What would you do? A new column by Attoryney Zilit Jacobson, Bat Melech’s COB

A column by Attorney Zilit Jacobson, Bat Melech’s COB, that was published in “Nashim” magazine related to the International day against violence against women, which will be marked next week:
“August 2019 and the scene being broadcast on the television is one of an angry man threatening to kill his wife, right there, in the middle of the street in front of passersby. “Believe me, I will come back… and I will not come alone…” shouts the violent man as he grabs his wife in the back of her neck. Some passersby stop to stare, others just continue walking. Thankfully, the police arrive on the scene and the episode ends with no further violence. The above episode didn’t make the news. It did not create headlines, but at least for one woman it changed her life. The episode was staged. “What Would You Do?” is a television program created to gauge peoples’ reactions, should such occurrences happen in real life. Would passersby react and act or nonchalantly continue on their way?In the program, the film director interviewed the daughter of Alizah Shefak z”l, who was viciously murdered by her husband just a few months prior. This screened, staged episode was exactly what Rivka needed to understand that in her own, private situation there will be no directors who will call out ‘cut’, a moment before the bitter end. In her case, there will be no movie director to stop the scene from its horrible conclusion. Her case will become the next day’s newspaper and television news headlines. Rivka was lucky. The episode awakened her to the danger she is facing. Unfortunately, for many others, one screened installment in a television series is not enough to turn on the red light. Unfortunately, domestic violence is much more prevalent than we allow ourselves to assume. It is estimated that one out of every seven women suffers domestic abuse – be it emotional, financial, physical, sexual, or spiritual. The abused woman may very well be your neighbor, a group counselor, a cousin, or even your boss at work. In order to help women, escape the wide circle of domestic abuse and violence, the silence surrounding it must be broken, we must speak about it. We must speak out about domestic violence and stress the inherent dangers rooted in domestic abuse. At times, this is all that is required to awaken a stressed woman and another and another, to take that small yet huge and courageous step of seeking help. We must speak about this constantly. We need to unmask the ugly phenomenon of domestic abuse that crosses into every sector and status in our society; otherwise strong women who are horrifyingly embarrassed to tell their story, lest the image they project and occupy in the outside world come crashing down by the humiliation they suffer at home. We must speak about the immense number of desperate calls for help that the helpline at Bat Melech received during the months of Corona-forced closures; the numbers of calls Bat Melech receives during the same period in the previous year grew by hundreds of percentage points. It is our obligation to let the public see last month’s total number of cases disclosed by the Ministry of Welfare which also shows a steep rise in domestic abuse cases. Most importantly, we must speak about the fact that we’ve become accustomed to reading about another murdered woman and we need to stress that an abused woman is not at fault; violence towards women is not a once-in-a-while episode but rather it is wide-spread and much more prevalent than we know or wish to believe. We need to internalize and understand that covering up and denying this horrible dark secret because of the fear and shame of revealing it to the outside world, causes an increase in that abuse and violence. As I’m writing this article urging and pleading and explaining what needs to be done for these abused women, I am getting another message from the news media that another woman was just murdered by her spouse. This is an unimaginable reality we are living! We don’t know at what point a suffering woman will say ‘Enough! I’ve had it! No more!’ We do not know what her breaking point was which caused her to pick up the phone and seek help. It took Rivka several years – years of suffering from severe physical and emotional abuse. Years of suffering in silence, sweeping everything under the rug, hiding the pain and bruises. Which television series did she watch which finally extracted her from the hell she was living? Which series prompted her to escape to a new life? If we continue to discuss the subject, if we will constantly talk about it, if as a society we will instill in the abused women the understanding that the abuse and violence are not normal, that it is not their fault, and that there is help waiting for them, we will be able to turn on the red bulbs in one more woman and another and still another and thus extend to them the help they desperately need. On November 25th we will once again designate the day as the International Day to Prevent Violence Against Women. One day a year is not enough. One Prime-Time series on the subject is insufficient. What Would You Do?