November 25th is marked, every year, as the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, as established by the United Nations General Assembly in 1999. WIZO not only condemns any form of violence against women, but has made combatting it one of the main pillars of its work in Israel. This year, WIZO has undertaken several impressive projects in relation to the day, with goals ranging from raising awareness to providing entry points for men and women seeking support and help.
WIZO statistics show that in 2015, 16 women were murdered by their husbands/partners or by a family member. Comparatively, the figure rose from 14 in 2014. In the last 15 years, 300 women in total have been killed by their domestic partners in Israel.
From the figures WIZO has gathered, it becomes apparent that every year, there are hundreds of attempted murders within family units, most of which do not even get counted or reported, since they do not actually end in deaths. According to the assessments of the Israeli welfare services, in Israel there are currently 200,000 battered women and 600,000 children exposed to domestic violence. In other words, the State of Israel is home to a million men, women and children "caged" in the cycle of domestic violence. WIZO and other organizations stress that the interpretation of "violence against women" has broken free from outdated, old fashioned clichés and isn't limited to physical abuse. Violence against a woman can take many forms: irrational jealously, possessiveness, isolation from family or friends, verbal abuse, fear mongering, financial control, non-consensual sexual relations, threatening words or behavior and much more.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, accompanied by MK Gila Gamliel, visited a WIZO battered women's shelter in Jerusalem on November 25th, the International Day for the Elimination Violence Against Women. At the shelter the prime minister met and spoke with several women receiving its services. "We're helping and we will help more. You deserve an honorable life, a good life, a life in which you can stand tall, make a living and raise your children with safety. I know it's hard but we will help you – that's our directive, our obligation, to provide you with a life of honor and safety and a livelihood. Therefore, I ask you to not give up. We are not giving up on you so don't you give up on yourselves. That's all I ask."
WIZO Israel Conference
On November 25th, WIZO Israel's Division for the Advancement of the Status of Women held a conference at WIZO's Tel Aviv headquarters on the subject of violence against women in Israel and more specifically, about the dynamics of silence as part of the phenomenon of domestic violence. Taking part in the event were MK Tzipi Livni and MK Merav Michali, who both spoke about their work related to the issue. "This year WIZO has appealed to all members of the Israeli society to join the fight against domestic violence and break the silence," said Professor Rivka Lazovsky, Chairperson of World WIZO Executive. "I hope that one day in the near future we will not need to hold a day for the fight against domestic violence."
"Silence Kills" Campaign
A first-of-its-kind campaign aimed at the prevention of violence against women was unveiled by WIZO on November 25th, to mark the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. The campaign is part of the effort to recruit the entire Israeli population to the fight against domestic violence and breaks with tradition by reaching out to violent men, rather than abused women, as was customary until now.
The campaign features Israeli celebrities: chefs, comedians, actors and musicians, who participated in the campaign on a volunteer basis. Collectively, they call on the public to not ignore violence against women and instead, to work to help women and men who are part of the cycle of domestic violence.
In the campaign's video, participants present common excuses given by people when asked why they didn't try to stop domestic violence when they knew it was going on. Excuses like, "It's not my business", "It's not like he was hitting her", "It'll pass - it's just a phase", "Why doesn't she complain?" and more, comprise the video while, all the time, the beeping of a heart monitor machine is heard in background, until it sounds a "flatline," symbolizing the death of another victim of abuse and public indifference.
The WIZO/Israel Hayom Hotline
This year, WIZO, in collaboration with the daily newspaper Israel Hayom, established and operated a temporary hotline for women and men who find themselves in the cycle of violence, which was open on Sunday, the 22nd of November.
The goal of the hotline was to provide advice and guidance and to answer questions related to the identification and diagnosing of signs or precursors of domestic violence. The hotline also provided information on current frameworks for treatment and prevention, advice for dealing with a violent partner, treating and protecting children exposed to violent situations, and more. The hotline was staffed by social workers who specialize in the subject of domestic violence alongside directors of WIZO violence prevention centers and directors of WIZO battered women's shelters.
WIZO already runs one-of-a-kind hotline for men who are part of the cycle of domestic violence, seeking advice and support. The hotline enables men to anonymously receive advice on how to deal with their aggression and violent impulses, and directs them toward treatment programs.
"Invisible," the Song
On November 25th, 2015, WIZO released a touching song in honor of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, produced by a veteran of its battered women's shelters, with the express goal of raising awareness of the phenomenon of domestic violence in Israel. The song, titled "Invisible," was written by Ranit Elovitch, a victim of violent spousal abuse, who at one point lived in a WIZO shelter for six months with her two daughters. The song expresses the emotions of a woman dealing with abuse and the silence she encounters in her surroundings: people who suspect that she is suffering but do nothing to help. The song was composed and performed by artists who volunteered their talents for the project.
"'Invisible' describes the situation of so many women who are in pain," says Ranit. "They are trapped and begging, sometimes without words, for someone to notice them and extend a helping hand. I believe that if people knew how much they could help, simply breaking the insidious pattern of silence, there could be a tremendous change, a real change that our society needs."
Raising Awareness of the Field
Hapoel Haifa and Maccabi Tel Aviv football clubs answered WIZO's request to take part in its efforts to raise awareness of violence against women. The match played by the opposing teams on Saturday November 21st, was dedicated to and highlighted by the call of the teams, their players and management – to end violence against women. The game began with Hapoel Haifa and Maccabi Tel Aviv players taking to the field with the Chairperson of WIZO Israel, Gila Oshrat, followed by a short ceremony. "WIZO's work is designed to raise society's awareness in fighting violence against women," said Gila. "We call on men and women as one to refrain from aiding and abetting this violence by keeping quiet and instead, to help by approaching the appropriate authorities. The intervention of the surrounding environment can save lives."
As part of the game-day project, the football players held up banners bearing the tagline "No More Silence About Violence Against Women." Additionally, the stadium's announcer let spectators know about the project and the teams' support of the effort to reduce the phenomenon of domestic violence and called on them to become a part of the battle.