Progressively Speaking: How we can help victims of domestic abuse

Progressively Speaking: How we can help victims of domestic abuse

The number of Jewish women reporting domestic abuse is on the rise, but what more can be done?

Recent headlines in this newspaper reported a rise in the number of Jewish women coming forward to report domestic abuse – a reminder that talking can change and save lives.

Jewish Women’s Aid suggested this rise can be attributed to better awareness and partnership campaigns within the Jewish community, and the changing wider conversation around the #metoo movement.

In our prayers, God is referred to as “the one who spoke and the world existed”, because the idea that words have the capacity to open up and create whole worlds is an essential image in Judaism stretching back to the creation stories in Genesis.

A public conversation that enables people to recognise they might be in an abusive situation, that reduces stigma around domestic violence, and that helps people learn where they can seek help, can open up a new and different world for those suffering abuse.

As a community, we should take heart that efforts to create safe spaces are enabling people to seek help and we should also consider how we can continue to make sure these spaces stay open and that they welcome in  others who need them.

We must, however, not assume because we live in a moment where interpersonal abuse is a headline topic, that the conversation has happened and there is no more work to do.

Deuteronomy teaches that justice is not something that is found, but something we must pursue.

It does not reside in a static place, but rather, just as we move towards a far-off place, its details become clearer, so too as we move towards justice, new dimensions become apparent.

In the Jewish community, these dimensions include the men in our community who are potential victims of abuse.

They also include the LGBTQ+ Jewish community, teenagers and young people in their first relationships, and the moments when cases of sexual abuse or harassment occur in our workplaces.

The new figures remind us both of the importance of the work that is being done, and of the scale of the work we still have left to do.

It is a sacred duty to keep talking, to ensure the doors to conversations open still further, and that our religious communities consciously act to protect those who are vulnerable.

  • Deborah is a rabbinic student at Leo Baeck College

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