Female Jewish victims of sexual violence are now able to seek support from counsellors and experts via a new helpline named after the biblical story of Dina.
The Dina sexual violence support helpline, which can be accessed on 0808 801 0656, is run by the Jewish Women’s Aid.
Jewish survivors of sexual abuse aged over 16 can call the helpline for free information about their rights and any support services available to them.
The helpline can be used for referrals to new services such as counselling or advice about reporting incidents to the police or the criminal justice system.
It was funded in part by Comic Relief, which contributed £80,000 for the service over the next two years.
Research by the Jewish Women’s Aid found sexual abuse to be “massively under-reported” particularly in the community where some encounter a “wall of silence”.
Jewish women wait on average a shocking 11.5 years before seeking help, according to the charity.
More broadly, a quarter of women are affected by domestic abuse in their lifetimes, while 1 in 5 are survivors of sexual violence.
Jewish Women’s Aid CEO Naomi Dickson says the figures show no difference in the scale and severity of the issue across UK communities.
But she added: “Jewish women are reluctant to speak about their experience of sexual violence due to an anxiety and guilt about maligning the community’s image.
“There is also a notion of shalom bayis (peace in the house) which makes it difficult for Jewish women to come forward to speak out about sexual violence. There is a sense of shame and a fear they won’t be believed.
“The more people talk about it, the more we are able to break down the wall of silence.”
Rachel Krys, co-director of End Violence Against Women added: “We’re delighted that Jewish Women’s Aid has set up this service which could be life-saving for Jewish women and girls who’ve experienced sexual violence.
“We know that specialist services run by and for women in the community are essential for survivors of sexual violence.
“With more women and girls than ever talking about their experiences of sexual violence and reaching out for support, this new service is much needed and very welcome.”
The Dina sexual violence support helpline is open from 10am until noon, and from 1pm to 3pm on Mondays and Thursdays and from 1pm to 3pm on Tuesdays.