Hot line reports increase in 'financial abuse' against women
Hot line reports increas
By RUTH EGLASH
As the global economic crisis deepened in the first half of this year, the National Hotline for Battered Women and Children at Risk cited on Sunday a sharp increase in the number of women reporting domestic financial abuse and violence.
Releasing annual figures ahead of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, which will be marked worldwide on Wednesday, the hot line, which is run jointly by the Women's International Zionist Organization and the Welfare and Social Services Ministry, showed that there had been an increase of 10 percent in the number of battered women calling in for help.
In addition, the hot line's official data showed that 15 women have been murdered since the beginning of the year by a spouse, boyfriend or family member.
"Israeli society is no more violent this year than it has been over the previous few years," Ronit Erenfroind-Cohen, director of WIZO's Department for the Advancement of Women told The Jerusalem Post. "However, there is definitely more awareness that these problems can be dealt with and therefore more women are calling, because they know they will get the help they need."
Erenfroind-Cohen pointed out that alongside the alarming figures of physical and emotional violence, the recession had pushed up the number of women calling the hot line describing extreme cases of financial abuse.
"We are trying to raise awareness to this type of abuse all the time," she said, highlighting one case where a woman was forced to stay at home and raise the children but was only given NIS 50 a week to feed her family.
"Any struggle of this kind over money, where the husband withholds the family finances and will not share them, is considered domestic abuse," explained Erenfroind-Cohen, adding that roughly 4% of all calls to the hot line concern such situations.
From January to June 2009, the hot line received 1,534 reports of domestic abuse, 77% of its overall intake. It reported an increase of 26 calls a month over calls received in the same period last year.
Thirty-eight percent of the calls reported physical violence; 41% emotional or verbal abuse; 4% said they had been victims of financial hardship; 2% sexual abuse; 9% of the calls were from minors reporting neglect or abuse; and 6% were not disclosed.
The women's organization also estimated that 692 women and 1,016 children had passed through its 13 battered women's shelters in 2008.
Along with releasing its annual report this week, WIZO has also been the driving force behind pending legislation that would ensure social security payments for women forced into a battered woman's shelter for more than 30 days.
Sponsored by MKs Dov Henin (Hadash) and Ilan Gilon (Meretz), the bill would allow battered women to become financially stable without having to rely on abusive husbands or partners. It has the backing of the National Insurance Institute.
Currently, such women are not entitled to full welfare benefits because it is presumed that the shelter will meet their needs. However, it has been proven by WIZO that many women's expenses increase after they leave home and it is far more difficult for them to hold down a job.
While most women are expected to stay for six months at a shelter, studies have shown that they usually stay for up to a year until they are able to get back on their feet.
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