Surveys indicate that 31 percent of American women report physical or sexual abuse by their husbands or boyfriends at some point in their relationships. Within the Jewish community, based on surveys conducted by Jewish Women International, that figure is not much different.
In Jewish families, violence can be more subtle than outright physical violence. It can include controlling behavior related to money or childrearing practices. Clues such as a spouse constantly checking on his partner by cell phone, or discouraging time with friends and family or frequently using abusive language to describe their partner can indicate possible abuse.
Women who stay in abusive relationships do so for many reasons. Sometimes there are economic factors which make the woman feel dependent; sometimes she believes that her partner will change his behavior; and sometimes she feels so much shame that she cannot leave. Often there is fear of escalating violence that might impact their children.
Young women and men need to learn how to have healthy relationships. This would include mutual respect, safety and an environment in which each person’s growth and wellbeing is nurtured – where there are no fear, no violence and no threats. Young people can learn how to have healthy relationships, reducing the likelihood of violence and abuse.
Children today are also more exposed to bullying than they were in the past; and this does not have to be physical. In fact cyber bullying with social media is much more common today. Make sure that you know where your child goes on the Internet and communicate frequently about what is and is not appropriate.
A study completed in May 2001 in the Louisville Jewish community on the subject of domestic violence in the Jewish community indicated that 27 percent of the respondents had been involved in at least one abusive relationship.
The study, which was conducted by Indiana University Southeast on behalf of Jewish Family & Career Services and the National Council of Jewish Women, shocked some people, many of whom felt there was little abuse in the Jewish community. Even one case is too much.
JFCS is available to provide programming for youth in the community on violence prevention and on developing healthy relationships. If people have concerns about themselves or others, JFCS counselors are prepared to help people make choices that will keep them safe. For more information, contact JFCS at 452-6341.