Tag Archives: violence against women

The Forward, take note: Voyeurism is violence

By Rabbi Marla Hornsten, West Bloomfield, Mich., and Rabbi Ari Lorge, New York, N.Y., co-chairs of JWI’s The Clergy Task Force Against Domestic Abuse in the Jewish Community

The Clergy Task Force Against Domestic Abuse in the Jewish Community of Jewish Women International takes strong exception both to the choice to include Rabbi Barry Freundel as one of the “Forward 50” and to Editor Jane Eisner’s defense of that choice. The shameful accusations leveled against Rabbi Freundel were considered serious enough for the civil authorities to place him under arrest. The disgraceful and abusive actions attributed to Freundel hardly warrant celebrating his notoriety. The editor’s recourse to technical criteria of “impact” established under previous leadership does not respond to the question of the appropriateness of a choice, which is surely to a large degree a subjective one. The Forward is not just any Jewish newspaper, and its choice of who to call attention to has consequences.

What is truly dismaying is that The Forward‘s defense of that choice focuses on alleged abuses in the conversion process, as if that were the issue. The issue is violence against women. As JWI Vice President of Programs Deborah Rosenbloom wrote in response to the use of “voyeurism” to describe Freundel’s actions, “voyeurism is part of the continuum of violence against women, a continuum with catcalling on the less severe end and violent rape on the most severe end.

Given the circumstances of Freundel’s arrest the choice by The Forward is regrettable in itself. The defense of that choice, which cites “breaking the cone of silence” around conversion and the increased awareness of the word “mikvah,” regrettably misses the point — which ought to be the abuse and violence against women that the actions of which Freundel is accused embody.

My Visit to Fiji: Working to End Violence Around the World

By Miri Cypers, JWI Senior Policy and Advocacy Specialist

 Cypers leading a training on best practices for issue advocacy, coalition building, and engaging faith leaders in anti-violence work.

I’ve just returned from 10 days in Fiji representing Jewish Women International as part of the American Bar Association’s Rule of Law Initiative program sponsored by the U.S. State Department. After hosting a legal fellow from Timor Leste in the Pacific Islands for six weeks, JWI sent me to participate in the reciprocal part of the exchange program, where I was one of six advocates from various U.S. advocacy organizations meeting with civil society groups, faith leaders, and government officials about violence against women in Fiji and Fijian culture.

More than just a beautiful country, Fiji is incredibly diverse religiously, ethnically and culturally. It’s important to note that they’re experiencing significant political instability: In 2006 the military took over in a coup and abolished the legislature. The military government is currently drafting a new constitution and plans to hold elections in 2014. The political situation is tense; the government requires civil society organizations to get permits for meetings, and many are critical of the government’s exertion of control over the press and non-governmental organizations.

On our first day of meetings, we met with the incredible leaders of four organizations: The Fiji Women’s Crisis Center, the Fiji Women’s Rights Movement, FemLINK Pacific and the Pacific Regional Rights Resource Team. All were working to promote women’s rights and address violence against women in Fiji and the Pacific. These organizations are leading the way in their own country and in the region to strengthen laws that protect women and give women from all geographic areas in Fiji a voice. One interesting project that FemLINK Pacific works on is going into rural areas to allow women to develop and run their own local radio shows, providing information and women-centered news to Fijians in more remote areas.

The advocates from the four organizations were extremely sophisticated and helped me and my U.S. colleagues understand the evolution of the feminist and anti-violence movement in Fiji. They explained some of the unique challenges they face, given the tenuous political situation, and the services and resources available to women in Fiji. One of the most interesting points about the Fiji women’s rights movement was how it developed very closely with the anti-violence movement, and how interconnected they continue to be.

On my second day in Fiji, The U.S. advocates and I met with two very different organizations working to improve the lives of women. In the morning we met with Dr. Rajni Chand and Rajini Kumar of the Women’s Information Network Fiji (WINET-Fiji), an NGO that conducts trainings on a range of issues – from child abuse to domestic violence to suicide prevention – for Indo-Fijian women in remote areas. One of the challenges that many advocates raised with us throughout the course of our meetings is that many Fijian women are not aware of the laws and their rights, making these workshops vital for rural women who are not educated like women in urban areas.

After a lunch of Indian food and Fanta at a restaurant beloved by the expat community in Fiji, we headed to a meeting with a few representatives of the faith-based community to discuss how religious communities are responding to violence against women. Fiji is home to many religious communities, from Anglicans to Catholics to Methodists to Hindus to Muslims, and religious affiliation is significant for the majority of Fiji’s population.

Attendees at the meeting included the head of the Dioces of Polynesia, Bishop Winston Halapua of the Anglican Church, who is a leading voice in the faith community against gender-based violence. Marama Tuisawa from the House of Sarah was also there – she runs a counseling center for Anglican women – as well as representatives from the Catholic and Methodist women’s organizations who are also working on this issue. I shared with the group JWI’s approach to working with the faith community to combat abuse in the U.S. and we discussed the challenges and opportunities that diverse faith communities in Fiji face. It became clear that leadership from influential clergy members from all religious communities is needed in order to educate Fijians about ending violence against women.

The rest of my time in Fiji was a whirlwind of meeting and learning. I was excited to lead a four-hour training at the beautiful University of the South Pacific, along with my U.S. colleagues Lisalyn Jacobs of Legal Momentum and Maya Raghu of Futures Without Violence. Our training focused on best practices for issue advocacy, coalition building, and engaging faith leaders in anti-violence work based on our work on the Violence Against Women Act in the U.S. About 30 Fijians from many sectors, from law enforcement to the faith community to service providers, attended the training and the discussion was lively and informative.

I led the training on engaging with the faith community and shared with the audience how the faith community could be a resource and not a barrier in addressing domestic violence. As we discussed some of the challenges that faith communities pose to addressing domestic violence, participants overwhelmingly stated their belief that Fijian clergy members from all communities need better education on the issue and gender sensitivity training. Participants walked away with concrete ideas to strengthen their issue advocacy, build broad and diverse coalitions, and engage with clergy members to work with them to address violence against women.

Eventually our group returned to the University of the South Pacific for further training. Our U.S. colleagues from AEquitas and Break the Cycle led the workshops, focusing on training law enforcement, service providers, civil society groups and faith leaders, on improving the investigation and prosecution of domestic violence. The participants were incredibly lively, working in small and large groups to identify challenges in prosecution and ensure that victims have access to justice. U.S. Ambassador to Fiji Frankie Reed joined us for part of the session, and we were able to speak with her briefly to discuss our experiences.

Our group did do some exploring: We headed out of Suva and explored the history and natural beauty of Fiji, staying on the island of Leleuvia. We also took day trips to Bau Island to learn about Fijian culture and traditions from a village chief, and toured Fiji’s first capital of Levuka to learn more about Fiji’s colonial past.

I feel so privileged to have been part of this trip and experience first-hand the amazing work being done around the world to advance women’s rights and combat violence against women.

Pass a Final Violence Against Women Act that Includes Campus SaVE

By Chelsea Feuchs, JWI Intern

The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), a previously bi-partisan bill used to advance services for victims and survivors of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking, has itself become a victim of political contention. Two different versions of this legislation currently exist, one passed by the House of Representatives (H.R. 4970), the other by the Senate (S. 1925), but a uniform, final version has not yet been passed by Congress and signed into law by the President.

One critical population that would greatly benefit from a final VAWA reauthorization bill is women on college and university campuses. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 20% to 25% of women in college reported experiencing an attempted or a completed rape in college. The Senate VAWA reauthorization bill, S. 1925, includes the Campus SaVE Act, a critical bill that would update the Clery Act and add stalking, dating violence and domestic violence to the list of crimes colleges and universities have to include in their annual report. While the Clery Act already mandates that schools report incidents of sexual assault, these other pervasive and devastating crimes are not included in the list.

Although the House bill still includes a grant for combatting violent crimes on college campuses and establishes a National Center for Campus Public Safety, it does not include the essential provisions in Campus SaVE which will bring much needed awareness to violent crimes on campus. Without a final VAWA that includes Campus SaVE, colleges and universities would not be accountable to report a range of violent crimes on campus or provide prevention programs.

We at Jewish Women International ask you to join us in contacting our Members of Congress and Congressional leaders to tell them that Congress must act quickly to pass a final version of VAWA that includes the Campus SaVE Act and comprehensively addresses the staggering rates of violence on college campuses. There is simply too much at stake for our daughters, sisters, cousins, and friends on college campuses to let VAWA languish any longer.

Part of the #HERvotes blog carnival.

Violence Against Women is Never in Style

By Danielle Cantor, JWI Design & Communications Manager

In the latest issue of Bulgarian fashion magazine 12 is a “beauty spread” depicting models with horrific injuries. It’s a feature usually used to sell both a makeup artist’s skills and the season’s hottest new shade of eyeshadow, but the spread – and its message – is plain ugly.

From Jezebel:
“There are models with Black Dahlia-style Glasgow Smiles, models who’ve been strangled, models who’ve had their earrings and facial piercings ripped out, and models who’ve been mutilated with acid. It’s all special-effects makeup, but it’s still sickening. These photos give you an idea the nature of the spread. And it’s hardly the first of its kind.”

Read the rest at Jezebel, and see examples of other “fashion” spreads that have glorified violence against women.

Oppose Harmful House Legislation on Domestic Violence

By Ann Rose Greenberg, JWI Marketing Coordinator

The fight to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) continues this week in the House, where VAWA is expected to come up for a floor vote on Wednesday.

Just as victory was won in the Senate and we finally thought that bipartisan arguments about violence against women (which surely should be a non-divisive issue) were behind us, the House Judiciary Committee approved a version of the bill that leaves out essential protections for underrepresented populations. A New York Times editorial, Backward on Domestic Violence, which appeared in today’s paper, discusses the problems with the alternative bill being discussed in the House.

In order to combat violence against women, we must reauthorize the version of VAWA that passed in the Senate. Contact your Member of Congress today to urge them to oppose H.R. 4970 and support a bipartisan VAWA reauthorization bill that closely mirrors S. 1925, strong bipartisan legislation passed by the Senate on April 26, 2012.


Speak Up and Support the Violence Against Women Act

VAWAThe Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) has transformed our nation’s response to violent crimes against women and girls, providing a safety net of services for victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, dating violence, and stalking. Recently, Senators Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Mike Crapo (R-ID) introduced S. 1925, the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2011 – legislation that will reauthorize VAWA’s lifesaving programs and services for another five years.

Despite widespread Congressional support in the past, the reauthorization of VAWA in 2012 is far from assured. Please contact your Senators today to urge them to co-sponsor the Leahy/Crapo VAWA reauthorization bill.

Incidents of violence against women and girls continue to occur at alarming rates. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s 2010 National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey, 1 in 4 women has been the victim of severe physical violence by an intimate partner and nearly 1 in 5 women has been raped in her lifetime.

JWI is playing a leading role in the effort to reauthorize VAWA this year. In the coming weeks and months we will continue to work closely with the National Task Force to End Sexual and Domestic Violence Against Women, Members of Congress and national advocates, to ensure that this legislation is passed by both houses of Congress and signed into law. But we can’t do this without your help.

Contact your Senators today and tell them to stand against violence by co-sponsoring the Leahy/Crapo VAWA reauthorization bill.

Changes in DV Activism Over the Years

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Pass it on.

By Toby Myers*

Read about Toby and other Jewish women leading the domestic violence movement in Jewish Woman magazine’s The Power of Advocacy.

Reflecting on the 35 years I’ve spent working to end violence against women, I realize I have borne witness to change.  Some changes document progress.  JWI, a mainstream organization, embraced the work and has taken a leadership role. 

The old days were fun and though the goal seemed far off and impossible, it did not deter early activists.  Many regarded us as crazy women running the streets trying to get the attention of whomever we could.  That we did!  The work has entered all citadels of the establishment–the Federal Government with the country’s Office on Violence Against Women; academia with courses, research, and even majors; medicine—the Joint Commission Accreditations with inclusion of domestic violence; criminal justice with prosecution that what was always criminal but tolerated in families; and faith communities with conveying concern from pulpits.  JWI’s Clergy Task Force’s recently released Mishaberach is but one example.

The more we accomplish, the more we discover still left to do.  Women survivors charged in criminal cases are being convicted, losing children, living in poverty, facing deportation, and losing jobs.  Our work has sought to include men because we know that if women could have stopped domestic violence, it would no longer exist.  When our activism changes public opinion to tolerate domestic abuse no longer, eradication comes closer to reality.

*Toby Myers serves as vice chair of the National Center on Domestic and Sexual Violence and volunteers with the Houston-based teen violence prevention program “Love Shouldn’t Hurt.” She also devotes much of her energy to working with attorneys on domestic violence cases and training others to become expert witnesses. She is co-chair of Advisory Committee for JWI’s National Alliance to End Domestic Abuse

Rape Victims at 3, 4 Years Old

By Miri Cypers, Senior Policy and Advocacy Specialist

Photo by Cate Turton/Department for International Development

Violence against women cannot be tolerated in any situation, in any place in the world. Nicholas Kristof calls attention to the devastating sexual violence taking place in Sierra Leone in his recent op-ed published in last Sunday’s New York Times. In the article, Kristof draws attention to the International Violence Against Women Act (IVAWA), a vital piece of legislation introduced last Congress that must be reintroduced. IVAWA would make ending violence against women a diplomatic priority for the first time in our nation’s history.

JWI continues to work to ensure a safer world for women and girls at home and abroad. For updates on IVAWA and to urge for its reintroduction and swift passage this Congress, please subscribe to JWI’s advocacy network for up to date information about this bill.

Better Late Than Never: China Introduces Legislation on Domestic Violence

By Lauren Levine, Executive Associate

While those of us in the U.S. work to raise awareness about domestic violence and work towards prevention, we take for granted that all countries recognize domestic violence as a crime. According to U.N. Women, in 102 countries there are no specific legal provisions against domestic violence.  A recent article from Women’s E-News reported on a new piece of Chinese legislation, introduced in the past few weeks, that finally clearly defines domestic violence, including physical, mental and sexual abuse, and the legislation specifies punishments.

This piece of legislation, though better late than never, comes out of a tragic example of domestic violence that captured Chinese national media attention on the issue for the first time. In 2009, a young bride, Dong Shanshan, was killed after ten months of abuse from her husband. Her first call to the police to report this abuse was made on her honeymoon. She called the police eight more times over the next 10 months. It was only when she was on her deathbed that they actually listened to her.

Approximately 1 in 10 calls to the police in China are reports of domestic abuse, and China is not unique in its history of ambivalence toward protecting women from violence. The story of Dong Shanshan doesn’t need to be a call of action just to China but to lawmakers and their constituents around the world. It’s only through raising our voices about this all too common injustice that we can honor those like Dong who struggled. Learn more about our advocacy work and help protect the rights of women worldwide.

From Women’s eNews: Gender Violence Now a ‘Public Matter’ in Brazil

In today’s Women’s eNews:

Gender Violence Now a ‘Public Matter’ in Brazil

RECIFE, Brazil (WOMENSENEWS)–Monica, 22, got married at age 21, but has already divorced her husband.

“Our marriage lasted six months, but it feels like it has been 10 times longer,” says Monica, who requested her name be changed for safety reasons.

She says her ex-husband insulted her daily, accused her of doing things incorrectly and forced her to ask for his forgiveness, although she says she didn’t do anything wrong. He once accused her of having an affair because she spent too long at the grocery store, she says, and then refused to let her leave their house in Recife, the capital of Pernambuco, a state in northeastern Brazil.

Read the full story at Women’s eNews

“Honor” Killing

In today’s Jerusalem Post:

Brutal murder stirs Palestinian debate on women’s rights

A slain Palestinian woman, murdered by her uncle and three other men for disgracing the family, has evoked widespread public debate on the age-old practice of honor killings.

Aaya Barad’iyya, 21, a student from the village of Surif near Hebron, was drowned in a well near her home in April 2010 by her male relative, who disapproved of a marriage proposal she had received. Her body was only discovered 11 days ago, more than a year after the murder…

read the full story at the Jerusalem Post

A member of the JWI family shares her story

JWI is grateful to the member of our staff who bravely and graciously offered to share her story, to help spread awareness during Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month.


I was a straight-A student, an outstanding athlete, a girl from a middle-class Jewish neighborhood in a mid-size Mid-Atlantic city. I had dreams of becoming a doctor – sports medicine – and had gotten in early to my first-choice college. While a shy girl, I had a small, close group of similarly high-achieving girl friends. I came from a perhaps over-bearing but fully supportive family. I had a lot of things going for me and, to the outside world, I did not present the image of a victim. Yet I was one of the one in three adolescent girls in the United States who have faced physical, emotional, or verbal abuse from a dating partner.

What Happened:

I was raped by my first boyfriend at seventeen. I didn’t know then that there was a word for it – date rape – and had thought it was my fault. While my parents had warned me to avoid strange men, to carry a key between my knuckles while walking through a parking lot at night, and to always have a phone on hand with 911 on speed dial for emergencies, I had never been warned about dangers closer-to-home. I did not know that most incidences of sexual violence are inflicted by people we know rather than strange men lurking in empty parking lots.

My boyfriend did not have to catch me in an empty parking lot and he didn’t have to hold a knife to my throat. He only had to hold his hand over my neck in a way that impaired my breath just enough to scare me, to put another hand lightly over my mouth to silence me when I said “no,” and to make me feel like I deserved it by saying things like “Why did you ask me to come over, then?” and “Do you honestly expect me to believe I’m your first?” I did not know how to defend myself against this rape-that-I-did-not-know-was-rape. He caught me off-guard at a time when I felt most safe, with my boyfriend in my bedroom at my father’s house.

Since the rape, my self-esteem was shattered. I felt used and dirty and alone. Worse, I was sexually harassed when the news got out at my after-school job where my abuser and I worked together and was propositioned daily by my other co-workers who now thought I was “easy.” Again, I did not know that this behavior was sexual harassment at the time and that it was illegal. I did not learn this until two years later, in a Gender Studies class in college.

Even after I learned about “date rape” and “sexual harassment” and “no means no” in college, I had already learned the lesson that I “deserved abuse.” After all, I could not blame my victimization on a difficult background; I must have let it happen. In college, I spent two years in a physically and emotionally abusive relationship with a boyfriend who would push me into walls and sent a male friend to the hospital during one of his jealous rages.

How the Situation Changed and How I Coped:

While in college, I started working at a rape crisis line and became an advocate on campus for students as well as women throughout the surrounding area. I helped set up college staff trainings on domestic violence as well as the school’s Take Back the Night. Through these activities, I learned that many of my peers, girls like me, had experienced similar types of abuse. Now, not only did a have the vocabulary for what happened to me; I also had faces to the name, and that was life-changing. I was no longer alone. I was no longer a freak. And I was no longer deserving. After all, how could I say that it was deserved after I had learned that many of my classmates, some of my closest friends, had been similarly victimized? I would never believe that they deserved it, so how was I any different? And so I stopped blaming myself and started going to counseling and focusing further on my work combating domestic violence as a therapeutic activity. While laying down roots in this feminist community, I gained greater self-esteem and was further reassured that I was not to blame for the abuse but instead should be proud of myself for surviving it.

What I Know Now:

I know that the abuse was not my fault and I know that, while I could not control the situation under the circumstances, girls need to be given more resources that can increase their sense of control. I know that girls need to be taught about teen dating violence from an early age, as early as middle school. Girls should be able to name the abuse as well as to know the warning signs to prevent it. Girls should also be taught about healthy relationships, about the dangers of slut-shaming and bullying, and should be engaged in activities that build their own self-esteem as well as positive relationships with other women. Schools should have support structures for the one in three girls dealing with this type of violence and school personnel should be fully trained to handle it sensitively and effectively. Most importantly, the issue should not be kept silent. Parents should talk to their teens. Youth groups, sports teams, etc. should recognize the problem. Programming on teen dating violence should be a part of standard school curricula. A variety of narratives must be told and it must be emphasized that this epidemic of violence can affect any girl: your daughter, your neighbor, your best friend, or even you.

Share your story to shape the work that’s ending dating violence.

Now that we know February is about more than presidents and valentines, let’s kick off Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month with an honest conversation.

JWI is asking anyone who is a teen, recently was a teen, or works directly with teens for help through this short anonymous survey. The voices of those who have experienced dating abuse – physical, emotional or sexual abuse; first-hand or through a friend – are critical to the national dialogue that’s going on right now.

When Push Comes to Shove...

One of several JWI programs to prevent violence through healthy relationship education

You can pass the survey on through our facebook event or just forward the link: http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/VHVTZNT.

JWI’s violence prevention work depends largely on your feedback. Thanks for sharing!

On The Page, Poet Mourns Daughter’s Murder

Fresh Air from WHYY – originally aired July 29, 2009.

iSlamming Open The Door/i By Kathleen Sheeder Bonanno, Alice James Books

SLAMMING OPEN THE DOOR By Kathleen Sheeder Bonanno, Alice James Books

Terry Gross interviews poet Kathleen Sheeder Bonanno, whose collection of poems, Slamming Open the Door, documents the aftermath of the murder of her daughter Leidy Bonanno.

Leidy was found dead in her apartment in 2003, strangled with a telephone cord by an ex-boyfriend. She had recently graduated from nursing school.

Read the transcript of the interview, and excerpts of Bonanno’s poems, on npr.org.

Fran’s story

Back in 1981 I was a stay-at-home mom (former RN), married to a prominent physician in the community.

I knew my husband was controlling, and did not manage his anger well, because he yelled a lot, and I was not perfect . He made me feel terribly small as a woman, wife and mother, and I thought I was very small and inaffective as a human being., and clung to whatever good I could. He had a few affairs along the way, I went into long-term counseling. He didn’t think he needed it. After being separated for almost 3 years, we got back together, which was a horrendous mistake on my part., as a mother of two children.

It confused our teen-age daughters, caused much instability for them, and after 2 years of being together again, he walked in one day, looked at me with a strange smile on his face, grabbed me by the hair, swung me around the room, pulled my left arm out of joint, smashed my head into the wall, & how I managed to survive all that, is beyond me.
I felt so guilty and was too terrified to tell anyone locally, but my family in Canada knew, and pleaded with me to go to the authorities. I didn’t think anyone would believe me, but my girls had witnessed the damage, and were quite shattered at the time, because after a few such instances, I realized I could die, I told my best friend, and hid at her place while a restraining order was served to him , and I filed for a divorce. the police had to take him off the street several times, because he didn’t want me in “his” home.

My girls actually wanted to stay with him for awhile, because I was almost a basket case by that time, and I let them go. However, they ultimately came home, to me because to punish me, he stopped paying alimoney, money for their dance lessons and school tuition, and left them alone in his place frequently to be with his girlfriends.

They came to their own realizations along the way. I retained my sanity, and eventually he became quite ill and is now in a retirement home. I don’t think his third wife even visits him which is quite sad.

My girls are now grown up and I would say are doing relatively well, he has since sent me a formal letter of apology, and I have come to forgive him , but have not befriended him since. I was left with some permanent damage to the brachial plexus nerves in my left arm and damage to one of my ankles that periodically causes problems for me.

Even though some couples develop later friendships because of the children, I decided my civility towards him and compassion regarding the strokes he has had, has been enough. We no longer have any friendship whatsoever, but one of my daughters calls him periodically just to say hello, and more out of pity for his present state than anything else. My oldest daughter in England is happily married with 2 young boys, but doesn’t communicate with either one of us. Once in awhile her husband and I talk to each other, long distance, and that’s about it. That part of it is a sadness in my heart that I live with.

This is what I have to say to other women.

“Do not think you can stay and change this scenario into something beautiful, by being different. You can alter your behaviour only so far, but this kind of diseased relationship will only open up the wounds and damage you and your children more and more and maybe take your life!

Get out, go forward, better yourself on your own, and don’t ever put your children in the middle of the situation! It is easy to do, when you are afraid, but very tough to undo the damage it causes.

Love yourselves, and don’t look back. Keep good friends and make some new ones that you can rely on, and be active in something creative. Get out of your own negative behaviour problems. You can be healed emotionally and spiritually, eventually.

Fran S.