There is a common misconception that violence against women is prevalent only in poorly educated socio-economic sectors of society, that the phenomenon is such that ‘it doesn’t happen to people like us’ - but nothing is further from the truth.
Shelly and Yaron had a fairy tale wedding, a no-expense-spared affair that others could only dream of emulating. Both sets of parents were well-to-do and nothing was too good for their children. Yaron worked in the family business and his salary was such that Shelly, a teacher, did not need to work. Life was charmed.
Yaron wanted to wait a few years before starting a family. Shelly wanted to start a family right away. When she gave birth to their baby, barely a year after their wedding, her usually mild-mannered husband became irritable. He criticized her for being tired all the time, accused her of loving the baby more than she loved him and became brutal towards her in his demands for sex. Shelly with tears in her eyes, complied. “I didn’t want to make a fuss,” she said, “and I certainly couldn’t tell my parents or friends, it would have just been too embarrassing. Everyone thought we were the perfect couple, to spoil the illusion would have been too much to bear,” and so silently she suffered the abuse. And it got worse.
She felt guilty that she was not living up to the ideal that she had set for herself, and her guilt was fueled every time she allowed herself to be abused. She would plead with Yaron not to hit her. “I’m sorry, please don’t hit me, please…” she begged.
Shelly managed to hide the bruises with makeup, with dark glasses and little white lies. And every time she plucked up the courage to ask him to seek help for his anger issues, he would blame her. “You make me this way,” he would say, launching into a tirade of abuse that scarred not only her body but her self-esteem.
It was the neighbors who alerted the police, having heard Shelly’s screams. This time, no amount of makeup or little white lies could camouflage the bitter truth and Yaron was exposed as an abusive husband. He sat down on the floor with his head in his hands and broke down crying in remorse.
“What have I done? I don’t know why I do this. I have a problem. Please help me.”
The couple was referred to one of the three WIZO Centers for the Treatment and Prevention of Violence, dedicated to stopping acts of abuse and to help violent members of the family deal with difficulties in a non-threatening way. The individual and group programs are run at the center while maintaining the family unit and eliminating violence. The staff includes social workers who specialize in anger management and the treatment of domestic violence as well as dedicated volunteers. The centers specialize in the effects of abuse on children and offer group and individual counseling for children.
Yaron also benefitted from the services of the dedicated WIZO helpline for husbands who are at risk of abusing their wives/partners. The couple take small steps together to pick up the fragments of their marriage.
Shelly has regained her self-confidence, her self-respect. Yaron is mindful of his actions and has addressed the deep issues that resulted in his abusive behavior. The couple have learned that to build the kind of married life they had pledged to each other under the Chuppah on their wedding day, there must be love, honor, and respect for the other.
WIZO has not only saved their marriage, WIZO has saved Shelly’s life.
(Names changed to preserve anonymity)
(Photo for illustration purposes only)