Do­mes­tic abuse cases reach ‘epi­demic’ level

●Women’ said char­ity un­der se­vere strain

The Jewish Chronicle - - FRONT PAGE - BY ROSA DO­HERTY

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

some way”.

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.”

PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES

Naomi Dick­son

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