Article by Gaby Wine featured in The Jewish Chronicle, 03 November 2023.

Jewish Women’s Aid has reported that referrals to the charity are down 72 per cent, compared to last year, following the Hamas terrorist attacks in Israel on October 7.

The charity, which supports women who are experiencing domestic abuse and sexual violence, and their children, said that events in Israel have had “a ripple effect” on their services.

A spokesperson for the charity said the drop in numbers was “a direct result of how impacted the Jewish community in the UK is by what has happened in Israel. Everyone knows someone who has been affected by the attacks.

“ We have a lot of Israeli clients and a lot of clients with family in Israel. People are worried about their relatives and don’t have the head-space or inner strength to prioritise their own safety.”

They added that another factor was the rise in antisemitism, which was making women afraid to leave their homes and move to an unknown place. “Women who are already feeling vulnerable are now feeling even more vulnerable. 

“They are afraid of being alone and afraid of potentially leaving their synagogue community.”

The drop has been seen in both numbers calling the help-line and those contacting the charity via its web-chat.

Charity heads said that the decrease in numbers was “a concern, particularly because we know that at times of stress and pressure, if there is tendency towards violence and abuse at home, sadly women will feel the effects of that.

“We saw that during lockdown, and we are concerned that the hesitation to leave or contact JWA is causing women to stay in a potentially dangerous situation.”

“We want to say to women who are experiencing domestic abuse or sexual violence: ‘We’re here for you. You’re not alone. We are here to provide you with emotional and practical support, so do reach out to us.’”

The charity has issued a statement strongly condemning the terrorist attacks and “the use of rape as a weapon of war”.

“Sexual violence against women during armed conflict is a grave violation of human rights and international humanitarian law.”

The statement added that these acts  “have  a permanent impact on survivors and damaging psychological effects on women, particularly women who are victim-survivors of sexual violence”. 

Charity heads said that “the appalling crimes” were “having a detrimental effect on the women we support”. 

JWA criticised “[the] public silence from many UK domestic/sexual abuse sector organisations”, saying that it “further impacts the isolation and fear our clients are experiencing”.