So we reach the end of another year, still fraught with the uncertainties of Brexit, yet another election looming and a never ending stream of anti-Semitic slurs from those who should know better.
And at Jewish Women’s Aid we have supported another 750 women. Yes, 750. That’s 25% more than last year and probably fewer than next year. What have we done to provoke the increase? Without this reading like an Oscar speech, I need to pay tribute to the absolute commitment, dedication and relentless hard work of JWA’s staff. It’s not easy working in a domestic abuse organisation in the heart of a small community. Our services have to be top notch in terms of quality, professionalism and confidentiality, and they are.
We have pushed out our message ‘domestic abuse happens to Jewish women, and we are here to help’ via social media, dozens of training courses and educational talks across the breadth of the community and beyond.
Additionally, each year at the end of November, to mark the UN’s International Day for Ending Violence Against Women, we ask rabbis, leaders and community members to speak out about what we do. As a mark of familiarity, this is becoming known as ‘JWA Shabbat’ – it’s becoming ingrained, and it’s gaining traction.
This year, more rabbis have spoken to their communities about violence against women than ever before. More have sent us films of themselves encouraging women to seek support, and more of our supporters have asked their friends (real and virtual) to support Jewish Women’s Aid.
Jewish women are still waiting far too long to ask for this vital help – we know that the women we work with are abused for on average 11.5 years. This is still shockingly long. They are often experiencing regular and horrendous abuse and fear.
So for them, we need to keep speaking out in our community, acknowledging that violence against women is something we must deal with, and telling women that it’s ok to ask for help.
One woman – Jo – had been married to her husband for seven years, and they had two young children. He had become increasingly controlling: he wanted to know when she left and returned to the house, who she spoke to and what she wore. Whilst she could generally appease him when he became angry, he was becoming more and more controlling. She became scared for her life when he punched her in the face when she was holding one of the children. Since her colleague put her in touch with Jewish Women’s Aid she has benefitted from legal support, safety planning, housing advice, counselling and her children have had therapy. Jo is now divorced and she and her children are now living in safety.
With your help, more women will be emboldened to seek the support they so desperately need. They will be able to take the first steps to free themselves from danger and abuse.
Talking about violence against women can save lives. Please keep speaking out.