150% Spike in Domestic Violence Complaints in Israel After Women’s Protests

A ministry hotline received 272 complaints of violence this month, 70 percent of them from women, compared to 110 complaints in the first two weeks of November

Women block the road in protest of the 25 women murdered this year in Israel, Tel Aviv, December 13, 2018.
Moti Milrod

The Welfare Ministry has reported a spike in complaints of domestic violence since protests highlighting the issue were launched in the past month.

Ministry figures obtained by Haaretz show they have received 2.5 times as many complaints of physical and sexual violence since the start of December, compared to the same period last month.

The ministry says that increased public discussion of the issue has led to a sharp rise in complaints.

The figures show that a ministry hotline received 272 complaints of violence this month, 70 percent of them from women, compared to 110 complaints in the first two weeks of November. All the complaints have been referred to professionals.

>> After this week's national protest against femicide, women in Israel can dream | Opinion ■  Israeli women took to the street. But where are all the men? | Analysis

The ministry hotline for which you dial 118, is open 24 hours a day, and available in Hebrew, Arabic, Amharic and Russian. Complaints are referred immediately to the relevant authorities.

Sa’id Teli, director of the ministry’s domestic violence unit, said they have noted an increase in calls from men and women feeling freer to discuss their situations. “The dialogue and protest against violence have raised awareness about the issue and many more women are asking for help, or to receive information about what aid would be at their disposal and also seeking to be listened to. We are also seeing a rise in the number of men calling in asking for help and discussing their circumstances.”

Initiators of the women’s protests told Haaretz that “one of the direct influences of the historic show of unity among women in the past week has been that women see they are not alone and that there’s a significant change in public discussion and awareness of violence toward women.”

They added that “without the addition of budgets and real steps by decision-makers the public system will not adequately address the complaints. That’s why we have taken to the streets and will continue to do so until our demands have been met.”

Teli called on men and women facing difficulties to approach the ministry. “The office has 113 centers for violence prevention around the country providing sensitive responses to men, women and children,” he said.

“We urge that all those suffering from violence to approach us or come to the centers near their homes.”

The association assisting sexual assault victims reported an increase of 50% in complaints of sexual assault since the #ididntcomplain campaign began and that many who described a sense of being inundated by the intensive exposure to stories of assault.

The number of men complaining has risen substantially. The association said that in the past they would get 40 to 45 complaints a month from men, but since the campaign began they receive 60 to 70 complaints a month.

Last week saw nationwide protests, including roads blocked, in response to the murder of 25 women in the past year. Protesters have been demanding 250 million shekels for domestic violence prevention programs. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that funds would be found to finance the programs within two weeks. Meanwhile, the government is weighing specific budget cuts from other programs to finance this one.

The latest wave of protests was sparked by the murder last Tuesday of Iman Awad, 29, who was stabbed to death in her home in Acre. Her husband, Mohammed Lebavidi, was arrested as a suspect in the case but he has denied any involvement. They married recently and Awad was pregnant.

An inter-ministerial committee on the issue of domestic violence was set up in 2014, and issued recommendations in 2017, most of which have not as yet been implemented.