Violence against women has never been a top priority for any state agency, neither the law enforcement system nor the welfare, health and education systems. The price of this ongoing laxity is paid every day by thousands of women who suffer various kinds of violence: physical, sexual, financial and more. The failure to address this difficult problem has gone on for so long and in so many different fields that it cannot be considered a mere error.
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The case of Dana (not her real name), reported in Haaretz on February 14, is a good example of the inadequate help the state gives abused women, even in the best cases. “At the shelter, they looked after me, but after four months, when I left there, I was left with nothing,” Dana said. “I moved to another city to run away from my husband, but I was alone and I didn’t manage. I had no money and I had no support. The social worker barely had time for me.” Six months later, she returned to her violent husband; she said she had no other choice.
Israel has 14 shelters for battered women, and last year, they provided temporary shelter to 755 women – an increase of about 20 percent over 2014. Dozens of other women weren’t able to get into these shelters because there was no place.
The budget for the existing shelters is inadequate for their needs. Moreover, without continued help after they leave the shelter, many women can’t manage to rebuild their lives. A study done by the Social Affairs Ministry found that about a third of the women who stay in these shelters return to them a second time.
The insufficient funding for the existing shelters and the negligible resources invested in women after they leave the shelters are signs of a welfare system in crisis. It’s virtually pointless for these women and their children to register with the welfare services. The only difference that would make is that they’ll be added to the dismal statistics. They are offered few solutions, and receive very little concrete assistance.
But the Social Affairs Ministry isn’t the only guilty party. A governmental committee on domestic violence recently concluded that the relevant government ministries don’t coordinate among themselves, with the result that abused women and children don’t receive adequate protection. Moreover, a report by the Public Security Ministry’s comptroller found that in several cases in which women were murdered by their partners, the women had complained to the police, but the police failed to protect them.
Violence against women is not a decree of fate, nor is the abandonment of the victims of this violence a necessity dictated by harsh reality. Unless it quickly comes up with a national plan to address this issue, the government will continue to violate one of its most basic obligations: to work for the welfare of its citizens, and especially for the welfare of society’s weakest link – women in distress.