With more and more citizens of Israel forced to stay at home with their families 24/7, there has been a dramatic and worrying rise in the number of reported cases of domestic violence. During February, there was a 5% increase in the number of reported cases of domestic abuse compared to the same month last year. For March, when the regulations restricting the leaving of the home were introduced, authorities are expecting that increase to rise even more.
Women’s organizations throughout the country reported a steep rise in reports of domestic abuse in 2019, with 13 women being murdered in acts of domestic violence during that twelve-month period.
In recent weeks, women’s organizations report that their hotlines have been flooded with calls because women who are victims of domestic violence are currently living under quarantine with their partners or their families. These women face a double risk: At home they live with the threat of violence from family members, while the available shelters are full, thereby putting the women housed there in danger of COVID-19 infection due to overcrowding.
In addition, Ma’ariv has reported that more than 60% of the social workers who deal with domestic abuse are not working due to regulatory constraints under the coronavirus regulations; and this despite many branches of the social work profession being listed as essential work.
“Stopping the funding of programs by local authorities these days as a result of the lack of budgeting is scandalous and irresponsible,” said the Chairwoman of the Social Workers’ Union, Inbal Hermoni, in a letter to Shaul Meridor, head of the Finance Ministry Budget Department. “These days, I am sure it goes without saying why the different welfare programs must continue functioning, albeit in a different format, while adjusting for the medical crisis,” she wrote. However, she continued, “It seems as though the Finance Ministry is taking advantage of the coronavirus crisis to cut welfare budgets, which are being transferred to the shoulders of local authorities, thereby effectively hampering their ability to care for at-risk residents at all levels.”
The Social Workers’ Union stated last week “These social workers [who are no longer working] perform critical and unique services vital for populations without regular help, and who may very well be harmed or harm others without the assistance that these workers provide.”
The former head the Knesset’s Committee on the Status of Women and Gender Equality, Joint List MK Aida Touma-Sliman (Hadash), who was elected last Wednesday, March 25, to head the Knesset special committee concerning Welfare and Social Services, wrote a letter this week to Welfare Minister Ofir Akunis, and requested that he urgently fund women’s shelters due to the current crisis. Touma-Sliman wrote, “The instructions to stay at home issued by the Health Ministry and the Prime Minister’s Office … are forcing relief organizations and women’s shelters face challenges they have not yet known.”
Related: Joint List to Lead 2 Committees in Knesset: Labor & Social Welfare and Reduction of Crime & Violence