The number of domestic violence complaints reaching the Social Affairs Ministry this past week was close to 10 times the number per week during the first month of the coronavirus lockdown.
Dozens of complaints in the past week were described as urgent and required immediate police intervention.
The ministry received 512 complaints between May 13 and May 20 – an average of 73 a day, compared to an average of eight per week during the first month of the lockdown, which started in mid-March. The ministry tripled the number of people working on its hotline as a result of the overload in calls. For the first time a “quiet” line was established where complaints could be reported via text message, so people in distress could reach out even in the absence of privacy to make a phone call.
The number of complaints reached a peak between the middle and end of April, with 400 complaints filed during those two weeks. On the eve of Passover, the ministry started a campaign to encourage people to call in. “We know that there are apparently more cases than what is being reported, and the number of complaints about violence that we get rises each day,” one source said. “The campaign shown on television and on social media apparently made a lot more women aware they had somewhere to call.”
Michal Gera Margaliot, the executive director of the Israel Women’s Network, said that “this is a direct result of social isolation, which left women vulnerable to violence in their homes, alone with those who threaten them, in addition to the serious uncertainty and growing economic crisis that created a pressure cooker atmosphere for battered women.”
Gera Margaliot urged the new government to “give priority status to the issue of violence against women, put all the relevant people in the government on it, implement what is decided and budget the national program against domestic violence, which the cabinet approved in 2017.”
On Wednesday the Knesset established a subcommittee to handle the issue of femicide in Israel. The panel will report to the Committee on the Status of Women and make sure that budgets are allotted for reform programs.
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The subcommittee is still pending the approval of the committee, which hasn’t been established yet due to coalition feuds over the composition of all the Knesset committees. It is anticipated that the Knesset will approve all the committees next week.
The subcommittee was established in the aftermath of a rising toll of murdered women, with 10 killed since the start of the year, three of them in the past month. The most recent victim was Maya Vishniyak, 22, whose partner is suspected of strangling her in his mother’s home in Ramat Gan.
Two weeks ago, Tatiana Khaikin was murdered in Bat Yam. She was 50. Her partner reported the crime to the police and said he had killed her. A few days earlier, Mastwell Alaza, 31, was killed in Holon. Her husband confessed to the crime a day later. Last month Marwat Dasuki, 42, was murdered in Lod. A suspect in that case has been taken into custody.
On Saturday more than 1,000 people protested at Habima Square in Tel Aviv over the government’s failure to adequately address the issue of violence against women. Some held placards reading, “Where is the minister in charge of dealing with the murder of women?”; “The blood of women isn’t cheap” and “We won’t be silent.”