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Tuesday, October 15, 2013 

Breaking the secrecy on domestic abuse in Haredi communities

The JTA reports on some success in getting aid to victims of wife-beating in Haredi communities, though there's still a very long way to go:
It was only when her sons came at her with knives that she realized keeping quiet was not going to work.

For nine years, her rabbis had told her not to speak up about her husband’s verbal, physical and sexual attacks. They assured her that the abuse would pass, that if she obeyed his every wish — folding his napkin just so or letting him do as he liked in bed — the attacks would end and he would stop telling their grown sons she was a bad mother.

But when her sons began to threaten her, she knew it was time to leave.

Taking her youngest children, she turned to Yad Sarah, a highly regarded Israeli charity founded by former Jerusalem Mayor Uri Lupolianski. The organization mainly focuses on medical services, but it also runs a domestic abuse division geared toward Orthodox Jews. A professional there directed her to Bat Melech, a shelter for battered religious women.

“It was amazing,” said the woman, who asked to remain anonymous. “I was sure that I was not a normal person and they were nice to me.”
While Lupolianski was a failure, I'll have to admit that his part in forming this type of aid program was one of the few positive steps he took. As for the case cited at the start here, that is downright horrific that the husband of the unnamed wife encouraged his own sons to threaten their own physical creator with knives. They should be reported to the police by all means, and I believe there's a very valid case that could be made that if the sons were underage, custody by the father should be taken away, and the sons should be sent to a form of detention for reforming them.
The wall of silence surrounding sensitive domestic issues in the haredi Orthodox community has long been seen as an impediment to successfully addressing them. Yad Sarah and Bat Melech have sought to change the situation — and their efforts appear to be bearing fruit.

A decade ago, haredi community leaders rarely spoke openly about violence against women. Now leading rabbis are working with experts to fight abuse in the community.

“We’ve succeeded in that they talk about it publicly,” said Shlomit Lehman, a professor of social work who founded the Yad Sarah domestic abuse division. “There was always family violence, but they kept it secret. Our connection with the community and leadership is stronger. There’s discretion and professional care.” [...]

Until recent years, experts say, haredi rabbis would deal with cases of domestic abuse privately; only rarely would they make referrals to professionals or recommend divorce. Victims often were stigmatized and their children had a harder time finding marriage partners.

“It’s easier to say that’s not in our community,” said Eitan Eisman, a Modern Orthodox rabbi who recommends Bat Melech’s services and advocates for its work. “That’s easier than looking at our sins. Some people deny reality, and some people think they can deal with the issues alone in the community. But more and more people are accepting this reality.”
Well that's good to know, though as they mention here:
Still, discretion remains a paramount concern for haredi rabbis, many of whom still refuse to advocate publicly for the two organizations. Leading haredi papers will not run ads for Bat Melech and Yad Sarah, though online haredi publications do cover them. Haredi schools also do not permit Yad Sarah to run seminars on domestic abuse for their students.
That's bad if the Haredi papers won't run their ads and schools won't do seminars, and it can cause harm.

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