Religious or military duty requires cover-up of abuse of women in Israel

June 13, 2014
Sarah Benton

This posting has these items, this time concentrating on Israel:
1) The National: Sexual violence against women requires changing attitudes, an editorial in an important Arab news publication takes up the issue of violence against women;
2) JTA: In Israel’s haredi community, breaking a culture of secrecy on domestic abuse, October 2013;
3) JPost: Some 600,000 children in Israel have witnessed domestic violence, report says, November 2013;
4) Ynet: Report: 1 in 8 IDF women soldiers experienced sexual assault in 2013;
5) Notes and links, other articles and websites on violence against women.

Haredim women in Israel; a high level of domestic abuse and child-bearing, plus a total cover-up in public, may be seen as normal. Photo posted in Willfully Blind: Haredim Cover Up For God, March 2013.

Sexual violence against women requires changing attitudes

Editorial, The National
June 10, 2014

When it comes to ending the prevalence of rape and other forms of sexual violence in war zones, the solution requires challenging some widespread attitudes towards women. As the Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict was told this week, rape is an abhorrent tactic of war that must be eliminated.

The London-based conference – which was attended by UN special envoy Angelina Jolie and the UK’s foreign secretary William Hague who continue to campaign for this cause – seeks to create an international agreement on standards for documenting and investigating sexual violence in conflict zones and to introduce more training for peacekeepers and those involved in the military to ensure justice for victims.

The deliberate use of sexual violence against women has often been used in conflict zones as a way to establish power by weakening the social fabric of the communities where they occur. The United Nations estimated that since 1998, more than 420,000 women have been raped during conflicts in Sierra Leone, Liberia, Bosnia, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Nor are these countries the exception – rape remains a deliberate tactic used in war-torn countries like Syria.

While this abhorrent practice is more severe in conflict zones, it exists in part because of prevailing attitudes towards women generally, including in politically stable countries. These attitudes must be confronted, challenged and changed wherever and whenever they occur.

A case in point is the controversial claim this week by Ramsevak Paikra, the minister responsible for law and order in India’s central Chhattisgarh state, that rapes “do not happen deliberately”. Another example this week in Egypt involved the sexual assault of a 19-year-old student during celebrations marking the inauguration of the country’s new president.

These attitudes and the sexual assaults that often follow prevail when misogyny is justified by social attitudes associating maleness with violence and power. Prosecuting the perpetrators and empowering women requires the support of both the authorities and the communities they represent. This includes supporting victims of rape, even if social norms mitigate against it, and particularly if the rape leads to pregnancy.

If the world is serious about lessening the prevalence of rape during conflict, it must start with improving attitudes towards women everywhere.

In Israel’s haredi community, breaking a culture of secrecy on domestic abuse

By Ben Sales, JTA
October 14, 2013

BEIT SHEMESH, Israel – It was only when her sons came at her with knives that she realized keeping quiet was not going to work.

For nine years, her rabbis had told her not to speak up about her husband’s verbal, physical and sexual attacks. They assured her that the abuse would pass, that if she obeyed his every wish — folding his napkin just so or letting him do as he liked in bed — the attacks would end and he would stop telling their grown sons she was a bad mother.

But when her sons began to threaten her, she knew it was time to leave.

Taking her youngest children, she turned to Yad Sarah, a highly regarded Israeli charity founded by former Jerusalem Mayor Uri Lupolianski. The organization mainly focuses on medical services, but it also runs a domestic abuse division geared toward Orthodox Jews. A professional there directed her to Bat Melech, a shelter for battered religious women.

“It was amazing,” said the woman, who asked to remain anonymous. “I was sure that I was not a normal person and they were nice to me.”

The wall of silence surrounding sensitive domestic issues in the haredi Orthodox community has long been seen as an impediment to successfully addressing them. Yad Sarah and Bat Melech have sought to change the situation — and their efforts appear to be bearing fruit.

A decade ago, haredi community leaders rarely spoke openly about violence against women. Now leading rabbis are working with experts to fight abuse in the community.

“We’ve succeeded in that they talk about it publicly,” said Shlomit Lehman, a professor of social work who founded the Yad Sarah domestic abuse division. “There was always family violence, but they kept it secret. Our connection with the community and leadership is stronger. There’s discretion and professional care.”

Lehman started the division in 2000 with two therapists. Now there are 16 serving 150 patients a month, making Yad Sarah the second-most active domestic abuse center in Israel.

“Jewish Taliban”, in the words of the Jewish Press: women dressed in head to toe robes walking through Meah Shearim, in Jerusalem. Photo Credit: Yaakov Naumi/Flash90

Bat Melech, founded in 1995, runs two shelters and is expanding its Beit Shemesh facility. The Crisis Center for Religious Women, which refers abuse victims to professional care, is organizing an international conference slated for December 2014 on preventing violence and abuse in the religious community.

Until recent years, experts say, haredi rabbis would deal with cases of domestic abuse privately; only rarely would they make referrals to professionals or recommend divorce. Victims often were stigmatized and their children had a harder time finding marriage partners.

“It’s easier to say that’s not in our community,” said Eitan Eisman, a Modern Orthodox rabbi who recommends Bat Melech’s services and advocates for its work. “That’s easier than looking at our sins. Some people deny reality, and some people think they can deal with the issues alone in the community. But more and more people are accepting this reality.”

Both Bat Melech and Yad Sarah have made rabbinic outreach a central part of their strategies. Yad Sarah launched a rabbinic committee with representatives of Israel’s major haredi organizations. Those leaders in turn instructed communal rabbis to refer battered women to the two organizations.

Bat Melech founder Noach Korman says only a minority of haredi rabbis still ignore domestic violence and most support his organization’s mission.

Still, discretion remains a paramount concern for haredi rabbis, many of whom still refuse to advocate publicly for the two organizations. Leading haredi papers will not run ads for Bat Melech and Yad Sarah, though online haredi publications do cover them. Haredi schools also do not permit Yad Sarah to run seminars on domestic abuse for their students.

The culture of secrecy doesn’t bother Lehman, who sees an advantage in wielding the significant influence of haredi rabbis.

“In the general population, public discourse is the way to deal with this,” Lehman said. “In the religious community it’s very different. The blessing comes from what’s hidden. It’s easier to deal with things in the haredi community when you talk about it quietly.”

Haredi couples are more reluctant than their secular peers to choose divorce. Lehman considers a battered women’s shelter a last resort.

Instead, Yad Sarah encourages abusive husbands to seek therapy in parallel with their wives. Lehman says that for every 100 women who seek treatment, approximately 40 men come as well.

“The hierarchy between husband and wife in the haredi world is a good excuse for the violence, but it doesn’t create the violence,” she said. Haredi communities “educate for respect in the family. The violence doesn’t start in the hierarchy or the biblical verse.”

Though growing numbers of women have sought treatment in recent years, Korman and Lehman say work remains to be done. Bat Melech at times has to turn women away — in part because of the high number of children that sometimes accompany them. The shelters have served 800 women and, Korman estimates, more than 3,000 children.

“People aren’t waiting,” Lehman said. “They come when they’re dating or in the first year of marriage, so there are more options. Their entire lives are ahead of them.”

Some 600,000 children in Israel have witnessed domestic violence, report says

Women’s International Zionist Organization report states there are about 200,000 women victims of domestic violence in the country.

By Danielle Ziri, JPost
November 20, 2013

Some 600,000 children living in Israel today have witnessed domestic violence in their home, a report published on Wednesday revealed.

The WIZO report also stated that about 200,000 women victims of domestic violence reside in the country today.

Prof. Einat Peled of Tel Aviv University’s School of Social Work told The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday that children exposed to violence in the home have been statistically proven to be more likely to lack stability and experience emotional difficulties than other children.

“When you consider the children who are exposed to violence, we know that in the worst cases, the child lives in an environment of terror, fear and lack of confidence,” she explained. “Secondly, there could also be developmental issues in the fact the child is exposed to problematic models for interpersonal communication and problem solving.”

“Watching abuse take place can affect the relationship between the child and his parents,” Peled added.

“His relationship with an abusive father is problematic because of the violence, and his relationship with a mother who isn’t able to defend herself is also a problem because the child may see her as weak.”

Peled stressed, however, that these consequences vary and are more or less severe depending on the degree and frequency of the violence occurring in the home.

The WIZO study, which is based on data collected by welfare departments and law enforcement authorities, also revealed that in the past year, some 7,335 women, 1,021 children and 2,860 men were treated in 89 centers for the treatment and prevention of domestic violence across the country.

In total, about 15,000 inquiries were made to such centers this year.

Moreover, some 621 women and 1,047 children received assistance in 14 shelters for battered women this year.

According to the data, every year about 60 women who begin the process of integrating into a shelter do not stay.

The WIZO figures also showed that 17,444 cases of violence within the family were opened by police in 2013.

Out of the cases, about 11,303 had originated from complaints of violence against women. Another 657 of them were opened as a result of violations of restraining orders. The total number of such orders filed this year is 7,183.

By the end of the current year, the number of cases opened by police is expected to reach 20,000 and complaints of violence against women are estimated to rise to 13,000, according to the report.

Moreover, 19 women were murdered by their partner or a family member [from] November 2012 until today [November 2013]. In the past decade, a total of 186 women were murdered by family members.

In terms of battered women’s ability to function on a daily basis, Peled told the Post that although abuse is a strain on women’s everyday lives, some women are still able to assume their roles as mothers and working women.

In terms of medical treatment, about 4,170 women were treated in various healthcare services for injuries following domestic violence and sexual assault in 2012, the report showed. An additional 536 women who suffered such injuries refused to be treated.

“Some women don’t even ask for help,” Peled said. “In these cases we need to think of how we can make these services more accessible to them, and by accessible I mean to adapt the range of services to different cultures and different languages, for example. The aid needs to be adapted to women in different situations.”

She added that although great efforts on the subject have already been made in Israel, “we still have a way to go.”

Report: 1 in 8 IDF women soldiers experienced sexual assault in 2013

Far-reaching report finds cases of sexual harassment rose to 561 in 2013; number of men who said they were assaulted rises by 5% from 2012

By Omri Efraim, Ynet news
February 03, 2014

An extensive report that included thousands of IDF soldiers, officers, and NCOs has shown that one of every eight women soldiers reported that they were sexually harassed in 2013.

The report was presented Monday at a conference at the Knesset on the status of women, by the women’s affairs advisor to the IDF, Rachel Tevet Wiesel.

The data point, however, to a decrease in the reports of sexual offenses, as one of seven women soldiers had reported such assaults in the previous year. The majority of victims did not file official complaints.

Despite the drop, when calculating the general number of reports of sexual misconduct – including male victims – the number of soldiers who endured sexual offenses in 2013 stood at 561, compared to 511 in 2012.

Tevet Wiesel said that the increase does not necessarily indicate a rise in the number of offenses, as it could also be attributed to an increase in awareness to sexual harassment and assaults.

The percentage of men soldiers reporting to have been sexually harassed stood at 9% in 2013, a 5% increase from 2012. According to the data, 49% of the victims reported physical harassment and 51% verbal assault. Around 4% of the victims said that they had been raped.

The issue of sexual misconduct in the IDF has drawn heated debates over the past year, mainly following the convictions of two high-ranking officers for assaulting women soldiers. Both officers were sentenced to community service.

Chairwoman of the Knesset Committee for the promotion of gender equality, Yesh Atid MK Aliza Lavie, said she was disconcerted by the military advocacy’s mitigated sentences.

Tevet Wiesel stressed that in 2012, the IDF set up a help center that allows soldiers to report misconduct without officers’ intervention.

Representative of the Judge Advocate General, Sharon Zagagi Pinchas, admitted that the sentences were lenient, but insisted that the two incidents were extraordinary and that appeals were filed in both cases.

Notes and links

See also Third shameful sister-killing this year in oPt
Violence is not our culture

The Violence Is Not Our Culture Campaign is an initiative of Women Living Under Muslim Laws to eliminate all forms of ‘culturally-justified’ violence against women.  

Recent postings include New UN Report: Child, Early and Forced Marriage, May 29, 2014;
IRAN Disciplining Bodies, Diagnosing Identities: Mandatory Veiling, Mandatory Sterilization, Sexual Torture and the Right to Bodily Integrity in the Islamic Republic of Iran, April 8, 2014; Stoning: Legal or Practised in 16 Countries and Showing No Signs of Abating, April 1, 2014;
35 Years of Forced Hijab: The Widespread and Systematic Violation of Women’s Rights in Iran, March 13, 2014.

The Military, Militarism, and the Militarization of Domestic Violence

By Madelaine Adelman, Violence Against Women, Sage publications
September 2003

Abstract (the full article can be downloaded as a pdf file for a fee)

This article moves beyond the discussion of domestic violence in the military to a broader accounting of the militarization of domestic violence in Israel. In contrast to the dominant civilian-military paradigm, which assumes a limit on an army’s effect on society, in Israel, boundaries between the military and society are highly permeable, even ambiguous. The civilianization of the army and the militarization of society in Israel render incomplete the research model of domestic violence in the military. Thus, the article explores how the centrality of the military, a pervasive ideology of militarism, and the militarization of society shape perpetration, understandings, and experiences of and responses to domestic violence in Israel. Specifically, four components of the militarization of domestic violence are discussed: causality, competition, critique, and context. The article closes by reflecting on what is gained by shifting the analytical perspective from domestic violence in the military to the militarization of domestic violence.

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