One in seven women in Israel suffers from domestic abuse. Violence against Orthodox women is identical to that of the general public. Of the 160,000 Orthodox households in Israel, most women in this sector have no access to social services or rights-based organizations.
Orthodox women in abusive relationships do not take advantage of the social services that are available to abused women because;
- They fear the stigma associated with the welfare services in the Orthodox community.
- They distrust non-religious authorities.
- The Orthodox community generally does not look kindly on members who seek outside help for domestic problems.
- Many Orthodox women fear that openly admitting that their husbands beat them will negatively affect the religious community’s perception of their families.
In answer to this need, “Bat Melech” an Israeli based non-profit organization, was founded in 1995 to address domestic violence in the Orthodox community. Bat Melech shelters provide a safe haven, emotional support and legal aid to Orthodox women suffering from physical, sexual, emotional, financial and spiritual abuse by their husbands and are in life-threatening situations.
Bat Melech is the only organization providing these services to the Orthodox community to this day, now operating two shelters serving hundreds of women and children each year. The shelters operate under the supervision and support of the Ministry of Welfare in Israel.
The current focus of the organization evolves around 3 main areas:
- Community outreach:
Increasing awareness and reducing domestic violence in the Orthodox community through educational programs, public campaigns and more. In addition, free legal aid is offered through community based legal programs and a 24/7 hotline.
Providing shelter for any Orthodox woman in need of a temporary safe place. The services offered during this stay focus on rehabilitation activities for both the women and their children, as well as legal support and vocational training and job placement support all by professional staff members. All in order to help the women gain financial independence and regain self-esteem upon leaving the shelter. The average stay at the shelter is 6 months. The shelter hosts hundreds of women and children each year, with families having five, six and even eleven children each. Bat Melech is the only shelter that provides sufficiently sized living quarters to accommodate such a large number of children per family unit.
- Independent lifestyle breaking the violence cycle
When women leave the shelter and return to the community, with hopes and tools to succeed independently. Bat Melech continues to support them, even years after they leave the shelter. Through financial aid, emotional support and an ongoing sense of remaining part of the Bat Melech family, women feel they are not alone and focus on making the best for themselves and their family.