Article posted on The Jewish Chronicle on 19 June 2024

By Sam Clifford, CEO Jewish Women's Aid

This is not the first article I wanted to write as the new CEO of Jewish Women's Aid. This piece should be about the critical work we do in the UK, supporting Jewish women and girls affected by domestic abuse and sexual violence. However, our world was shaken on October 7 and continues to be unstable. Our vision is of a world where women and girls live their lives free from all forms of violence and abuse. It is to that vision that I write this with profound sorrow and an unyielding commitment to justice.

This week, on Wednesday June 19 is the UN’s International Day for the Elimination of Sexual Violence in Conflict. As we continue to confront the brutal atrocities committed against Israeli women and girls on October 7 by Hamas, this day, intended to honour and support survivors worldwide, now takes on an intensely personal significance for the Jewish community.

The heinous acts and the denial of them are an assault, not only on the victims but also on our collective identity and humanity. These crimes are designed to terrorise, dehumanise, and destabilise our communities, leaving deep scars that will endure for generations – this is the reason sexual violence is used in conflict. The Jewish community worldwide feels the reverberations of these attacks, bound together by our shared history and values.

At Jewish Women's Aid, our mission is to support and empower Jewish women and girls affected by domestic abuse and sexual violence. Following the recent atrocities, our dedication to this mission has only intensified. We stand in solidarity with the survivors, their families and the broader Israeli and global Jewish community as we navigate the aftermath of these brutal acts. Our support is unwavering, and our resolve is unbreakable.

Our professional sexual violence advocates and counsellors understand that the impact of sexual violence is far-reaching and multifaceted. Survivors often struggle with profound psychological and physical trauma, compounded by feelings of shame, fear and isolation. At Jewish Women’s Aid, we provide a safe space where survivors can share their experiences, receive the care they need and begin their journey towards healing.

Through our education programmes, we work hard to address the root causes of gender-based violence, which includes the societal norms that perpetuate inequality and discrimination. By teaching our children about respect, consent and equality through our Healthy Relationships sessions in schools and youth settings, we lay the foundations for a future where violence is neither tolerated nor perpetuated.

As a deeply connected diaspora community, we know what happens in Israel directly impacts us here. We may have felt that with the grief and trauma we are experiencing collectively, and in the rise in antisemitism we are experiencing in the aftermath of October 7. At Jewish Women’s Aid, we have seen the impact of these events on victim-survivors of sexual violence; women who have experienced historic sexual violence have been triggered since the events on October 7, as have other women seeking the comfort of our culturally sensitive service.

The denial of these heinous acts only deepens the wounds of survivors and our community. As Jewish women, we feel an acute sense of betrayal and injustice when our suffering is dismissed or denied. We must confront this denial with unwavering resolve, amplifying the voices of those affected and demanding recognition and accountability. Together, we will not only stand against violence but also against the erasure of our truth, ensuring that the world hears and acknowledges the pain of Israeli women and girls.

Jewish Women’s Aid is the only specialist organisation in the UK supporting Jewish women and children affected by domestic abuse and sexual violence. You can contact us for free in confidence on 0808 801 0500 or via www.jwa.org.uk/webchat