Domestic violence is a phenomenon that occurs in about 200,000 families in Israel, and is witnessed by some 600,000 children. In 2014 ten women were killed by their spouses and hundreds of similar attempts take place yearly. Such events, destroying families on all levels of Israeli society, represent a cross section of social sectors and statuses.
WIZO is proactive in promoting equality of the sexes and reducing domestic violence via a wide range of help and therapies for women and children subjected to violence. These include battered women’s shelters, centers for the prevention and treatment of domestic violence and tens of other programs around the country designed to help victims of domestic violence. For the past two years, a designated WIZO Helpline for violent men seeking a way to change their behavior has also been in operation.
WIZO has long understood that the only way to resolve this major problem is to offer help to all family members, including the men perpetrating the violence, and the past year saw the introduction of a large-scale project calling on men to become active partners in the struggle against domestic violence. There is clearly a need to alter the established view of this phenomenon as an extreme one involving only women, and to raise awareness of a more complex, widespread situation to be tackled by the whole of society..
Accordingly, WIZO’s call to combat domestic violence was met with a strong response and we are proud to report on many important activities: From the President of the State of Israel to WIZO: “Thank you for your contribution to reducing domestic violence and to Israeli society in general.”.
Activities began on November 24th with a visit by President Reuven (Rubi) Rivlin and his wife, Mrs. Nechama Rivlin, to WIZO’s Jerusalem Center for the Prevention and Treatment of Domestic Violence and to a battered women’s shelter.
Also participating in the visit were World WIZO President, Tova Ben-Dov; Chairperson of the World WIZO Executive, Prof. Rivka Lazovsky; Chairperson of WIZO Israel, Mrs. Gila Oshrat; and Honorary WIZO Life Presidents, Mrs. Raya Jaglom and Mrs. Helena Glaser.
President Rivlin began with a visit to the Center for the Treatment of Domestic Violence, where in-house activities were explained to him, in particular the methods employed to treat violent men and the success rate of rehabilitation through a therapeutic program led by a team of professionals. Gila Oshrat, Chairperson of WIZO Israel, spoke of the designated men’s Helpline, which provides an outlet 365 days a year for men in crisis situations to deal with their anger and violent impulses. Prof. Rivka Lazovsky, Chairperson of the World WIZO Executive, told the President and his wife of activities held throughout all WIZO educational institutions, aimed at promoting gender equality and educating children and young people towards tolerance and non-violence in all fields.
The President and First Lady continued their tour with a visit to a WIZO battered women’s shelter, where they met and spoke freely with resident women and children, listening to their personal stories and taking note of the many different forms of distress caused by the violence they had experienced. The President summed up his visit by saying, “My wife and I pay tribute to you, the women who have been subjected to domestic violence. You are truly heroic, having the courage to fight for your freedom. I am aware that there are many women in Israel who are afraid to talk openly of their distress. Each and everyone one of your histories, the stories of how you have fought for your lives, must resonate beyond the walls of this shelter.” The President acknowledged WIZO’s great contribution to reducing domestic violence and was thankful for the shelters that help so many women go forward towards success. He thanked WIZO’s management and professional teams for their investment and dedication, confirming that he is aware of and applauds the organization’s widespread activities for the benefit of Israeli society.
Another aspect of the program aimed at encouraging men to take responsibility for domestic violence is a new digital campaign, launched under the name: “No hand in violence against women”. Many Israeli public figures and well-known personalities have offered support for WIZO’s call to prevent domestic violence and agreed to have their pictures posted on social networks with the campaign slogan printed on their hands. Public figures and celebrities who have already taken part include: government ministers and Members of Knesset; singers and actors; prominent bloggers; famous chefs; high profile reporters and press photographers; reality show participants; and others. The campaign made waves in the Israeli media and attracted widespread support.
On November 25th, the date designated by the UN as International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, WIZO organized a seminar on the subject of men’s role in the struggle to combat violence against women. The seminar was attended by executives of World WIZO and WIZO Israel, Members of Knesset and professional experts, such as MK Dr. Aliza Lavie, Chairperson of the Committee to Promote Women’s Status and Gender Equality; MK Mr. David Tzur, Chairman of the Sub-Committee on Trafficking in Women and Prostitution; MK Mr. Eitan Cabel, Chairman of the Knesset Lobby for the Promotion of Parenting Equality, additional public figures and experts in domestic violence. The seminar was widely attended and provided an open forum for exposure of WIZO’s professional activities in the field.
The audience was deeply moved by Prof. Rivka Lazovsky’s reading of a poem written by a battered woman who, with her two daughters, found refuge in a WIZO shelter.
Prof. Lazovsky also spoke of WIZO’s activities:
“Every day many women visit WIZO shelters and centers for the prevention of domestic violence, or join our treatment and support programs around the country. And not only women: children, young people and men also come to us. All of them are living in the shadow of violence and seeking to break the cycle. Since its inception, WIZO has held out a hand to help people leave darkness behind and live a healthier life, free of fear. As Israel’s largest socially active organization engaged in the education of several generations of young people, the WIZO educational approach also highlights crucial qualities of equality and tolerance. Future generations are taught that violence is not an acceptable mode of conduct and gender equality is attainable, not some distant dream. The only way to address the devastating effects of violence is through education and WIZO is committed to this crucial challenge and to doing everything in its power to create a better society. One current focus of WIZO’s activity is an appeal to Israeli men to play an active role in combating domestic violence, hoping to spearhead a real and meaningful change. If neighbors, colleagues and acquaintances on all levels are able to see the pain and distress of both women and men in this situation, every single helping hand might save one more family. I would like to thank WIZO Israel for standing at the forefront of the struggle against domestic violence, for their determination and professionalism, and for the help offered throughout the country to those trying to break out of the cycle of violence.”