Violence against women is a major public health problem and a violation of women’s human rights. According to the World Health Organization, recent global figures indicate that almost one third of women around the globe who have been in a relationship report that they have experienced some form of physical and/or sexual violence by their intimate partner.
In New Jersey, domestic violence remains at a staggeringly high level, and the Jewish community is not immune. That said, we can take pride that our state is a leader in addressing the issue and providing programs to protect and support victims.
In 2014, according to the New Jersey Coalition to End Domestic Violence, 23 domestic agencies served 17,500 women, children, and men in New Jersey; 90,000 hotline calls were received; and 1,500 victims and their 1,800 children were sheltered. Furthermore, 14,000 victims and children were provided essential nonresidential services, and some 21,100 non-residential victims received legal advocacy services.
The Jewish community is not immune to this scourge. In fact, domestic violence occurs in 25 percent of all Jewish families — the same rate as in non-Jewish homes. Rachel Coalition is the community’s safety net for those affected by domestic violence. On average, it receives 40 calls a month via its hotline. While the majority of calls are from women in abusive or high-conflict relationships, there are also calls from those wanting to know “how to help.”
Rachel Coalition is working to increase awareness within the Jewish community and statewide, as evidenced by the Domestic Violence Roundtable held last May in partnership with the Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest NJ’s Community Relations Committee; the first vigil held last October for victims of domestic violence; and, most recently, its Women to Women program featuring Tanya Brown, the sister of Nicole Brown Simpson (see related story).
According to the coalition, the following guidelines should be followed by those who know someone they believe needs help:
• Understand the issue and be informed, especially regarding the kinds of tactics abusers use to wield power and control over the victim.
• Voice your concern; don’t be afraid to speak up.
• Safety is essential.
• Be sympathetic.
• Know the resources; the most helpful thing is to know where to turn for help.
To stop domestic violence, we must embrace a vision of society in which all our family members are safe. Domestic violence costs the United States an estimated $5.8 billion each year. No one should be a victim of domestic violence. It is a crime we cannot afford — either monetarily or morally.
The Rachel Coalition is a division of Jewish Family Service of MetroWest (RachelCoalition.org, the hotline: 973-740-1233). Jewish Family Service of Central NJ (908-352-8375, jfscentralnj.org) also offers services.