'Cultural awareness key in fighting Ethiopian domestic abuse'

Statistics published last month found that some 15 women were murdered by their partners over the past year.

abuse metro 88 224 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
abuse metro 88 224
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Cultural awareness is the key to reducing severe domestic abuse in the Ethiopian immigrant community and ultimately preventing women from being murdered by their husbands, one of the few Ethiopian-Israeli social workers told The Jerusalem Post Tuesday. "It is all about recognizing the danger signs and being able to see through the cultural barriers," said Shmuel Maharat, who heads the Ethiopian desk of Ashdod's Social Welfare Department and runs workshops for native Israeli social workers on how to better understand the Ethiopian community. According to Maharat - who was speaking following the murder Monday of Ethiopian immigrant Ananiyeh Jamara, 43, apparently by her husband, Mula - "It would not have mattered if this woman had gone to the police 100 times, because it is likely that she did not express herself in a way that they would understand that she was in real danger." Maharat said the cultural barrier also includes inadequate language skills and a "certain level of respect that is observed by the community for those in authority." It is unlikely, he said, that she would have really opened up to the police or to her social worker about how serious the problems were because of these cultural constraints. "In this case, we also know that she was offered a place in a battered woman's shelter but that she turned it down, probably because she thought it would not help," observed Maharat. Part of the problem is also the stresses faced by new immigrants from Ethiopian in adjusting to life in the West. "It is very difficult for men to accept that they must clean the floor or that their wives go out to work in Israel," he said. "Many of the [immigrant] men live in their own world where the traditional conjugal roles still apply." The Jamara family had only recently moved out of the immigrant absorption center in Mevasseret Zion, near Jerusalem. Ananiyeh had already lodged two police complaints against her husband for domestic abuse. Statistics published last month by the National Hotline for Battered Women and Children at Risk, run jointly by the Welfare and Social Services Ministry and the Women's International Zionist Organization (WIZO), found that some 15 women were murdered by their partners over the past year. Of those, Ananiyeh Jamara was the first Ethiopian woman to have been murdered. However, over the past four years, some 11 Ethiopian Israeli women have been murdered by their husbands. In several of the cases, the husbands then committed suicide, leaving numerous orphans. Nurit Kaufman, director of WIZO's Department for the Prevention of Violence against Women, said the Immigrant Absorption Ministry and the Welfare and Social Services Ministry had recently run a campaign in the Ethiopian community to raise awareness of domestic abuse and provide information on where battered women can receive assistance. "It is imperative that all the different bodies working with immigrant communities join together to exchange information and stop this phenomenon from happening," she said.