PREVENTING DOMESTIC VIOLENCE (SPOUSE ABUSE) IN ISRAEL
Ruth Geva, Director
Information Services and International Relations Divn.,
Ministry of Police
The Situation in Israel
Everyday, the police, telephone hotlines and shelters for battered women, receive calls for help from victims of abuse and aggression.
Most women, living with spouse abuse, think that the situation will improve with time. Victims usually react by keeping silent due to shame, fear of the aggressor and lack of self-esteem and confidence. This situation continues often until tragic events happen, such as a serious assault or even murder.
When all else fails and despair increases, only one solution remains: seeking alternatives, and assistance how to escape the never-ending abuse.
Some sensational cases of terrible assaults and murder of women by their spouses or partners, which occurred in Israel in the last few years, have brought about increased awareness of the problem. In the last four years, 104 cases of murders of women by their partners or boyfriends, have occurred. In the last year alone (1994) there have been 19 such cases.
This increased awareness has brought about also an increase in all areas of activity connected to the national response:
* in the number of shelters for battered women built around the country;
* in the number of legal mechanisms suggested by Parliament and amendments to the law such as to the special law regarding Family Violence. This law provides, inter alia, for the protection of the victim by removing the aggressor from the home, allowing for the confiscation of legally held firearms from violent spouses, removing the children from the violent family, providing legal aid and protection to the victims, etc.;
* in the media coverage regarding the phenomenon, in the newspapers, television, radio programmes etc. These have highlighted the problem, its extent, the problems existing regarding enforcement and legislation and other mechanisms suggested and implemented in preventing abuse;
* in education and training frameworks for various sectors of the public;
* in therapeutic and treatment centres formed for the violent persons and their victims;
* in research and long-range studies conducted by various academic and other institutions in order to assess the damage done to the victims, including the children in such violent families, as well as evaluation studies made on the effectiveness of various treatment remedies.
The following are the various mechanisms and models used in Israel in an effort to reduce violence against women in the family .The framework is a multi-disciplinary one encompassing the criminal justice system as a whole, including legislation, law enforcement, social services and the voluntary sector.
Various non-governmental services and organizations make available hotlines for battered women, manned 24 hours by volunteers who have undergone special training, who deal knowledgeably and empathetically with the distressed women on the other side of the line.
Workshops and Lectures
Teams of social workers and lawyers, provide lectures and workshops in schools, for women soldiers, social workers, lawyers, judges, police, medical staff and others, in order to bring to the fore the subject of violence in the family, as well as the legal, behavioural and social aspects of the phenomenon.
Shelters for battered women and their children exist around the country, including in the Arab sector, and provide protection for the victim from the violent partner. Professional staff of social workers and volunteers, provide a therapeutic framework for those women who wish to break the vicious circle of violence. The shelter’s address and telephone number are unknown to the general public but are available to all welfare services, police stations and hospitals, in order to allow these to refer the victims to these centres.
Independent accommodation for single-parent families, have recently been made possible by the Ministry of Housing which pays for the rent for one year. The staff of the shelter, continue to follow the progress of the women and her children in the "Half-Way House" project.
Self-help groups have been set-up, providing support for women in order to work-through emotions and experiences. Former battered wives who have participated in these courses are now working as volunteers in these frameworks.
Para-professional volunteers, lawyers and social workers provide legal advise to women regarding family disputes, advise regarding divorce proceedings, child maintenance and personal status laws and even accompany women to court, and provide support and encouragement to take active steps to change their lives.
Violence Prevention Courses
Violence Prevention Courses provide treatment for violent men, carried out by professional social workers, specializing in the treatment of violence. The battered women are also included in the treatment programme. Such workshops have been initiated within the Israel Prison Service for violent inmates, as well.
Hospital Emergency Services
Emergency rooms in hospitals provide emergency services, while the medical professionals have been trained in making sure the police are notified, and that the evidence of abuse is documented properly for court
The Changing Role of the Police
In the last few years a transformation has occurred in the law enforcement community. The police no longer sees itself as a mediator and negotiator but rather concentrates on its role as a law enforcer, and uses its authority regarding arrest and conditional deferral of criminal proceedings. The use of this authority has been used much more, due to the increased awareness regarding the seriousness of the offenses and the potential danger to the victims. At the same time, the police uses its influence to refer the offenders, who seem suitable, to treatment and rehabilitation by specialized social services.
The Israel Police is also increasing its training for police officers on how to deal effectively and empathetically with battered women, and how to use the legal mechanisms available. Special police officers have been appointed to deal with these victims.
Of importance is the increased computerization and data analysis of cases reported to the police, in order to provide the police with information regarding repeat victimization, as well as for the proper management of the phenomenon.
The Be’er-Sheva Pilot Model
A special model incorporating all the above, has been initiated for the first time, in the southern town of Be’er-Sheva, and has undergone evaluation.
The model allows, in appropriate cases, for an alternative, to the regular criminal proceedings which includes arrest, prosecution and punishment.
The police, upon receiving a report of domestic violence, refer the women to assistance and emergency centres, as a first priority. However, instead of simply beginning the usual criminal procedures, the abuser is provided with an alternative: He can agree to undergo a treatment programme for aggression and violence, thereby allowing for conditional release. According to the law, a police Officer can release a suspect before his arrest period is terminated, under conditions that do not contravene a court order. Treatment is one of these alternatives. If he refuses to undergo treatment, the Court can order him to do so.
The treatment program is provided by one of the social services in Be’er-Sheva the Na’amat Organization or the Probation Service of the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs. The offender is supervised by the Probation Service Workers, who make a preliminary evaluation and make sure he attends and completes the course. Only when these are satisfied by his positive development, will the police decide whether or not to continue criminal proceedings.
Research has shown that there has been a real decrease in violence by those undergoing the conditional treatment schedule. An in-depth evaluation showed a significant difference in recidivism rates. (See detailed article by Shalev and Yehezkeli, in this Report).
Other Police jurisdiction and stations in Israel have also developed similar models. The models incorporate the new concept: that the police should act mainly as a law enforcement agency, but can use their authority as a pivot and catalyst for referral to social intervention and treatment, in the effort to decrease such violence.