An important article by Attny. Zilit Jacobson, Chair of the “Bat Melech” organization. The article appeared in “Calcalist” in honor of International Women’s Day.
DOMESTIC VIOLENCE – A SOCIAL PANDEMIC GOING UNTREATED
Anyone who believes that the rise in the number of murder cases within families is a result of Covid-19 is both mistaken and perpetuating the mistake. Murder stems from violence, not from a virus. The government needs to establish a national authority to combat domestic violence. Every time a woman’s name is added to the bleeding list of murder victims, she begins to be spoken about in the media, in the Knesset, among women’s groups, in people’s homes, and living rooms. A day, two…and the endless cycle of everyday life and news takes over and for the most part, they are forgotten. It’s not only the women; tens of thousands of women and their children, living among us, are suffering and living every single day with horrific violence perpetrated by their partners. Some may not even be aware that their relationship is a violent one. Some are battered, some silenced, absorbing curses, threats, being abused emotionally, sexually, or financially. Government attempts to take care of this dangerous social phenomenon has amounted to the establishment of an inter-ministerial committee set up in the wake of the State Comptroller’s report which recommended adopting the national program for the prevention of the murder of women and of domestic violence. The idea was to budget and manage designated resources to combat the phenomenon, however, the implementation was partial at best. Resources that were intended to go to publicity, prevention, and enforcement reached their destinations only in part. Significant processes intended to remove violent men from their families are still in the earliest stages of legislation. The electronic bracelet law, meant to protect the women from their battering spouses, or guaranteeing that full sentences would be served by violent men, without the chance of parole, as well as the obligation to participate in treatment programs prior to release back into their regular lives – all these have yet to occur. In the meantime, more victims have been added. Whoever claims that the rise in the number of murdered women and in the reports to helplines over the course of the past year is due to Covid-19 is both mistaken and perpetuating the mistake. Murder stems from violence, not from a virus. If this social pandemic had been treated – Covid-19 would not have strengthened it so radically. If the government had as strong a social infrastructure as it does for health where they were capable of rapidly vaccinating broad swathes of the population within the framework of attempting to halt the Covid-19 virus, then the social and community response would have been stronger and more effective. Although we at Bat Melech treat the religious and Haredi sectors, the Tikkun Olam we spearhead in order to reach the most difficult places to treat- closed societies and communities. However, the figures show that the disease of domestic violence attacks all sectors without prejudice; secular and religious people, Jews and Arabs, right and left-wingers, in the country’s center and in the periphery, Olim and sabras, young families, and pensioners. It is crucial to understand that the reported number of women and children suffering from domestic violence is much lower than the actual number of victims; because of the paralyzing fear but also due to the welfare authorities’ limited ability to address all of the calls they receive. Our mission at Bat Melech is therefore to ensure that each and every case of violence against women is reported and receives a response. The welfare system must reach a state whereby it possesses the tools to treat all cases which enter the system, as well as locating those cases which have not yet reached them. Solidarity is part of the DNA for citizens of Israel; a light unto the nations. It is crucial that this powerful value also motivate the government and decision-makers to enact a true, inclusive, comprehensive plan of action such as that which dealt with the “economic Covid-19”. Otherwise, domestic violence will continue, attacking again and again. We at “Bat Melech” are planning to present the government with a plan for the establishment of a national authority for the war on domestic violence, with enforcement capability together with professionals and designated positions, based upon a known annual budget. The welfare agencies are not those meant to chase after operational budgets. The cycle of violence needs to be broken in another, management-based, manner. If the construction of a true infrastructure for the battle against this horrific virus does not become part of our everyday tasks, we will continue to suffer losses. Enough emergency commissions and bloody headlines. It is possible to prevent the murder of the next woman. There is no need to wait for it to happen in order to begin the process of publicity, prevention, and treatment.