Domestic Violence Reports Triple Amid Israel's Second COVID Lockdown

Social Affairs Ministry plans new shelters for battered women and permanent apartments for violent men for the first time in years

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Women plaster a poster in Tel Aviv which reads 'Dad killed Mom', August 2020
Women plaster a poster in Tel Aviv which reads 'Dad killed Mom', August 2020Credit: Ofer Vaknin
Lee Yaron
Lee Yaron

Since the coronavirus erupted, there have been almost three times as many calls to the domestic violence hotline as there were during the same months last year.

Consequently, the Social Affairs Ministry has decided to open two new shelters for battered women.

According to official ministry data, the hotline received 6,615 calls from March through September of this year, compared to 2,286 during the same months last year. Sources involved in the issue said the number had exceeded their most pessimistic predictions.

In September alone, the hotline received 627 calls, up from 235 in September 2019.

These statistics prompted the ministry’s decision to open new shelters for the first time in close to a decade. Currently, there are 14 permanent shelters for battered women and their children, plus one temporary shelter that opened in late April for women who need to be quarantined. But due to the rise in domestic violence, all have been nearly full for months.

Anti-femicide demonstration in Taibeh, July 2020 Credit: Tomer Appelbaum

The new shelters are slated to be operational by early next year.

“The dramatic rise in the number of calls happened after the first lockdown,” said Ayala Meir, head of the ministry’s department of family, children and youth in the community. “We expect this lockdown, too, to have serious implications for domestic violence.”

The ministry also plans to open four apartments for violent men who have been served with restraining orders to keep them away from their homes, which it also hasn’t done in years.

The men will receive rehabilitative treatment during their stay. Israel has had such apartments before, but they were shut down years ago.

In May, the ministry started housing violent men in hotels and youth hostels, having discovered that some of them had trouble finding alternative housing due to either their economic situation or their relatives’ refusal to host them for fear of the virus. That made them more likely to violate the restraining orders and return home. Now, the hotels will be replaced with permanent apartments.

Only local welfare departments could refer violent men to hotels, Meir said. But once the apartments are open, the police and courts will also be able to refer men there.

Israel doesn’t require violent men to get treatment, and according to ministry data, only about a quarter of the people seeking treatment from domestic violence centers are men; the rest are women and children. Even among men imprisoned for domestic violence, more than 40 percent don’t receive treatment in jail, according to an internal Israel Prison Service report.

Family courts received some 9,800 requests for restraining orders in 2018. Normally, such orders are granted for no more than three months, but the courts can extend them for another three months.

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