Ending the cycle of domestic abuse

Israeli rehabilitation expert shares experience at Belgium conference.

Slide for crime story (photo credit: A. Hoffman)
Slide for crime story
(photo credit: A. Hoffman)
An Israeli rehabilitation expert shared techniques for lowering repeat domestic violence with experts from around the world in Belgium last week.
Speaking to prison wardens and criminologists at the International Corrections and Prisoner Association conference in Ghent, Prisoner Rehabilitation Authority founder and former head Avraham Hoffman said spousal violence was on the rise in Israel, and that around 2,400 men were currently in Israeli prisons for assaulting their wives or girlfriends.
“In 2002, more than 20,000 police files were opened for spousal violence,” he said. In 2009, there were 1,800 prisoners serving time for domestic abuse, as opposed to only 570 in 1997.
But incarceration alone, “without continued therapy, may cause continued and even escalating violence, because in many cases the wives’ complaints helped convict their husbands.
The temporary separation allows the woman to feel an illusionary security,” Hoffman warned.
In 2005, the Prisoner Rehabilitation Authority opened a residential hostel in Rishon Lezion for men convicted of spousal violence, aimed at offering them a “soft landing” and creating a community-based “transitional rehabilitation program between the release from prison and the return home,” Hoffman told the conference.
The men undergo extensive therapy and a drug rehabilitation program, learn anger management techniques and take courses in behaving responsibly within their families.
The authority keeps in close touch with the men for a year after their release from the hostel. Since 2005, most former prisoners joined the hostel voluntarily, while around a quarter had been released on parole that was conditioned on staying at the center.
“There is no way to return violent spousal offenders to their family without a continued and continual therapy,” Hoffman said.
In follow-up surveys, men released from the hostel say they have learned to behave in nonviolent ways and control their anger while enjoying increased self-confidence.
They also reported a newfound recognition of the causes for their violent behavior.
Speaking to The Jerusalem Post on Monday, he added that current legislation proposals to place the authority under the auspices of the Welfare and Social Services Ministry endangered rehabilitation efforts.
“The power of the authority lies in its ability to give people a chance to change their ways. This is a uniquely Jewish idea. If the authority becomes part of a big government machine, prisoners could lose confidence in the program, and the independent spirit that has guided the authority will eventually be lost,” Hoffman warned.