There’s a stark disconnect between two parts of my work: I have listened in horror when consulting on homicide panels to explore the untimely deaths of Jewish women due to domestic abuse. But I have also had to listen to community members telling me that they just don’t believe that Jewish men would abuse women.
I have had the privilege of supporting women who have experienced domestic abuse and sexual violence for over 20 years. In that time, I have met Jewish women who have been strangled, burned, raped.
Women who have had their Get refused, women who have been insulted, shouted at, told they are stupid, that the abuse they suffered was their fault. One woman told me that she had been beaten and kicked regularly because the playroom wasn’t tidy enough – and she’d been told it enough times that she had come to believe it. I have met too many women who were bright, confident, bubbly – but broken by years of sustained abuse. If you are told you are stupid, ugly and worthless every day you start to believe it.
I have also spent the better part of the last 20 years convincing Jewish people – mainly men, it has to be said – that domestic abuse is as much of a problem in our community as it is elsewhere. And that yes, Jewish men are often the perpetrators. I have enough evidence to back this up, with Jewish Women’s Aid supporting around 700 women each year.
Last week, I read the impact statement of Sarah Everard’s mother – she wrote eloquently and painfully about the brutal impact of Sarah’s death on their family. She spoke about a young woman who had potential, who was contributing to society, whose loss will be forever mourned. I read about the killing of Sabina Nessa, a schoolteacher who had touched the lives of hundreds of pupils and would have gone on to teach hundreds more. I, together with many others, mourned their loss and was filled with sorrow and with anger.
I have been shocked by the silence of our community following these deaths. I have been amazed at the lack of voices speaking out after the headlines highlighting that since Sarah Everard died on 3 March, 79 other women died at the hands of men in the UK. Where is the outrage, the call to action?
These women were just on their way home when their lives were brutally stolen. They were walking on the streets of London, where I live, and where thousands of Jewish women live, and where the majority of UK Jews live. Our community is rightly proud to be involved in civil society. We are a community of activists, of changemakers and campaigners. We speak out not only against antisemitism but against all forms of racism. We support national healthcare charities, foodbanks. We volunteer and donate to charity. We make huge efforts to improve society. Now is the time to support this cause too.
We have a normalised porn culture in society spilling into our community, our youth groups and our schools, leading to women being objectified and blamed for the abuse they suffer. There is a clear and researched link between those who objectify women, who consider us to be of less worth, and who go on to physically abuse and ultimately to murder. Women who experience sexual violence or domestic abuse feel humiliation in speaking out and are still waiting far too long before seeking the support they need and are entitled to. It’s not their shame – the shame belongs to their perpetrators.
We need to create a community where we tackle the causes of misogyny head on, where perpetrators of abuse are not tolerated, where women can reach the support they need and are confident to reach out for it, and where we are educating our young people to create a better, more equal, safer future for women.
If you need support or are concerned about a friend or family member, please visit jwa.org.uk or call 0808 801 0500.