Immigrants alert to domestic violence

There has been an increase of 80 percent in the number of immigrant families receiving treatment at gov't-sponsored centers for treating domestic violence.

Domestic Violence_311 (photo credit: Thinkstock/Imagebank)
Domestic Violence_311
(photo credit: Thinkstock/Imagebank)
There is a greater awareness of domestic violence and a newfound trust for the social welfare system among immigrant populations, figures released Tuesday by the Immigrant Absorption and Welfare and Social Services ministries have indicated.
According to information from the joint ministry-run program Gesherim, which aims to tackle domestic violence among new immigrant families, over the last six years there has been an increase of 80 percent (from 1,106 in 2005 to 2,007) in the number of immigrant families receiving treatment at government-sponsored centers for treating domestic violence.
By contrast, there has been only a 25% increase in the number of non-immigrant families receiving support services for in-family violence, the ministries said in a joint statement.
The information was published ahead of a one-day symposium for professionals on the topic, to be held Wednesday in Tel Aviv.
“We have worked hard to raise awareness about domestic violence in immigrant families, especially in the Ethiopian and Russian-speaking communities, and that means more people are turning to our centers for treatment,” Welfare and Social Services Ministry director- general Nahum Itzkovitch told The Jerusalem Post.
“This does not mean there has been a drop or an increase in actual violence, only that the situation is growing stable and we are seeing more people willing to come in and talk about their problems,” he added.
Itzkovitch said that the sharp rise in immigrant families willing to share their problems with social workers indicated a move toward increased trust in the welfare system.
“We have focused on being more culturally sensitive, and I truly believe that it has paid off; there is now more trust,” he said – highlighting, however, that the trust was precarious, and one case or careless words from politicians could cause it to break down.
In 2009, the ministry adopted a series of ground-breaking steps aimed at encouraging social workers and other ministry professionals to be more “culturally sensitive” toward immigrant populations.
Since then, said Itzkovitch, a growing number of social workers of Russian and Ethiopian descent have joined Gesherim.
The most recent figures on domestic violence, published one year ago by the ministry, shows that some 765 women and 1,097 children sought refuge in battered women’s shelters in 2010.
In addition, a total of 11,000 adults were given treatment in 86 ministry-run centers specifically dealing with domestic violence. Of those, 70% were women and 30% were men.
Ayala Mayer, the Welfare and Social Services Ministry’s national supervisor for domestic violence, said Tuesday that out of the 86 family treatment centers, 17 are specially designated for working with immigrant families.
“We believe that it is essential to have social workers who speak the same language as the immigrants and understand their social codes,” she emphasized.
Mayer said the program not only provided training for social workers to take a more culturally sensitive approach to working with new immigrants, but had also built relationships with local community leaders to increase trust.