There are now “more prosecutions and convictions for domestic abuse than ever before,”
the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) said during an event run jointly by three major communal organisations to mark International Women’s Day.
Alison Saunders was speaking in a debate entitled “Domestic Abuse: do faith communities help or hinder victims?” at the House of Commons last Wednesday. Ms Saunders said: “We have worked very hard with communities and faith leaders on race hatred and religious hatred, and we think that it’s also a great way forward to talk to communities about domestic abuse.”
She added: “We welcome the support given by Jewish Women’s Aid to those going through the justice process.”
The packed event, which was chaired by BBC Radio 4 Woman’s Hour presenter Jane Garvey, also featured contributions from Naomi Dickson, chief executive of Jewish Women’s Aid (JWA); Haista Gohir, chair of the Muslim Women’s Network; Dr Eilidh Whiteford, shadow SNP Westminster group leader (social justice) and Louise Ellman MP, Deputy for the Jewish Labour Movement.
Naomi Dickson said: “There used to be a misconception that Jewish women were not affected by domestic abuse. Jewish Women’s Aid has worked across the breadth of the community with rabbis, leaders, the religious establishment and rebbetzens to change this culture.”
She pointed out that the numbers of Jewish women reporting violence and abuse would be even greater but they were being constrained by feelings of shame and humiliation.
Ms Dickson told the audience that Jewish texts and scriptures contained nothing to suggest that they allowed domestic violence to happen.
According to Jewish Women’s Aid, domestic abuse cases have reached “epidemic” level in the Jewish community. The expert panel tackled questions including:
· What are the challenges that arise when a victim or perpetrator of domestic violence comes from a minority faith or ethnic community?
· Is there more or less support for victims when they are part of a faith community?
· What more should faith leaders be doing to combat domestic abuse in their communities?
Following the event, Board of Deputies chief executive Gillian Merron said: “Gathering together an exceptional panel of speakers made this a fascinating and important event for International Women’s Day. The quality of the discussion was exceptionally high, and the speed with which the tickets were snapped up indicates that there is a huge desire for this taboo issue to be debated openly.”
Deputy Amanda Bowman thanked the speakers at the end of the event on behalf of the Board of Deputies Social Action Group and Women’s Group.
JWA was founded to support the thousands of Jewish women who each year face all manners of abuse such as physical, psychological and financial abuse from within their own home. JWA is the only organisation in the UK dealing specifically with the needs of abused Jewish women and their children.
Their helpline number is 0808 801 0500.