Sanctuary for the Abused

Friday, November 25, 2005

International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women

Around the world at least one woman in every three has been beaten, coerced into sex, or otherwise abused in her lifetime. Most often the abuser is a member of her own family. Increasingly, gender-based violence is recognized as a major public health concern and a violation of human rights.
There are two specific days that have been dedicated to stopping violence against women. One is International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women on Nov 25 which is an initiative of the UN. Women's activists have marked the Day as a day against violence since 1981. The date came from the brutal 1961 assassination of the three Mirabal sisters, political activists in the Dominican Republic, on orders of Domincan ruler Rafael Trujillo.

There are many issues and instances at which violence against women occurs. Below are several examples. Some of the issues are:

Sexual Violence: According to the World Health Organization, between 12 percent and 25 percent of women around the world have experienced sexual violence at some time in their lives. In the United States, data compiled by the National Victim Center in 1995 indicate that over 700,000 women are raped or sexually assaulted annually. The laws of many countries around the world, such as India, Papua New Guinea, Malaysia, have explicit exemptions for marital rape. Additionally, laws in countries such as Uruguay and Ethiopia allow rapists to escape punishment if they marry their victims. Further, armed conflict situations and civil wars in approximately 100 countries around the world have seen the increasing use of rape as a weapon of warfare. Women civilians and refugees, specifically targeted by armed forces, are subject to mass rape, forced pregnancy, and sexual slavery.

Domestic Violence - According to the World Health Organization, results of large-scale studies conducted in various developing and industrialized countries indicate that between 16 and 52 percent of women reported having been assaulted by an intimate partner. In the United States, 28 percent of women reported at least one episode of physical violence from their partner. In Nicaragua, 52 percent of women aged 15 - 49 in the city of Leon reported having been physically abused by a partner at least once. Many cultures condone or legally sanction domestic violence. In Northern Nigeria, for example, Section 55 of the Penal Code allows a husband to discipline his wife so long as the action does not amount to the "infliction of grievous hurt."

Trafficking in Women and Girls: According to the United Nations Population Fund, an estimated 4 million women and girls around the world are bought and sold either into marriage, prostitution or slavery. Trafficking is an international multi-billion dollar industry. Traffickers operating across international borders procure their victims in many ways. Some women and girls are abducted; some are deceived by offers of legitimate work in another country; some are sold by their own poverty-stricken parents or are themselves driven by poverty into the lure of traffickers who profit from their desperation. These women and girls suffer unspeakable human rights violations as commodities of the trade in human beings.

Honor Killings: The United Nations Populations Fund estimates that as many as 5,000 women and girls are murdered by family members each year in so-called "honor killings" around the world. According to the United Nations Special Rapporteur on extra-judicial, summary and arbitrary executions, "honor killings" have been reported in Bangladesh, Brazil, Ecuador, Egypt, India, Israel, Italy, Jordan, Morocco, Pakistan, Sweden, Turkey, Uganda and the United Kingdom. These crimes are socially sanctioned in many countries (and in some countries legally sanctioned as well) and the killers are treated with lenience because defense of the "family honor" is considered a mitigating or exculpating factor.

These excerpts are taken
There is more detailed information available at

Deuteronomy 22:22-29
22:22 If a man is found lying with a married woman, both the woman and the man lying with her shall be put to death. You shall thus rid Israel of evil.

22:23 [This is the law] where a virgin girl is betrothed to one man, and another man comes across her in the city and has intercourse with her.

22:24 Both of them shall be brought to the gates of that city, and they shall be put to death by stoning. [The penalty shall be imposed on] the girl because she did not cry out [even though she was] in the city, and on the man, because he violated his neighbor's wife. You shall thus rid yourselves of evil.

22:25 However, if the man encountered the betrothed girl in the field and raped her, then only the rapist shall be put to death.

22:26 You must not impose any penalty whatsoever upon the girl, since she has not committed a sin worthy of death. This is no different from the case where a man rises up against his neighbor and murders him.

22:27 After all, [the man] attacked her in the field, and even if the betrothed girl had screamed out, there would have been no one to come to her aid.

22:28 If a man encounters a virgin girl who is not betrothed and is caught raping her,

22:29 then the rapist must give the girl's father 50 [shekels] of silver. He must then take the girl he violated as his wife, and he may not send her away as long as he lives.

Some questions related to the text:

The laws seem to suggest that if a woman does not cry for help then she consented. What does this mean?

Why is there a lesser punishment for raping a virgin?

What are the differences between the different cases mentioned?

What are the implications of having to marry the man who raped you?


"Do Jewish Men Really Do That?": Domestic Violence in the Jewish Community"
by Tammy Goldberg

Several prevalent myths lead Jews to doubt that domestic violence is a Jewish problem. One such myth is that Jewish families are loving, nurturing and harmonious. "Shalom bayit," domestic tranquility, is a central ideal in Judaism, but unfortunately it is not the reality in many homes. Another myth is that domestic violence is limited to families that are less educated, of low socioeconomic status, non-observant, intermarried, immigrant--the list goes on. In fact, individuals with all levels of social power, status and connection can choose to exert control over those close to them. With enough forcefulness, an abuser can victimize anyone, regardless of the person's resources …

How to Take Action Against Domestic Violence:

Find out if there is a Jewish domestic violence program in your community. If so, consider volunteering. If not, speak out about the importance of developing one.

Bring educational programs about domestic violence to your synagogue, group, organization, AND school. There are even groups that do workshops for teenagers to prevent dating violence.

Talk to your rabbi about his/her view on this issue. Ask what he/she does when someone talks about feeling uncomfortable or afraid in her home. Encourage your rabbi to speak out about the subject in sermons.

Get involved with domestic violence programs targeted to the general community. Help staff and volunteers understand some of the ways domestic violence can differentially affect Jews.

Join the mailing list of a legislative group that deals with domestic violence. When there is a request for action, respond.

Contact your legislators (or their staff) to ask what they are doing to address domestic violence. Let them know how you feel about their efforts.


Learn about the issue of domestic abuse. Look out for media addressing the issue, including articles, books and television programs.

Be open to talking to those who may be experiencing abuse, and practice communicating in a supportive, non-judgmental way.

Learn about available services so you can share information with those who may need it.

Teach your children that there is no excuse for violence. Show them the example of adults who have mutually respectful, nonviolent relationships.

These extracts were taken from a more comprehensive article on

Some general questions to think about:

What are the stereotypes of Jewish women and men concerning sex and sexuality?

How might these stereotypes, and stereotypes of the Jewish family and community, affect a woman's experience with violence against her?

Is it more difficult for Jewish women to discuss rape or incest due to these stereotypes?

How does the Jewish community deal with these problems?

How might stereotypes affect battered women or encourage them to stay in a relationship?

What are other concerns for religious women?

Do you feel the possibility of rape or other kinds of violence in your daily life?

Where do you confront this fear? Work, home, street?

Are you able to deal with this fear? How?
shared by Barbara at 8:27 AM



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