A life­line for women fac­ing abuse at home

The Jewish Chronicle - - News - BY DANA GLOGER

AS JEWISH Women’s Aid makes head­way in height­en­ing aware­ness of do­mes­tic abuse in the com­mu­nity, grow­ing num­bers of women are turn­ing to the char­ity for sup­port. Yet as de­mand for its ser­vices rises, its re­sources have be­come se­verely stretched.

“We are very keen on ed­u­cat­ing peo­ple and in­creas­ing their aware­ness of do­mes­tic abuse,” says JWA cam­paign man­ager Gay Wald­man. “But with more peo­ple hear­ing about us, we are get­ting more and more re­fer­rals.”

The char­ity helps and sup­ports women and their chil­dren en­coun­ter­ing abuse at home, be it phys­i­cal, emo­tional or money-re­lated.

Its ser­vices in­clude Europe’s only kosher and Shab­bat-ob­ser­vant women’s refuge, which can ac­com­mo­date eight women and 14 chil­dren.

“The refuge is al­ways full,” Ms Wald- man re­ports. “Some­times we have more women need­ing some­where to stay than we have places, so we put them up in bed-and-break­fasts.”

Women re­main at the refuge for any­where be­tween a week and 18 months. JWA then helps them to find new ac­com­mo­da­tion, and em­ploy­ment where nec­es­sary, and works with them to sort out their fi­nances. It also pays for things such as a child’s birth­day party or a school uni­form. How­ever, JWA des­per­ately needs more fund­ing to main­tain or en­hance its work. It has to raise at least £500,000 of its cur­rent £650,000 bud­get.

“We have good re­set­tle­ment pro­grammes,” Ms Wald­man says. “But we would like to be able to pro­vide more secondary shel­tered hous­ing as an in­be­tween stage for women who leave the hos­tel. We also want to hire more pro­fes­sion­als in the north of the coun­try.”

An­other ser­vice is a freep­hone helpline (0800 591203). It fur­ther of­fers coun­selling and sup­port to women who feel un­able to leave their homes.

JWA also funds a train­ing pro­gramme for lawyers who will work for women suf­fer­ing do­mes­tic abuse. A new self­sup­port group, Nashim, has weekly meet­ings. The char­ity tries to in­volve all its clients in cel­e­brat­ing the Yom­tovim, in­clud­ing the dis­tri­bu­tion of parcels of es­sen­tials at Rosh Hashanah and Pe­sach. And Ms Wald­man stresses the im­por­tance of its ed­u­ca­tional ac­tiv­i­ties.

“Peo­ple tend to think do­mes­tic abuse doesn’t hap­pen in the Jewish com­mu­nity be­cause of the sanc­tity of the Jewish home. But it does not make women any less li­able.”

To em­pha­sise the point, she re­veals that over 150 women have called JWA’s helpline over the last month. Ms Wald­man ex­pects even more to ring af­ter the fes­ti­vals, cit­ing do­mes­tic prob­lems ex­ac­er­bated by the credit crunch and the greater time fam­i­lies spend in close prox­im­ity over Yom­tov.

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