Q&A with WIZO social worker: Awareness can be a game-changer

On International Day for Elimination of Violence against Women, head of Wizo's Department for the Prevention of Violence says new campaign focuses on men, rather than women.

Violence against women (photo credit: PR)
Violence against women
(photo credit: PR)
The day for Elimination of Violence against Women is an international day, declared by the UN in 1999, mentioned every year on November 25 to raise awareness of the fact that women around the world are subject to violence in all different forms, be it physical, mental, sexual or financial. Unfortunately, we can see it all around us, and awareness can be a game-changer. On the occasion of this important day, The Jerusalem Post spoke with social worker Nurit Kaufman, head of Wizo's Department for the Prevention of Violence, who told us this year's campaign revolves around a whole new approach, focusing on the men who commit violent acts.
Tell us about the new campaign.
After many years of focusing on the woman, we understood that it was time to approach the other side too. Year after year, there's no change in the number of men coming to therapy, and it became clear that in order to minimize the size of this tough social phenomena we need to make men act. Its purpose is to try and encourage violent men to go get treatment, and also, for the ones witnessing cases of violence in the family, to try and encourage the violent men to do so themselves. 
How has treatment of the phenomenon developed over time?
Treating family violence has been around since the 70's, when feminism started rising. It started with the woman victims, of course, but with time and experience we learned that children from violent houses also need to be treated, because even if they are not direct victims, they are affected by it and pay a very high price. Later on, we realized that there is another side, and that whoever is in charge of the violence needs to be treated for everyone's benefit. 
How is approaching men different than approaching women?
Men find it extremely difficult to say: 'I am a violent man, I have a problem and I want to make a change'. But you can hear more and more men saying it's the wife's fault. Violent men who were treated reported some kind of internal "noise", so the therapy mostly involves methods to relax, like recognizing that "noise" and taking a time-out, or combining things like Tai Chi or other martial arts with the traditional therapy. 
While treating women, one of the most important things to do is to deal with shame. Abused women feel ashamed and blame themselves. Getting up and acting takes a lot of strength, and that's one of the main things that we do in WIZO: Raise awareness and help women understand that it's their right to live a life free of violence.
What are the warning signs people need to look out for?
We call it red lights. When your partner prevents you from seeing your family and friends, when he stops you from doing things for yourself or tells you what to wear. If you feel like you're in danger, feel like you are giving up on what you want because you are worried about his reaction, or if changes in his mood make you feel afraid. These signs can point to a violent relationship.
It's the same for the other side, if the man is extremely jealous, when it comes to actions like stalking, obsessing over her phone calls, who she is meeting at work and what she is wearing. If the man has radical mood changes, blames the woman for all his problems, promises to change only after the woman changes her actions, and more than that – threatens to commit suicide if the woman leaves him – these red lights should send a man to treatment.
What should you do if you decide to go get help?
Go talk to a professional. There are centers for treating and preventing domestic violence everywhere, and their phone numbers are all listed. It's important to not take it all on yourself and to ask for help. The crew are all specialized in the field of violence and can help you make the right decisions. In more radical cases they can send women to shelters and men to therapy. If more people would go get help, I believe a change can be made.
Domestic violence is a social problem that doesn't zero in on one specific community, ethnicity, social status or educational level - it affects everyone. It is very important to talk about it, and do whatever we can to narrow down the phenomenon. Be aware of what's around you, and be safe.
Wizo's Hotline for violent men: 1-800-393-904