'Inaction puts Arab women at risk from domestic violence'

Figures show only half of police complaints are passed for prosecution; 33 out of 148 detectives dealing with domestic violence speak Arabic.

November 24, 2010 20:26
2 minute read.
'Inaction puts Arab women at risk from domestic violence'

arab women from back 88 248. (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)

As official figures showed that a high percentage of women murdered last year by their husbands or partners were from the Arab community, Itach (Women Lawyers for Social Justice) released statistics on Wednesday showing that only about half of the 200 complaints police received about domestic violence were passed on for prosecution.

“It’s important to be aware that the women murdered do not represent the full picture. The full picture is the thousands of women who live in fear that they will be murdered,” said lawyer Keren Shemesh-Perlmuter, director of Itach.

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“We see from the statistics that many Arab women turn to the police, but their complaints are not dealt with properly,” she said. “This means that women who are trapped in a cycle of violence have nowhere to turn. They keep it to themselves and either are killed or end up suffering for many years.”

Shemesh-Perlmuter said that “even if they do complain, the process goes on forever and ever, and in nearly half the cases, the police simply close the case.

This means that other women are reluctant to come forward and lodge complaints in cases of domestic violence.”

According to the Itach’s findings, out of 148 detectives specially trained to work in domestic violence cases, only 33 can speak Arabic, 10 are from the Arab community and only two are Arab women.

“This makes it even more difficult for Arab women to feel comfortable about reporting domestic abuse,” Shemesh- Perlmuter said. “It also means that the police are not equipped to properly investigate the cases, and in 50 percent of them, it ends up being the woman’s word against the man.”

She added, “We believe that most women would not come forward and make a claim of domestic violence unless her situation was really, really serious.”

Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said the number of Arab-speakers working in this department appeared to be high compared to other areas.

“Usually the numbers are proportionate to the population, and these numbers seem excellent,” he said, adding that when a woman makes a complaint of domestic violence, she does not have to undergo intimate body searches, and that a man was just as capable of investigating domestic violence claims as a woman.

Official figures released on Wednesday – a day ahead of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women – revealed that 18 women were murdered by their husbands or partners so far this year; seven of them were from the country’s 1.5- million-strong Arab population.

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