us at 301-315-8041 or our hotline 1-888-883-2323.
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 own 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 my 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
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.
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.
If partner is following her, contact the police.
Follow court orders.
Call a domestic abuse program for help and resources.
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.
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JCADA is committed to providing high quality services to all residents of the Greater Washington DC Jewish community as well as the community at large without regard to ability, background, faith, gender or sexual orientation.