This week I stand down after eight years as CEO of Jewish Women’s Aid. I started volunteering in 2000 in our old refuge supporting the women living there. Since then I have seen the organisation professionalise and grow, and its profile soar.

In those early days a small group of disruptive activists – now respected as the prescient founders of the organisation – were the first to tell our community what was needed, at a time when people weren’t ready to hear what they had to say. They had a vision and an ambition - that Jewish women experiencing domestic abuse would have somewhere safe to go, someone to talk to. In my first years as CEO, I had far too many conversations with people across the breadth of the community who told me that domestic abuse would never happen to someone like them.

People felt they were exempt from abuse because they were well educated, religious, wealthy, or progressive - everyone had a reason. Some simply said ‘I don’t believe a Jewish boy would do something like that’. Unfortunately, I had seen that some would - with dreadful consequences. Since then, attitudes towards domestic abuse have shifted gear led by key public events such as the arrest of Harvey Weinstein, the MeToo movement, the tragic death of Sarah Everard, Everyone’s Invited and the marked increase of domestic abuse incidents during lockdown.

These moments in time have changed conversations around misogyny, consent and the safety of women, provoking discussions throughout the community and across Government. Unlike other charitable causes, I’ve often felt that the case needs to be made for the existence of Jewish Women’s Aid: there was a systemic denial of the fact that male violence to women takes place in our community. You would never have to make the corresponding case for, for example, looking after sick children or older people.

Recently, as our profile has risen and domestic abuse makes it regularly to the news agenda, the case for JWA needs to be made less – our community has accepted that domestic abuse happens here and that we must address it. This is one of JWA’s most significant achievements. Doors previously closed to us have opened and funding has been won, attitudes changed, and our platform has grown, allowing for growth, vision and ambition.

Outside of the community, JWA is part of a wider sector, a movement of organisations and individuals who tirelessly campaign against domestic abuse and to improve the lot of those affected by it. I’m proud that Jewish Women’s Aid has a strong voice in this area, and that the organisation is well respected amongst sector colleagues, across the charity world and in government, and has used this platform to achieve systemic change.

One recent landmark development was the inclusion of faith-based abuse as part of the definition of domestic abuse in the Statutory Guidance to the Domestic Abuse Act 2021. For the women we support, this means that faith-based abuse and coercion, including Gett refusal, are acknowledged in court and can be treated as part of criminal proceedings – a game changer for many, not only in the legal process but as a deterrent to would-be abusers.

Just as when I started as CEO, I remain in absolute awe of two groups of people – the staff and volunteers of JWA, who are absolutely committed to providing the best possible support to women experiencing abuse, and who are the fiercest and warmest advocates you will ever meet – these are the women we need fighting the corner of the abused. They have my absolute respect and gratitude.

And of course, the women – thousands of Jewish women, who continue to bravely contact Jewish Women’s Aid when they are at their most desperate, at their lowest ebb and often in denial about the extent of the abuse they have suffered.

The privilege of working at JWA is being able to walk alongside a woman whose life is shattered, who is being forced to retrieve the pieces of herself she thought were lost and who is building a future she hadn’t imagined but that will be safer, empowered, fulfilling. It is these women that I came into JWA to support, and I will always be in awe of their bravery and resilience.