The winds of overwhelming shame

Our responsibility is to rescue Israeli society from the cycle of violence; if we are to use force, it must be the positive force of a united society, uncompromising in the campaign for freedom.

May 30, 2016 21:20
3 minute read.
Israel sexual assault

Protest outside Allenby 40, after suspected gang rape in the bar came to light. (photo credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI)


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The ongoing comedy of domestic violence only exposes the success stories: when he succeeds in cutting her life short, he gains immortal fame. Journalists and neighbors cluck their tongues; acquaintances and strangers cry over the victim and talk about how fragile/brave she was, how many times she reported him to authorities/remained silent, how often she escaped the home/stayed by his side.

An interesting study examined the emotional motives of abusive men. A violent man is one who has hope – he continues to believe he can control her life until the end of time. His hope is her night- mare, a twisted worldview expressed through various forms of violence. A man who murders his wife is a desperate man, one who has realized that he does not, after all, have the ability to control her life, inextricably intertwined with his.

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When we count the cases of women who have been murdered by their significant other each year, what are we really counting? Are we measuring our preventative ability? Does a drop in the number of murders indicate a drop in the rate of violence? It appears not; there is no evidence of reduced violence against women throughout the world, whether or not fewer are ultimately murdered.

Successes? Tell us about the failures. Tell us about each futile attempt to murder, about each failure, ambush, or tear shed in vain. Tell us the whole story and publicly disgrace the violent men who physically or psychologically abuse their spouses.

Tell us the whole story.

This is not a matter of personal tragedies; this is a matter of social failure. One out of every seven women suffers from domestic violence: that is a picture of Israel in the 21st century. The silence and the fear of these women is a disgraceful stain on all of us.

Violence against women at the hands of their intimate partner crosses all socioeconomic classes, professions, education levels, religious and ethnic groups. The only variable is the form of violence. Also the measure of success in dealing with violence against women fluctuates; it is recognized that in societies with a high level of social and communal solidarity, societies in which there is a discourse of equality between men and women or a moral discourse regarding human rights –such societies enjoy a higher level of success in the war on violence.


Furthermore, the attitudes of society toward the dissolution of a family unit due to divorce can be used as a social measure of spousal violence. In the Jewish world, we are witness to displays of sarvanut get – wherein a man cruelly withholds a get , a Jewish writ of divorce, from his wife – an act nothing less than violent, an abuse of the wife’s freedom and autonomy. Are women who are being denied a divorce by recalcitrant husbands also included in the statistics of women who are suffering violence at the hands of their significant other? This does not seem to be the case.

It is therefore imperative that we take responsibility as a society. We must begin a frank and uncompromising discussion about all forms and manifestations of violence, and encourage abused women with the knowledge that they will be fully and completely supported during their lifetime, and not only in their death. Let us eliminate the fantasy that violence will simply disappear, let us fight their battles and eradicate the unfounded feelings of guilt weighing on their slight shoulders – as if they are to blame for their circumstances and let us throw the overwhelming shame to the wind. When a woman gathers all her strength and courage and rescues herself from the threatening grasp of her partner, we must draw her close to us and crown her a hero, recognizing her valiant escape from the field of battle.

Teach your daughters to say no; no to silence, no to forgiving, no to hesitating. And then teach them the steps to march out the door and into the outstretched arms of a society which will celebrate their empowerment. Teach your sons to say no to themselves if ever an aggressive thought crosses their minds, and then teach them to uproot with contempt every indication of violence they encounter.

Our responsibility is to rescue Israeli society from the cycle of violence; if we are to use force, it must be the positive force of a united society, uncompromising in the campaign for freedom.

The author is director of Yad L’isha: the Monica Dennis Goldberg Legal Aid Center for Agunot and Mesuravot Get, a division of Ohr Torah Stone.

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