Rise in Domestic Violence in Israel Is Direct Result of Repeated Lockdowns, Police Source Says

Josh Breiner
Josh Breiner
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Protesters march to denounce violence against women, Tel Aviv, November 2020.
Protesters march to denounce violence against women, Tel Aviv, November 2020.Credit: Meged Gozani
Josh Breiner
Josh Breiner

Thirteen percent more domestic violence complaints were filed with the Israel Police in 2020 than the year before, police data shows, and this is a direct consequence of the pandemic and the restrictions imposed on the public because of it, the police's investigation and intelligence division claimed. 

The rate at which the complaints turn into legal procedures has remained constant however, with indictments jumping by 16 percent, while, like in 2019, the vast majority of cases were closed.

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The police statistics, which were released following a Freedom of Information request filed by lawyer Eyal Besserglick, show there was a substantial increase in domestic violence complaints following the first lockdown in March 2020. The force expects the number of indictments to remain high in the first half of this year, as more are filed in cases of violence from last year.

The increase in complaints and indictments is a direct result of the lockdowns, the fact that families were required to remain at home,” a police source said. “Spending many hours together heightens day-to-day frictions and sometimes exacerbates conflicts that preceded the pandemic.”

The Israel Police have boosted the number of investigators dealing with domestic violence and have established special domestic violence units at some police stations, the source said. The police have also made it possible in the midst of the pandemic to file a complaint without coming to the police station. The increased levels of domestic violence are expected to persist, primarily due to the economic distress that the pandemic has caused, the police added.

"Why didn't I report it?" Sign put up by the Jerusalem Municipality to encourage people to report incidents of domestic violence, Jerusalem, December 2020.Credit: Ohad Zwigenberg

Case closed

The Israel Police received 40,986 domestic violence complaints from members of the public in 2020 and filed 8,073 indictments for acts of domestic violence. In 2019, the police received 36,224 complaints and filed indictments in 6,935 cases.

In both years, roughly 80 percent of the cases were closed for various reasons. The single most important reason was lack of evidence, invoked in about half of the cases that did not proceed.

The apparent impact of the pandemic, which began to be felt in earnest in March, can be seen in the monthly figures in the beginning of 2020. On average in January and February, there were 2,800 domestic violence complaints, whereas the monthly average jumped to more than 3,500 after that.

“The fact that, although many more women have dared to come and complain, ultimately their files are closed, shows the system is failing and that men simply aren’t paying any price for their harm and violence,” said Orit Sulitzeanu, the executive director of the Association of Rape Crisis Centers in Israel. “An investigative committee needs to be established to look into why the rate at which indictments are filed hasn’t changed and why women’s lives remain overlooked.”

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