Abuse within the Jewish community is not a myth. Jewish families experience the same percentage of domestic abuse as non-Jewish families. Domestic abuse crosses all economic, ethnic and religious backgrounds, including Reform, Conservative, Reconstructionist, Orthodox, Ashkenazi, Misrachi, Sephardic, unaffiliated and interfaith families.
Traditionally the responsibility for maintaining shalom bayit, peace in the home, is placed upon the woman. When that peace is shattered, the Jewish community tends to blame the woman for her failure to maintain the image of a perfect Jewish family. As a result, Jewish women stay in abusive relationships longer than other women. Many never tell anyone about the abuse out of fear, shame and humiliation. While 96 percent of reported domestic abuse is perpetrated against women and girls, abuse against men, boys and the elderly, also occurs.
NCJW’s Family Shalom committee works to stop the violence and the abuse that occurs within relationships by offering information and referral through its telephone support line to those who want help with their situations. The professionally trained volunteers provide information on a wide number of resources including intervention, counseling, and support. In addition, Family Shalom seeks to educate the Jewish community about domestic abuse through its community outreach — teen healthy relationship training, the distribution of literature and annual community awareness campaigns.
The best and most recent science available from the United States Centers for Disease Control & Injury Prevention (CDC) is the National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey (NISVS) published in 2010. NISVS is an ongoing, nationally-representative telephone survey that utilized rigorous scientific methodologies to collect detailed information on IPV, sexual violence and stalking among adult women and men in the United States:
- A key finding of NISVS is that while 1 in 4 women and 1 in 7 men have experienced severe physical violence by an intimate partner, women are disproportionally affected by sexual violence, intimate partner violence and stalking.
- Women are over 4 times more likely to be beaten, 6 times more likely to be slammed against something, and 9 times more likely to be hurt by choking or suffocating.
- 81% of women who experienced rape, stalking or physical violence by an intimate partner reported significant short or long term impacts related to the violence experienced in this relationship such as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) symptoms and injury, while 35% of men report such impacts of their experiences.
The California Women's Health Survey (CWHS) is a survey about women's health which serves as a catalyst for innovative solutions that impact the health of California's women and girls. The Women's Health Survey is a unique collaborative interdepartmental and private industry effort between the California Departments of Public Health, Health Care Services, Mental Health, Alcohol and Drug Programs and Social Services and private partners the California Medical Review, Inc. (aka Lumetra) and the Public Health Institute. Some key findings from the CWHS:
- Approximately 40% of California women experience physical intimate partner violence in their lifetimes.
- Younger women, 18-24 years of age, were significantly more likely (11%) to be victims of physical intimate partner violence in the past year than women in other age groups.
- Of those experiencing physical intimate partner violence, 75% of victims had children under the age of 18 years at home.
Recognize the Signs
- Frequently criticized, shouted, or called names.
- Withheld approval, sex, or affection as punishment.
- Thrown objects at you.
- Humiliated you in public or private.
- Irrational jealousy.
- Accused you about imagined affairs.
- Isolated you from friends or family.
- Controlled where you go.
- Ridiculed or insulted your beliefs, race, class, sexual orientation, etc.
- Abandoned you in strange places.
- Threatened to commit suicide if you leave.
- Threated to hurt you, your children, relative, or pets.
- Controlled your money.
- Locked you in or out of your house.
- Forced or pressured you to have sex.
- Held you against your will.
- Hit, push, shoved, bit, burned, or choked you.
- Destroyed your personal belongings.
- Violence against pets
- Destruction of doors, walls, furniture, household goods, etc.
Abusive partners in LGBTQ relationships use all the same tactics to gain power and control as abusive partners in heterosexual relationships — physical, sexual or emotional abuse, financial control, isolation and more. But abusive partners in LGBTQ relationships also reinforce their tactics that maintain power and control with societal factors that compound the complexity a survivor faces in leaving or getting safe in an LGBTQ relationship. For example, the abuser threatens to “out” their partner, the abuser derides the victim with anti-gay epithets, the abuser tells the partner they are not a “real” GLBT.
For more information on same-sex dating violence, see the following websites:
Rainbow Domestic Violence
A website devoted to the issues of same-sex violence.
Information about dating violence in the LGBT community.
Learn about domestic abuse and available resources. Share what you learn with congregants, co-workers, and friends. Believe people’s stories of abuse. Recognize signs of abuse, and refer women for assistance. Invite a speaker from Family Shalom to address your group. Support domestic abuse prevention projects.
Myths & Facts
The first step to helping battered women is to dispel the myths that stem from “blame the victim” ideology and thereby gain a better understanding of domestic violence. Societal misconceptions about domestic violence often hinder battered women from getting support and protection from friends, family, the criminal justice system and the medical community. These attitudes are based on myths and often stem from the same “blame the victim” attitudes rape victims encounter. The first step to helping battered women is to dispel the myths and thereby gain a better understanding of domestic violence. (Myths & Facts courtesy of: American Foundation of State County and Municipal Employees and The American Jewish Congress)
Myth: Jewish men do not beat their wives.
Fact: 20% of married Jewish women treated in an L.A. emergency room had been battered, the same percent as married women in general – source: Center for Sexual Abuse
Myth: Abuse means being physically beaten.
Fact: Domestic violence refers to a pattern of violent and coercive behavior exercised by one adult in an intimate relationship over another. It may consist of repeated, severe beatings, or more subtle forms of abuse, including threats and control.
Myth: It is easy for battered women to leave their abusers.
Fact: The average length of time Jewish women stay in marriages after abuse begins is 10-17 years; the average length of time women in the general population stay is 5-8 years. – source: Maria Speigal, LA Study
Myth: The woman must have done something to provoke the attack.
Fact: There are problems in every marriage or relationship, but violence is never an acceptable response. Moreover, the violence can be triggered by almost anything no matter how trivial (e.g. not having the meal ready on time, not keeping the children quiet) or nothing at all.
Myth: Alcohol abuse is the cause of most domestic violence.
Fact: Excessive drinking or alcoholism is not the cause of domestic violence, nor an excuse for it. Quitting drinking will not cure abusive behavior, although it may be a prerequisite to treating the abuser.
Myth: When abused women make the break and get away from the batterer, they are no longer in danger.
Fact: A domestic violence victim is often in more danger after she leaves. This makes it very critical that the police and the courts effectively enforce stay away orders and incarcerate batterers for as long a time as they would a dangerous felon who commits other violent offenses. People leaving abusive situations must take steps in order to protect themselves.
Myth: Once a victim, always a victim.
Fact: Most women who have successfully managed to escape a violent relationship are very careful to choose partners without abusive tendencies.
Myth: Women must enjoy the abuse or they would leave.
Fact: The fact is many women eventually do leave but the decision to leave is extremely difficult for a number of reasons.
- Usually the relationship is not all bad. Between violent episodes, the abuser is very apologetic and loving. The victim often loves the abuser, but hates the abuse.
- Many women are afraid to leave because the abuser has threatened their safety or has threatened to take away their children.
- Abused women with marketable skills may have little self-esteem and self-confidence as a result of abuse and are afraid to strike out on their own. Other victims with no recent job experience may find the idea of trying to support themselves even more daunting.
- Although the abuse is not their fault, women often blame themselves and try to prevent the violence by trying to be “better.”
Myth: Battered women need only call the police and the criminal justice system will protect them.
Fact: Traditionally, the authorities (police, prosecutors, and judges) have not treated domestic violence as a serious criminal matter. Too often police have been reluctant to arrest the abuser; prosecutors have not vigorously prosecuted domestic violence cases; and judges have failed to hand down sentences commensurate with the seriousness of the offense. Fortunately, this situation is beginning to change. The change is primarily the result of the public outcry following tragedies that could have been prevented by a proper response from the authorities. New legislation has been passed in some states providing stiffer penalties for abusers. Police in many cities are receiving training on how to deal with domestic violence cases.