"Because of the observance of modest dressing, there are more places where (the women) can be beaten without it being noticed, because the man is also concerned about what people will say. But there are also characteristics that have to do with the religious aspect, such as husbands that forced their women to wash their hands dozens of times in an obsessive manner, or humiliate them by mocking their level of religiosity."
Why Haredi Domestic Violence Is Different
Shmarya Rosenberg • FailedMessiah.com
Writing in Ynet, Tali Farkash highlights a new study about domestic violence among haredim in Israel.
The study’s author, Ariel University Center’s Dr. Mally Schori-Biton, is both a criminologist and couples' therapist. Her study looks at differences in domestic abuse in haredi and Orthodox households and the rest of Israel’s population.
And according to what Schori-Biton told Farkash, there are significant differences between the two populations.
"Because of the observance of modest dressing, there are more places where (the women) can be beaten without it being noticed, because the man is also concerned about what people will say.
"But there are also characteristics that have to do with the religious aspect, such as husbands that forced their women to wash their hands dozens of times in an obsessive manner, or humiliate them by mocking their level of religiosity.
"Sometimes physical violence is preferable’ to humiliation or severe emotional abuse, which does not leave a physical mark or proof, and can lead to unbearable suffering," she said.
"This is true to [such an] extent that some of the respondents said they preferred a beating to the verbal and emotional abuse. Some women also reported that their husbands forced them to have sex against their will – an act that is considered by law as rape with all its implications.…
“There is no statistical data to support the frequency of the phenomenon [among haredim]. There is data on certain communities and residential zones, but the level of religiosity is not a factor that is taken into consideration in the existing databases. And this is the basic problem that I encountered: The lack of a foundation that examines the phenomenon in this context."
Schori-Biton used 88 battered women, 42 haredi and 42 Orthodox, as a case study. The four other women had left Orthodoxy or haredism due to the abuse. All of the women were interviewed by an interviewer that dressed like them and who came from a similar religious background.
"The haredi society is characterized as a collective, patriarchal society,” Schori-Biton told Farkash, “and social status is defined according to sex and hierarchy in the group. Like other closed societies, the haredi society exhibits deeply ingrained patterns of false appearances of 'everything is a-okay' alongside concerns over 'what others will say.'"
Schori-Biton said that it is hareder for haredi woemn to break the cycle of abuse and go public.
“The situation in the haredi society is much worse, because it involves defending the religious image and protecting the family at any price – even at the price of violence."
The haredi women Schori-Biton silently suffered with the abuse until their youngest child got married. It was only when they had no more unmarried children they looked for a shelter. The women believed that seeking help before that would have harmed their children's marriage prospects.
But the haredi women’s fear of being stigmatized or ostracized was exaggerated.
30% of those haredi women studied told researchers that getting help strengthened their relationships with family and friends, which often had been sabotaged by their abusive spouse, and said that they have taken an active role in their communities since going public about the abuse.
"We have seen a positive change in the past 15 years," said Dr. Schori-Biton told Farkash. “Even among rabbis and 'socialization agents' within the communities that work with welfare offices. Awareness within the community has increased, and treatment centers that are suitable for the Orthodox-haredi population have opened up. This is a sector that intends to battle the phenomenon. There is willingness and readiness, and all that is left to do is hope they succeed.”