Israel began housing abusive men, who have been removed from their homes under restraining orders and have nowhere to stay, in hotels and hostels in order to protect their spouses.
This is the first time the Social Affairs Ministry has taken such a measure after it emerged that some of the men have encountered difficulties in finding an alternative place to stay due to their financial situation or the refusal of their relatives to take them in over coronavirus fears. This raised concerns that the men may violate the orders issued against them and return to their homes.
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So far, the battered women were removed from their home and placed in shelters for their protection.
Israel does not require compulsory treatment for abusive men. A violent man can seek help from centers for the prevention and treatment of domestic violence. However, Social Services Ministry data shows that only about a quarter of those being treated in these centers are men and the rest are battered women and children. Some men are referred to the centers by the Probation Service, others by the police and the rest end up at the treatment facilities at the request of their spouses or their own.
The Prevention of Domestic Violence Law and the Prevention of Threatening Harassment Law enable issuing a protective or restraining order in verified and suspected cases of domestic violence. Bu virtue of these orders, a person can be barred from entering a home of a relative, or even coming close to it.
In 2018, Israel’s family courts received some 9,800 petitions to issue such orders. Usually, restraining orders are in force for up to three months, but the court has the authority to extend them up to six months.
Incidents of abusive men who were removed from their homes under protective orders or after criminal proceedings were launched against them and were unable to find a place to live, were recently brought to the attention of the Social Affairs Ministry.
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In the past, the ministry operated two apartments for battering men who had been ordered to leave their homes. But these apartments have not been in service for several years, leaving some men without a solution, particularly during the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic.
“Men who are ordered out of their homes usually stay temporarily with their relatives or friends,” Hagai Moyal, the national supervisor of the Social Affairs Ministry unit dealing with domestic violence, wrote in a document he sent to all social services departments and domestic violence prevention centers.
“These days, we are witnessing more and more people who were removed from their homes under restraining orders and cannot find an alternative place to stay because their families/friends and landlords are avoiding providing a solution amid fears of the coronavirus,” Moyal wrote.
Moyal said that these men have problems earning money, adding that their psychological state is complexed.
“Many men find it difficult to organize themselves in the first days after they leave their homes as they are confused, and experiencing financial problems and a complicated emotional state. Therefore, it is necessary to provide them with a swift solution in order to limit the danger they pose to others, prevent them from harming themselves and get them treatment,” Moyal said.
Moyal has given an official order that in cases when department heads in the ministry identify abusive men who have nowhere to live, they should be sent to a hotel or hostel for two weeks to allow them to receive professional support during this period.
Seven such men were sent to hotels over the past two weeks, as well as two women who were waiting to enter a new shelter for battered women that opened this week.
Battered women's shelter and women’s organizations have been demanding for years to handle domestic violence situations by treating the men – and not by removing the women from their lives and moving them to a shelter.
The Social Affairs Ministry’s Probation Service operates two houses for treating abusive men, where they are supervised while the criminal proceedings against them are underway. But the two houses, one in the center of the country and one in the south, can only accept some 200 men a year.
A senior employee in one of the shelters for battered women told Haaretz that housing the men in hotels is “a step we have been waiting for for years, but it is only a drop in the ocean. Not just men with restraining orders need to be sent to hostels, but also every man who hurts his spouse. All the shelters need to be for men and not for women. We hope this step is the beginning of a change that will be expanded in the future,” she said.