Shadow pandemic: 6 steps to eliminate domestic violence - analysis

On International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, what steps can be taken to reduce the pain?

Sister of Michal Sela speaks at the Knesset committee's discussion on the rise of domestic violence during the coronavirus outbreak, June 22, 2020 (photo credit: KNESSET SPOKESPERSON'S OFFICE)
Sister of Michal Sela speaks at the Knesset committee's discussion on the rise of domestic violence during the coronavirus outbreak, June 22, 2020
So far, 20 women have been murdered due to domestic abuse this year – a sharp increase of almost 50% from the 14 that were killed last year. Women’s shelters are bursting at their seams and hotlines are incessantly ringing under the weight of the novel coronavirus.
Will Israel pull together and take necessary actions to stop the violence?
Today, November 25, is the day annually designated by the UN as the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. These are six steps that Israel can do to help reduce the pain.
Pass the budget
The government in 2017 agreed to create a domestic violence prevention program with a budget of NIS 250 million. It is now 2020 and only a fifth of that amount – NIS 50m. – has been allocated to the project.
On Tuesday, the Knesset’s Finance Committee called for the immediate transfer of NIS 100m. to the cause.
But is anything really going to be done?
Such a program could be a lifesaver for women and children alike throughout the country, but without proper funding, no program can function. Women’s organizations nationwide have been struggling to keep their heads above the water, depending on the slowly dwindling funds of philanthropists.
One such organization is the Women’s International Zionist Organization (WIZO).
Rivka Neumann, director of WIZO’s Division for the Advancement of Women, told The Jerusalem Post that their government-backed coronavirus women’s shelter is only funded through December. The shelter is run like a coronavirus hotel for women who are victims of domestic abuse but need to quarantine.
A number of ministries currently deal with the issue of domestic abuse. What the Welfare Ministry may consider a light punishment, the Internal Security Ministry may see as severe. Oftentimes, the numerous ministries have no communication between them on the subject.
The Committee for the Advancement of Women and Gender Equality has proposed a new committee to synchronize efforts made by several ministries. Such a committee is crucial for the proper treatment of domestic abusers.
Coronavirus is in full swing, and there are rumors of a third lockdown facing Israel during Hanukkah. Sometimes, when families are holed up for too long with one another, challenges can surface.
The pandemic has also led to a massive wave of unemployment, leaving many people vulnerable or depressed.
Children are learning from home, some of whom are too young to be left on their own, forcing many parents to choose between their job and their children. In most cases, the children are really the only choice.
This can have an extreme impact on even once-stable families. If a family was getting along perfectly fine, perhaps things are now tense. But if a family was already on the brink of toxicity, such tensions could lead to abuse of its women and children. Israel knows this is happening from the exponential rise in calls to domestic violence hotlines during both lockdowns.
But how would anyone – any outsider – ever know that something was wrong?
We cannot, after all, go and see one another amid the pandemic. The children are not going to school, and so their teachers are not seeing them and cannot perhaps notice the warning signs of domestic abuse. That is why it is crucial to be present online and to check in with others, even during the pandemic. Teachers and meeting attendees: Encourage everyone to have their cameras on. Speak to friends, reach out.
Educate yourself and others
From a young age, today’s children are being shown content that inaccurately depicts romantic relationships. In porn, every single person’s sole purpose is sex. Every single other is a means to an end. Sounds that express pain in real life are used to express pleasure in this skewed context.
Children these days are being exposed to pornographic material at a drastically younger age: eight to nine on average, according to the Association of Rape Crisis Centers in Israel (ARCCI). That is why it is crucial to educate them on proper discourse surrounding sex and relationships.
Otherwise, the main information that they are capable of gaining is that a man must get sex, while a woman must be promiscuous, yet naïve. Women screaming extremely loud is a sign of pleasure, men must dominate women and everyone is a sexual object.
Seek help
If you or someone you know is being abusive, recognize the patterns. The most difficult step in any recovery process is recognizing that there is a problem. Once a person has done so, Israeli organizations offer countless treatments and therapies for people with abusive tendencies to go and work through the issue.
WIZO, for example, offers both group and individual treatment for men with abusive tendencies.
It is as simple as that: listen. In so many cases of domestic abuse and sexual assault, the issue simply is that the victim is waved away offhandedly without being listened to.
Dalal Daoud, a woman who was released from prison in 2019 after serving 18 years for murdering her extremely abusive husband, told the Post that everyone saw the abuse she had gone through.
“If there was one person who would have listened to me, I would not have reached that point,” she said. “My social worker ran away from me [while I was] bleeding in my own home with my two-year-old daughter. The hospital knew, the police knew – who didn’t know?”
The Israeli institutions meant to cope with these sorts of issues, then, must give them the proper attention necessary. Such situations tend to escalate quickly if they are not cut off at the root.
Coronavirus is not expected to go away for at least another year. Now is the time to make targeted efforts to stop domestic violence – before it is too late.