Knesset panel to examine making domestic violence authority

‘There needs to be better cooperation between the police, social workers and the justice system' says MK Tzippi Hotovely.

Tzipi Hotovely 311 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Tzipi Hotovely 311
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
The Knesset Committee on the Status of Women will on Wednesday weigh the options for creating a national authority dedicated to tackling domestic violence and abuse against women.
“There are too many cases that are falling through the cracks and there needs to be better cooperation between the police, social workers and the justice system,” committee chairwoman MK Tzippi Hotovely (Likud) told The Jerusalem Post. “There needs to be a national body that checks all complaints and follows up on cases to protect the women.”
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Hotovely’s comments came just days after two women were murdered by their husbands, who then committed suicide.
On Sunday morning, Olga Mazur was stabbed to death by her husband at their home in Kiryat Ata; shortly after, he committed suicide.
Later that day, Miri Klein, a social worker from Massad near Tiberias, was shot and killed by her estranged husband, who also took his own life. In both cases, the husbands had been reported to the authorities and both men were subject to criminal proceedings.
These two murders have brought to six the number of women in acts of domestic violence so far this year. During the same period last year three women were murdered, with 19 women being killed under such circumstances in all of 2010.
Wednesday’s meeting in the Knesset would hopefully provide the blueprint for what type of format such a national authority would take, Hotovely said.
Representatives from the government bodies responsible for combating domestic abuse and violence against women, as well as leaders of women’s organizations, are expected to take part in the hearing.
“We need to look at different cases and assess the dangers facing all women,” said Hotovely, adding that one of the weak points is the rehabilitation treatment for violent men, which is not compulsory.
Along with creating a national authority to tackle domestic violence, Hotovely said she is also drafting a law that will require men to undergo treatment for violent behavior, as well as legislation that will obligate both professionals and members of the public to report on cases of suspected domestic abuse.
Talia Livni, president of Na’amat, who suggested the idea of a coordinating body against domestic violence to Hotovely, told the Post: “There is no doubt that there needs to be one body that coordinates all the services and authorities working with these families.
“It is not acceptable that when such an incident occurs, the police blame the social welfare services and the social welfare services blame the state prosecutors and so on,” continued Livni, a trained lawyer. “There needs to be one authority that is responsible for this issue so that women will feel safe after they have lodged a complaint against their husband or partner.”
Also unsure exactly what format such an authority would take, Livni highlighted that its responsibilities should include following up on complaints and providing rehabilitation for the men, as well as creating awareness and providing education to prevent domestic violence.
“It is not enough that the government relies on the non-profit sector to do this work,” she added. “The government needs to invest money into this endeavor so that we can save lives.”
Shira Bernstein, social services director for non-profit Lema’an Achai, which provides a wide range of social services to residents in Ramat Beit Shemesh, said she believed that one of the issues was the lengthy bureaucratic process, between when a woman initially complains about domestic violence to when the man is either prosecuted or jailed.
“It takes a very long time from when the women complain to when the man might be found guilty and during that time there are many stresses,” she explained to the Post. “The children might be angry with their mother for complaining against their father or the family might live in fear that the husband will return at any time.”
Bernstein described one case late last year where just weeks after the mother had complained about her husband and a restraining order had been placed on him, the man returned and attempted to set fire to the house with his family inside.
“It was a horrific situation,” she said.
“He poured gasoline on his children while they slept in their beds and then locked himself in the bathroom so he would die, too.”
Luckily, continued Bernstein, “Everyone managed to escape and this extreme act meant the father was immediately jailed, but the family is still afraid he will get out and hurt them.
“Women need to feel more secure after they have complained to the police,” she said, adding that the creation of a national authority to follow up on such cases would be greatly welcomed.