“Domestic violence is a sign of anger issues.”
“The safest thing to do in an abusive relationship is just to leave.”
“Violence and abuse don’t happen in loving relationships.”
These statements are some of the countless beliefs held by many people about intimate partner violence. In fact, domestic violence is about power and control, not anger. The most lethal time in an abusive relationship is when one party tries to leave. And violence can occur even when two partners truly love and care for one another.
Dinah is a nonprofit organization founded in 2018 that trains volunteer attorneys to work with Jewish clientele to handle myriad legal matters associated with intimate partner violence. Dinah educates communities on how to be a better first responder to domestic violence and advocates to leaders inside and outside of synagogues to best support community members in need.
There are many different types of domestic violence, and intimate partner violence is only one of them. This abuse can take many shapes such as physical abuse, emotional/psychological abuse, verbal abuse, sexual abuse, financial abuse, and spiritual abuse. While there are many organizations around the world that focus on helping victims of intimate partner violence, very few provide a particular intervention method designed for Jewish women suffering the effects of such violence. In addition, The Jewish community in general experiences domestic violence at the same rate as the national average (about 25%), but Jewish survivors stay in relationships 5-7 years longer than the average. This is partially due to the fact that Jewish women are “the least likely of any ethnic or religious group to utilize available resources or implement self-help remedies such as women’s shelters, support groups or social services,” according to Adam H. Koblenz writing in the Maryland Law Journal.
The America that we see ravaged by COVID-19 is uncharted territory for everyone, including organizations, both Jewish and secular, that work to prevent domestic violence. Across America, many family courts and supreme courts are open, but they conduct most cases remotely and in general are hearing limited cases. Jewish law requires divorced couples to get a get, or a Jewish marital divorce contract, but many Batei Dinim (Jewish legal courts) are putting gittim on hold until the pandemic is over. In my short time working for Dinah so far this summer, I have gained a greater understanding of how COVID-19 further complicates the issue of domestic violence in both the religious and secular worlds. I am currently working on the organization’s social media presence and creating programming about healthy relationship practices for middle school and high school students.
Anyone from any walk of life can experience intimate partner violence, but Jewish women often face unique challenges when seeking help. Jewish tradition dictates that the social and religious realms belong to the man, whereas the hearth and home are the realms of women, and thus women are to perform the tasks that maintain the family’s health and happiness, and to support the growth of the children. There are so many more barriers to leaving abusive relationships in both religious and secular Jewish communities, including laws surrounding Shalom Bayit or peace in the home, Get refusal, and Mesirah or getting other Jews in trouble and stigmas such as lashon harah, or being labeled as a shonda. With these barriers in mind, Dinah works to ensure that no Jew is alone when facing domestic violence.