Domestic abuse cases reach ‘epidemic’ level
●Women’ said charity under severe strain
THE NUMBER of cases of domestic abuse assisted by Jewish Women’s Aid has more than doubled — from 210 in 2015 to 465 last year — and the numbers are continuing to rise.
In total, JWA’s helpline was contacted by 710 women in 2016 — compared with 400 in 2015.
Meanwhile this January alone, the charity took on 30 new cases, more than in any other single month in its 30 year history, and a third more than in the same month last year, when it took on 20 cases.
Naomi Dickson, J WA chief executive, said: “It really does feel like we are experiencing an epidemic, which doesn’t bear thinking about for a relatively small community.”
JWA now has its highest-ever number of open cases, with 80 women currently being assisted. In 2015, the charity had an average of 40 cases ongoing at any one time.
The surge in women from all Jewish backgrounds, who are seeking help across the country, means the charity needs an additional £100,000 to cope with the added strain on its services.
Ms Dickson said: “We have already recruited one more caseworker to the team but will need another, plus we’ve augmented counselling and children’s services.”
Women have reported a range of domestic violence, including psychological, physical, financial, sexual, spiritual and mental abuse.
The majority of cases have been reported by Jewish women in London, Manchester and Leeds.
Ms Dickson said: “Typically women are affected 35 times before seeking help and support, and anecdotally Jewish women wait longer because of stigma within the community and their families, because of feelings of shame, and of course to protect their children.” She said half of JWA’s cases involved children under 18 who have witnessed abuse.
Women contacting JWA said the abuse they were suffering was not new or one-off incidents. “They are often coming to us after several years of abuse which may have escalated in
Ms Dickson said the increase in reported cases could in part be explained by a storyline in The Archers last year about psychological abuse. Fictional character Helen Archer was ultimately raped by her husband, Robert Titchener.
The story made headlines and one national women’s aid charity reported a 20 per cent increase in calls from abused women. Ms Dickson said: “I think that story made women across society feel comfortable
about coming forward, and we have seen it in the Jewish community too.”
She also attributed the increase to rising awareness of the issue at schools and synagogues.
“I think domestic violence has always been a problem for our community despite people not believing it happens here,” she said .“In November 2015 we ran a very prominent campaign all over the community. We put it on billboards, shops, community centres — everywhere, so people couldn’ t ignore it.
“We have also had greater influence and reach within the community through our schools education programmes, reaching over 3,000 pupils last year.”
The charity has trained 1,000 professionals from communal organisa- tions on how to spot and help victims of domestic violence.
Ms Dickson said: “It is very hard for any sector of the community to acknowledge that domestic abuse is an issue in their shul, and this is the same across the breadth of the community.
“We have an excellent working relationship with the new get caseworker at the London Beth Din who has supported many women and also refers clients to our service.
“We have several United Synagogue rabbis and rebbetzens who we have trained and are very understanding.”