Teenager Ari (not his real name) was always a well-mannered and gentle boy. His father had died suddenly of a heart attack when he was very young. Ari's widowed mother doted upon him. He was studious and excelled in his schoolwork.
It was only when his mother remarried that his world fell apart. He became restless and angry, and his studies suffered. When his teachers tried to engage him, he would stare out of the window careful not to look them in the eye. Soon Ari began to raise his fists to classmates. His mother was called into school many times. Ari became known as a troublemaker but one day he broke down in tears and confided in the school counselor. Ari explained to him that he would lay in bed listening to his mother screaming, while his new stepfather lashed out at her verbally and physically. Ari went to sleep with tears in his eyes to the sound of loud thumps. The one time that he tried to come to the defense of his mother, his new stepfather pushed him out of the way, knocking him to the ground.
His school contacted the welfare services and Ari was referred to the WIZO Ahuzat Yeladim Youth Village in Haifa (sponsored by WIZO Australia).
When he first came to the youth village, Ari was very anxious, displaying the classic signs of witnessing domestic abuse; he blamed his mother, herself the victim, for his overwhelming fear, poor concentration, difficulties in coming to terms with puberty and limited social skills. Slowly but surely, he responded well to therapy from WIZO counselors under whose care he was placed. With patient guidance from teachers and village personnel, he regained his enthusiasm for study, and he adapted well to living in the dormitory, but he worried constantly about the safety of his mother. Psychologists set to work on his anger issues that all centred around his stepfather’s behaviour towards his mother.
Ari is now popular with the other youth at the village and he has regained his smile. He regards Ahuzat Yeladim as home. His relationship with his mother, which was so fractured when the stepfather was on the scene, is becoming close once again.
Before Ari's mother found the confidence to rid herself of her abusive husband, Ari would spend weekends and holidays at the Shabbat House at Ahuzat Yeladim, but now that she lives alone again, Ari looks forward to going home at the weekend.
At Ahuzat Yeladim, Ari is settled and content. The youth village has given him confidence and tools for a successful life. He will do well in his matriculation exams and looks forward to his army service.
(Names changed to preserve anonymity)
(Photo for illustration purposes only)