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Wednesday, December 26, 2012 

In some Haredi communities, the wife is scapegoated

In one of the better Haaretz articles, they focus on Bat Melech, the only battered women's shelter in the country specially for religiously observant women, and how it was founded in 1995. The managers also note:
"There is definitely a rise in the number of women who are ready to leave these situations, and I am sure it has a lot to do with the awareness of their options now. Something has definitely changed in Haredi society, and more and more women refuse to live like that anymore," Korman says, adding that the organization receives financial support from some prominent rabbis, even though none of them will discuss the subject publicly. Ultra-Orthodox newspapers and magazines not only refuse to run articles about the shelter, "They won't even accept paid advertisements [from us]. It would be admitting this problem exists. Still, word gets around. People know we are here."
Shameful. The Haredi press won't even address the epidemic honestly, or let anyone else do so, not even if they pay. Thank goodness for the internet and other telecommunications.
Korman adds: "It is very hard to be a religious woman in a secular battered women's shelter, and that's why it is so difficult for us to turn women away. Often there is a big-screen television in a central place that can't be avoided, Shabbat [observance] is violated everywhere, they can't eat the food. It is very difficult, and to make things worse, the children's fathers can point to these conditions in a religious court and argue that the mother is taking the children away from a religious lifestyle, and they will risk losing custody. So, many religious women would rather stay in an abusive situation than bring their children to a regular shelter."
That's something I hadn't thought of, though pikuach nefesh should still take precedence over religious observance if that's what it takes to get the kids to safety. But then isn't that why they should file charges with the police, which will make it harder for the abusive father to claim custody?

And what of the rabbis one of the victims turned to?
She wrestled with the question of whether to leave for years. With divorce so stigmatized in the Haredi world, she feared ruining her children's marriage prospects and their lives in general. She also tried to turn to rabbis for help: "The rabbis were impossible. The first time I went to a rabbi about the sexual abuse - and it took many years to work up the courage to get the words out - this is what he told me: 'Let him do as he pleases, he'll do it a few times and he'll get it out of his system.'"
Absolutely disgusting. What if those "few times" led to pure disaster for the wife? It's unjustified and whoever that rabbi was who suggested that, he clearly didn't place a very high value on the woman's safety.

This is why, while it's not like the women have to leave religion, they most certainly should leave that Haredi community they were part of if the leaders are going to be so insular. What happened to that poor woman is a prime example of how Hasidic society has ruined itself with their absurdly insular notions of how to lead life. There's plenty of other, simpler religious communities that don't go by that kind of mindset where any crises of these kinds are easier to have dealt with, and victims of wife-beating in a Haredi community where the so-called rabbis won't help should make every effort to move to where it's better.

Not only that, but there's serious need for modifying the laws in Israel so that a battered woman can find protection for her children even through a non-religious court, or so she won't have to worry about a potentially corrupt religious one siding with the abusive husband against her in a custody battle.

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