For the SOS – Starting Over Safely summer campaign at chwsos.ca on Aug. 22, donated funds will be matched three times. (photo by Ben Kelmer)
CHW (Canadian Hadassah-WIZO) is in the midst of its third annual SOS – Starting Over Safely – summer campaign, aimed at empowering victims of domestic violence in Canada and Israel. Building upon the success of last year’s campaign, CHW has expanded its support for Franny’s Fund, ensuring an availability of funding in Vancouver, Calgary, Ottawa, Montreal and Toronto. Franny’s Fund was created to fill gaps for urgent needs like therapeutic counseling and legal support for women and their children who are navigating the criminal justice system.
In Canada, where domestic violence remains a critical issue, one woman is killed in a violent act every 48 hours. The spike in domestic violence that began during the pandemic is not diminishing and instead continues to increase. In Canada, it has increased by 27% since 2019. Similarly, Israel has experienced an escalation, with a 50% increase in femicide in 2022 – 17 women have lost their lives to domestic violence in Israel in the first six months of this year.
SOS – Starting Over Safely focuses on three campaign priorities: Franny’s Fund in Canada, WIZO programs, and the Michal Sela Forum in Israel. The campaign goals include empowering at-risk women and children to break the cycle of violence, access to critical resources, provision of essentials and opportunities for economic independence, and the establishment of a supportive network for women in similar circumstances. Additionally, the campaign aims to fund specially trained canine protection and respite summer camp experiences for at-risk youth.
“CHW firmly believes in the right of every individual to achieve their full potential while living in safety and security,” said Lisa Colt-Kotler, CHW chief executive officer. “Together, we have the power to empower.”
Established in 1917 by Jewish women, CHW (chw.ca) is a non-political, non-partisan national network of volunteers that believes in the advancement of education, healthcare and social services, transcending politics, religion and national boundaries. To support the SOS – Starting Over Safely 2023 campaign, there have been events held across the country. The CHW Montreal Walk took place on Aug. 6 and the CHW Vancouver Walk on Aug. 13, at Jericho Beach Park. The CHW Calgary Walk will take place on Aug. 20 and Montreal’s Online Bridge Tournament on Sept. 6. On Sept. 10, people can empower victims of domestic violence by supporting the CHW National Garage Sale held in cities across Canada.
Most importantly, on Tuesday, Aug. 22, CHW will host a 27-hour online crowdfunding campaign, beginning at 9 a.m. PST. The fundraising target for the campaign is $400,000, with all donated funds being matched three times by a dedicated group of donors known as the “Matching Heroes.” To contribute or learn more about CHW’s initiatives, visit chwsos.ca.
In Canada, one woman is killed in a violent act every 48 hours. The spike in domestic violence that began during the pandemic is not diminishing and instead continues to increase. It has increased in Canada by 27% since 2019.
In Israel, the situation is just as critical. In the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, 20,140 domestic violence complaints were lodged with police, an increase of 12% from the previous year, and, in 2022, the rate of femicide in Israel increased by 50%. In the first five months of this year, 16 women have been murdered.
Join CHW (Canadian Hadassah-WIZO) Vancouver Centre for the CHW Vancouver Walk on Sunday, Aug. 13, from 10 a.m. to noon at Jericho Beach. This annual event raises funds in support of CHW’s SOS – Starting Over Safely – summer campaign to empower victims of domestic violence.
The CHW Vancouver Walk is an opportunity for the community to come together and make a difference. By participating in this event, you will not only support essential programs that empower women to break the cycle of violence, but also raise awareness about the issue of domestic abuse.
The programs supported by this cause are WIZO services for domestic abuse survivors, Michal Sela Forum in Israel and Franny’s Fund in Canada. These programs will:
provide help for parents and families in need of an urgent response,
provide women and their children with specially trained protections dogs,
provide women and their children with the basic essentials to start over safely,
provide awareness materials to help women recognize the signs of abuse,
fund respite summer camp experiences for at-risk youth,
provide access to critical resources, including legal counsel and therapeutic counseling services, and
assist with social and personal support to help break the cycle of violence.
CHW encourages everyone to come to Jericho Beach, where the event will kick off promptly at 10 a.m. To donate and to register to walk, jog or run, go to chw.ca/vancouver-walk (free for kids under 18). Strollers and dogs are welcome. No matter how you choose to participate, your presence and support will make a meaningful impact. Together, we can create a safer and more secure environment for those affected by domestic abuse.
Also, save the date: on Aug. 22, CHW will launch a 27-hour online crowdfunding campaign. Funds raised that day will be matched three more times by a loyal community of donors, the Matching Heroes, so please visit chwsos.ca sometime during those 27 hours and donate.
Lili Ben Ami, founder of the Michal Sela Forum, was in Vancouver last month to talk about how the forum works to save lives and combat domestic violence. (photo by Sid Akselrod)
“As Uber disrupted the transportation sector, Airbnb disrupted the tourism industry, and Facebook disrupted telecommunication, the Michal Sela Forum is disrupting the field of domestic violence,” said Adi Sofer Teeni, chief executive officer of Facebook Israel.
The Michal Sela Forum (MSF) is an Israeli nonprofit “dedicated to saving lives and combating domestic violence through innovation and technological solutions.” After Michal Sela was murdered by her husband, in 2019, Michal’s sister, Lili Ben Ami, founded MSF with the goal of saving the life of the next Michal.
Ben Ami was in Vancouver last month. She spoke on June 13 at an event presented by CHW (Canadian Hadassah-WIZO) at Beth Israel Synagogue.
“Michal was like a butterfly. No one could tell her what to do,” said Ben Ami. This resilience is symbolized by the butterflies in MSF’s logo, and through the organization’s core principles of out-of-the-box thinking, personal entrepreneurship and public awareness, she said. MSF’s goal is to achieve zero femicides per year and Ben Ami is confident that “it’s going to happen,” despite the primitiveness of current systems to fight domestic violence, through the application of available technological capabilities.
Ben Ami said that “in Israel, domestic violence support is characterized by old world tools,” highlighting the reliance on shelters, law enforcement and welfare centres – tools that have remained unchanged for 70 years. These reactive solutions do not break the cycle of domestic violence, agreed CHW chief executive officer Lisa Colt-Kotler. In her introduction to Ben Ami’s presentation, Colt-Kotler emphasized CHW’s shift away from immediate crisis support towards empowering victims with financial independence. CHW’s Safety Net program provides essential services such as counseling, resumé building and essentials kits for women. They also run holiday and summer camps for children of domestic violence survivors, providing women with an opportunity to continue working while their children are cared for at the camp.
In her talk, Ben Ami stressed that Israel has the technological capabilities to save lives, and that these capabilities must be applied to fight domestic violence. Each year, on Michal’s birthday, MSF organizes the Safe at Home Hackathon, a three-day-long technological event that brings together more than 600 software engineers to develop startups aimed at preventing domestic violence. Selected teams from the hackathon are invited to the Michal Sela Startup Academy, a three-month professional mentorship program in collaboration with Google. This program enables entrepreneurs to elevate their innovations and work towards implementing them.
Facilitating the creation of startups is a key focus of MSF – “we need 100 startups on the shelf for investors before we can reach our goal,” said Ben Ami. MSF aims to secure a venture capital investment of $10 million to expand and enhance their programs.
One such program is Michal Sela Canines, which provides women at high-risk of intimate partner violence with a dog for physical and emotional protection. The dog becomes a permanent part of the woman’s family and is given to her for life. The idea was proposed to Ben Ami by a local dog trainer who believes that, if Michal had had a dog on the night she was murdered, she likely would have been protected.
The canine project not only offers protection, but also aids in trauma healing for both women and children affected by domestic violence. Ben Ami reminded the audience, “all the women we protect are mothers.” By the end of 2023, 12 women and 48 children will be part of this program, she said. CHW recently funded a canine, named Maple, and they aim to fund at least five more dogs.
Michal’s Watch, another initiative, currently offers 130 women a security package designed to safeguard them from intimate partner violence. Developed in partnership with Israeli security experts at Shin Bet, Michal’s Watch equips women with a security camera, a panic button connected to emergency services, 10 self-defence lessons, and a cease-and-desist letter from a law firm against their attacker. Ben Ami described Michal’s Watch as an “iron suit” for women.
In addition to technological solutions, MSF is dedicated to educating the public on recognizing and addressing domestic violence. Ben Ami reflected that, in Michal’s marriage, although there was “never a black eye,” nor any visible signs of physical violence before the murder, there was emotional violence.
“The language of domestic violence is universal,” both for the victims and the aggressors, said Ben Ami. MSF collaborated with the best domestic violence experts in Israel to develop five international signals of identifying domestic violence. These signals apply to victims and aggressors, as well as friends and family of victims, and include behaviours such as obsessiveness, maintaining two-faced relationships, gaslighting, and intense overreacting. Graphics detailing these warning signs are publicized around Israel and on social media.
Ben Ami attributes MSF’s expansive growth and impact in only three years to Michal’s spirit – to “people who knew and loved my sister and wanted to help,” she said.
At the event was Ehud Lehavi, a Vancouver Jewish community member who knew Michal from a Scouts program in Israel. Lehavi has been involved with MSF since its early days. When asked, “Could you believe that, in three years, MSF has accomplished all this?”, Lehavi answered, “With any other NGO, no. But, with Lili, yes.”
Ben Ami said she has always been an activist, throughout her background in education and TV broadcasting. Colt-Kotler described her as a “trailblazer, a rockstar and a disrupter” and shared a story of taking Ben Ami to Costco upon arriving in Canada. At the store, Ben Ami was recognized and stopped by a woman who told Lili, “You saved my life.”
For more information, including on the warning signs of domestic violence, go to msf-global.org.
Alisa Bressler is a fourth-year student at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ont. She is an avid reader and writer, and the online director of the arts and culture publication MUSE Magazine. Bressler is a member of the Vancouver Jewish community, and the inaugural Baila Lazarus Jewish Journalism Intern.
JNF Pacific region executive director Michael Sachs, left, in a meeting at Aviv House for autistic adults in Israel. (photo from JNF-PR)
Three Israeli projects supported by the Pacific region of the Jewish National Fund of Canada are advancing well, according to Michael Sachs.
Sachs, executive director of JNF Pacific region, visited the initiatives July 7-18. He was joined on the Israel trip by local JNF supporters Lisa and Mike Averbach. The trio surveyed projects in Rishon LeZion, in Jerusalem and at Nir Galim, a moshav near Ashdod.
The project in Rishon LeZion, south of Tel Aviv, is a women’s shelter that has faced challenges in reaching completion. In collaboration with the Israeli group No2Violence, the facility was supported by two Negev dinners in 2016 – one in Vancouver, honouring Shirley Barnett, and one in Winnipeg, honouring Peter Leipsic.
The shelter is envisioned to welcome 10 to 12 families and provide victims of domestic violence with a safe environment where they can access therapy, secure income and new housing.
Emergency shelter for victims of domestic violence is gravely lacking in Israel, where it is estimated that 65% to 70% of women and children escaping domestic abuse cannot access alternative housing due to lack of availability.
“I wanted to go and see with my eyes, with my feet on the ground, how it’s progressing,” said Sachs of the project. “Finally, shovels have started going into the ground and the foundation has been laid. This project, it had been stalled for multiple reasons, COVID included, but I wanted to go and see the progress because we have a commitment that we make to our donors in our community to fulfil the project no matter what.”
One of the things that impressed Sachs most about the shelter is that it is adjacent to a community centre.
“For women and children who are in crisis, the ability to have a community centre, a place to go, a place for their kids to go, is extremely important, on top of just the safe haven,” he said.
Last year’s Negev campaign in the Pacific region raised funds for ALUT, the Israeli Society for Autistic Children, to renovate Aviv House, or Beit Aviv, in Jerusalem. This “home for life” for autistic adults was established in 1992 and is home to about 14 residents who require assistance in aspects of everyday life.
The building, more than 50 years old, was not wheelchair accessible and had infrastructural challenges. “It needed a lot of work,” said Sachs. The project, championed by honorary project co-chairs Penny Sprackman and David Goldman, saw a new roof put on the building, new bathrooms and doorways, among other upgrades.
Autism has co-morbidities and one of the residents at Aviv House has what is described as the most complex case of epilepsy in the state of Israel.
“This individual had not been able to have a real, proper shower until the renovation,” said Sachs. The renovated facility allows an assistant to accompany the resident in the new shower. “That’s just one example of how it made a difference,” he said. “The effect that we are having on the life of these individuals is immense.”
The ALUT project was especially meaningful for Sachs, he said, because it was the first initiative that took place after he became regional executive director, in April 2021. The fact that it also raised autism awareness in Canada was a bonus, he added.
A third project that Sachs and the Averbachs visited was Beit Haedut, the Testimony House Museum, on Moshav Nir Galim. The museum, located in a community founded by survivors of the Holocaust, focuses on the lives survivors made in the state of Israel.
This project is the focus of the current Pacific region Negev campaign and will involve an especially meaningful Vancouver component. In an interactive space, Vancouverite Marie Doduck, a child survivor of the Holocaust, will present virtually to visitors about her life. She will be the only English-language presenter in the virtual space, meaning that every Anglo visitor to the museum will “meet” her and hear her testimony.
Sachs has heard the question before: Why a Holocaust education centre so close to Yad Vashem, the world’s foremost education, commemoration and research centre on the topic?
“My answer is, why not?” he replied. “Why not have more places teaching people about the Holocaust, the tragedy that happened? It’s our responsibility to make sure that more and more of these centres are supported and able to function and teach a population that is starting to forget. It’s not that because you have one, you can’t have the other.”
The quality of the museum is also significant, he said: “It is a Holocaust centre that, in my eyes, punches above its weight class.”
Being close to Ashdod, where many cruise ships arrive, and near the Negev Desert, the location is also easily accessible for visitors.
Sachs hand-delivered Doduck’s recorded testimony to the museum. He credited the Vancouver Holocaust Education Centre for its assistance in making the technically complex project possible.
Returning from his first trip to Israel as JNF Pacific region executive director, Sachs was rejuvenated.
“Most people come back from Israel and they’re drained,” he said. “I came back with a newfound energy because, when you see the fingerprint JNF Canada has on the state of Israel and you see the efforts, the progress, the impact that our local community – our tiny little local community – is having on the ground there and for the people in Israel, it’s awe-inspiring. It really is. You come out of it and you are more energized than ever to continue to make a difference.”
Lance Davis, chief executive officer of JNF Canada, commended the Pacific region in a statement to the Independent.
“On behalf of JNF Canada, I am so proud that we have advanced two key projects for our organization, the Vancouver/Winnipeg women’s shelter and the renovation of the Aviv House supporting autistic individuals,” said Davis. “Thanks to the generosity of donors from the Pacific region, we are able to help build the facilities that will transform the lives of vulnerable Israelis in a profound manner. Our JNF supporters can take great pride in the fact that together we are building the foundation for Israel’s future.”
Due to COVID, JNF has not held a Negev Dinner in Vancouver since 2019, opting instead to run campaigns without the traditional gala event. Sachs hopes 2023 will see a return to normalcy.
“God willing, we’ll all be able to be back together next year for a wonderful and beautiful Negev Dinner with a wonderful honouree,” he said.
Canadian Hadassah-WIZO’s S.O.S. – Starting Over Safely campaign is 27 hours long, beginning at 9 a.m. PT on Aug. 23. (photo by Mickey Noam Alon)
With the COVID-19 government shutdowns and mandatory quarantines, domestic violence has increased significantly across the globe over the past two years. The drastic increase in intimate partner and domestic abuse has been coined the “Shadow Pandemic” by the United Nations.
In Canada, one woman is killed in a violent act every two-and-a-half days. According to the provincial ministry for public safety and Statistics Canada, every year in British Columbia there are more than 60,000 physical or sexual assaults against women – almost all of them committed by men.
In Israel, the situation is just as critical. In the first year of the pandemic, 20,140 domestic violence complaints were lodged with police, an increase of 12% from the previous year. Twelve women were murdered in the first six months of this year.
In accordance with its mission, Canadian Hadassah-WIZO (CHW) is working to empower women by stepping up emergency support and services at this critical time. CHW is launching the second annual S.O.S. – Starting Over Safely summer campaign, with proceeds helping empower victims of domestic violence in Canada and Israel.
One of the most frightening things about domestic abuse is that half of the women murdered by their partners never experienced physical violence before. Domestic violence can happen to anyone, anywhere, anytime. This year, through a new partnership with Michal Sela Forum, CHW is also promoting an awareness campaign to help women understand the warning signs in a relationship.
S.O.S. – Starting Over Safely 2022 has three campaign priorities, including Franny’s Fund in Canada, and WIZO programs and the Michal Sela Forum in Israel. The following campaign goals are intended to empower at-risk women and children to break the cycle of violence in Canada and Israel:
Provide help for parents and families in need of an urgent response;
Provide access to critical resources such as legal counsel and counseling services;
Provide women and their children with the basic essentials to start over safely;
Empower women and their children by providing financial help, social and personal support, employment support, and access to a network of other women in similar circumstances;
Provide women and their children with specially trained canine protection; and
Fund respite summer camp experiences for at-risk youth.
“CHW strongly believes that every human being deserves the right to achieve their full potential, while living in safety and security. You have the power to empower,” said Lisa Colt-Kotler, CHW chief executive officer.
The 2022 fundraising goal is $350,000. All funds donated will be matched three more times by a community of dedicated donors recognized as “Matching Heroes” during the 27-hour campaign, which kicks off at 9 a.m. PT on Tuesday, Aug. 23, 2022. During the crowdfunding period, each gift donated on the website chwsos.ca is quadrupled.
COVID-19 isn’t the only global pandemic to worry about; the worldwide increase in domestic violence has been coined a “shadow pandemic” by the United Nations. Globally, an estimated one in three women lives with violence and fear. But the number of domestic violence complaints in Israel, for example, has increased by 800% since the beginning of COVID. True to its mission, Canadian Hadassah-WIZO (CHW) is leading the way to empower women by stepping up emergency support and services at this critical time.
CHW strongly believes that every human being deserves the right to achieve their full potential, while living in safety and security. CHW appointed its first chief executive officer, Lisa Colt-Kotler, who is spearheading a transition and new direction for the 100-year-old organization, with a history of support for women and children in Israel and Canada. This summer, CHW is launching a quadruple matching 24-hour crowdfunding campaign and proceeds will help empower victims of domestic violence.
CHW’s summer campaign, S.O.S. – Starting Over Safely, has three priorities for projects in Israel: CHW Youth Villages, which provide a safe haven for at-risk adolescents and supports mental health through a variety of outlets; Essential Kits for Families, which provides the basic necessities needed to help each family start over safely after they leave an emergency shelter; and the Safety Net Program, which will empower women and their children by providing housing, financial help, social and personal support, employment support, and a network of other women in similar circumstances. Safety Net has nearly a 100% success rate of breaking the cycle of violence and preventing victims from re-entering a domestic abuse relationship.
Aug. 24-25, funds donated will be matched three more times by a loyal community of donors recognized as “Matching Heroes.” During the 24-hour campaign, which kicks off at noon in each centre across Canada, each gift donated on the website chwsos.ca will be quadrupled.
And, on Aug. 24, at 5 p.m. PST, CHW is hosting a free, star-studded, 90-minute virtual telethon experience during which viewers will learn more about how to help empower victims of domestic violence. To watch, just click on the link from the campaign website.
For more details, contact Irena Karshenbaum, CHW development officer for Western Canada, at [email protected] or 403-253-4612.
Jewish community member mia amir is the dramaturg of Wypsa, which is at the Fringe Festival until Sept. 16.
While the plot of Wyspa may bring to mind William Golding’s Lord of the Flies, the book was not a direct inspiration for this work, co-writer and director Julia Siedlanowska told the Independent.
The creation of the play, which opened at the Vancouver Fringe Festival Sept. 7, began with the reading and discussion of an original story written by Siedlanowska and Kanon Hewitt.
“Our team includes five collaborators between the ages of 11 and 16,” said Siedlanowska. “They have all been involved directly in the creation of this piece through world-building, research, writing text, improvisation, creating soundscapes, costumes and props. They are all also performing in the piece.”
Siedlanowska and Kanon’s story “tells the tale of a walled-in community that has sustained itself through oil extraction for centuries,” Siedlanowska explained. “When fires start raging within the walls, the mothers of the community make the decision to send their children away through the only opening to the outside world – an opening to the ocean.
“After days of drifting, they finally arrive on an island. Here, they must decide whether they will live by the rigid rules of their old society or create their own.
“We separated the experience into three worlds,” she continued. “The home world, the world of the boat and the world of the island. From there, we collectively decided the specific circumstances of each of these, including what rules apply in the home world and the island world. The youth created their own characters and decided on each of their relationships to each other. Text and movement were all generated by the collaborators, with myself and Kanon making decisions about the show structure with the help of our dramaturg mia amir. There are some improvisational aspects – much of the show takes place within an improvised structure with scenes changing depending on the audience.”
The end result came from research of instances in which children were removed from their homes during the Second World War, said Siedlanowska, “including Japan after the Tokyo bombings and the Kindertransport of Jewish children in Europe, as well as the Sixties Scoop in Canada.
“One piece of literature that I did directly mention in the initial phases of brainstorming was the story of King Matt the First, written by Polish-Jewish playwright Janusz Korczak. Korczak ran an orphanage in Second World War Poland. He was a pedagogue, writer and children’s rights activist. The orphanage was called Our House, and the children living there published their own newspaper and held their own court when conflicts arose among them. King Matt the First was about a child who becomes king, and what might happen if children were rulers.”
However, the idea of the story first arose, she said, “from questions around the rise in domestic violence in Alberta as a result of the economic downturn and job loss in the oil and gas industry. This violence is predominantly towards women.
“This then led to questions around how raising youth within rigid gender identities might enforce these patterns of violence. Instead of writing what we think youth might have to say about these themes, we decided to ask directly. In relation to climate change, we also wanted to ask the question, how do we – as an adult audience – react to dialogue around the climate crisis when those who will inherit the planet stand directly in front of us?”
Wyspa is being presented as part of Generation Hot, a mentorship initiative of the Only Animal and the Fringe Festival, which presents the work of seven writer-directors between the ages of 17 and 24. This year’s program is called Waterborne. “Each participant has found a personal response to a chosen site on Granville Island and the theme of water,” explains the press release. “Two programs of these short works will run in rep during the 2017 Vancouver Fringe Festival…. Wyspa is paired with Citlali: A Fantastic Tale About Water by a Mexican Poet by Brenda Muñoz.”
Wyspa runs Sept. 8, 10, 13-14 and 16, 8 p.m., at Ron Basford Park on Granville Island. For tickets ($12) and the full Fringe schedule, visit vancouverfringe.com.
Andrea Silverstone, coordinator of Shalom Bayit at Jewish Family Service Calgary. (photo from Andrea Silverstone)
A study of domestic violence in Jewish communities in the Prairie provinces was recently completed.
“The study has been a desire of mine probably since the day we started,” said Andrea Silverstone, Shalom Bayit coordinator at Jewish Family Service Calgary, “because a lot of what we know about domestic violence in the Jewish community is based on anecdotal information, suppositions, copying what is in the non-Jewish community or research from other jurisdictions outside our own.
“We were doing a good job of addressing the needs of the clients who walked in the door, some of the prevention programs we had in the schools and the community … [but] it wasn’t research-based in the sense of understanding the scope of the issue across the Jewish communities in the Prairie provinces.”
Silverstone would have loved to do a Canada-wide study, but her supporter, Resolve, which is a tri-party research body conducting community-based action, has a set research mandate of focusing exclusively on the Prairie provinces: Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Alberta.
Over the years, Silverstone has done a lot of work with Resolve and has an extensive background in dealing with domestic violence in her capacity at Shalom Bayit, which addresses everything from bullying and harassment to child abuse, elder abuse and spousal abuse.
“There was a research study done in 2004 by Jewish Women International that was fairly comprehensive,” said Silverstone. “So, we reached out to them, asking to borrow the methodology of their study, which they allowed. We also thought it would be a good comparison.”
Silverstone and the Resolve team, led by Dr. Nicole Letourneau of the University of Calgary, then approached Jewish Child and Family Service in Winnipeg, Jewish Family Services in Edmonton and various Jewish community organizations in Saskatchewan, asking them to be involved.
Silverstone found that getting people to work on this topic was easy – both the academics and community groups – as domestic violence has touched most people in one form or other.
“Everyone wanted to better understand the scope and needs around domestic violence in the Jewish community,” said Silverstone. “I don’t think anyone needed to be convinced [that there was an issue worth studying]…. It was just a matter of figuring how to best do this, so we that we weren’t taxing already taxed resources.”
The study involved two parts in terms of gathering data. The first part had participants take 20 to 25 minutes to fill out a survey based on the JWI survey. About 280 people filled this out.
Once the surveys were collected, the researchers asked two questions: Was there anything surprising? And, what did they understand from it?
“Those were the two data question points that helped us build the results of the study,” explained Silverstone. “We knew we’d have data to compare to mainstream populations. In terms of rates of people reporting that they are survivors of domestic violence, it is about the same as the general population. Twenty percent of the people who answered our study said they were victims of domestic violence. And, in the general population, those numbers are anywhere from 25 to 40%.”
The other aspect, she added, is “of those who experience domestic violence, their experience of it, in terms of physical and financial toll, is about the same, except for in our reported rates in the study of domestic violence in the form of emotional abuse – that is higher than the general population. They report about half to 60% of the domestic violence they experience is verbal [in the general population] and, in our survey, it was 82%.”
Silverstone said this divergence may be because Jews are very verbal people. Another possibility is that people tend to perceive verbal abuse as a more acceptable kind of domestic violence – they refrain from physically hitting their partner, but they won’t stop themselves from yelling or name-calling. “This is probably an area we should be researching further,” said Silverstone.
For Silverstone, there were some surprises when it came to the survey results, such as the low number of people who would consult with their rabbi about their situation – only three percent of those surveyed.
“Something that struck me,” she added, “which was also a finding of the JWI study, is that the top three sources victims utilize in domestic violence situations are friends, family and private therapists. Friends and family are, by far, the highest. It made me realize that we need to be focused on teaching friends and family in the Jewish community how to recognize domestic violence, to respond appropriately and then to refer people.”
Currently, Silverstone is in the process of determining which kinds of programs should be implemented and what kind of awareness-raising campaigns the community should be taking on, based on the survey results.
The first step is to educate friends and family about how to be good supports, she said. “There is all sorts of other research out there about what are called ‘informal supports.’… If the informal supporter has a healthy response, the person is going to go get help. If they don’t, that person is going to shut down and not seek help again for a long time. I think it’s important that we get that straight.”
Silverstone feels strongly that there is a need to dig deeper and find out why people are not using rabbis. “Is this because we’re not doing a good enough job of helping rabbis be effective supporters? Are they not talking about the issue enough? Do people not feel safe? Because they are a great resource if we can tap into them.”
Another big issue that came to light through the survey is that of safe housing for victims and that victims are not finding shelters to be helpful. Silverstone wants to examine this further.
If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic violence, contact the Jewish Family Service Agency at 604-257-5151, the bc211 help line at 211 if you live in Metro Vancouver, the Fraser Valley, Squamish-Lillooet or Sunshine Coast, or VictimLinkBC at 1-800-563-0808.
When it comes to cases of domestic violence, wanting to keep our pets has particularly dangerous implications; it can potentially put both children and adults at risk. (photo from commons.wikimedia.org)
Times are tough. Difficult financial circumstances and/or acts of violence force all kinds of people to seek shelter outside their homes. As if leaving one’s home in the wake of such challenges isn’t bad enough, sometimes this leave-taking involves the very painful question of what to do with the individual or family’s pet.
Many of us can well appreciate the desire to hold on to our animals. When it comes to cases of domestic violence, however, wanting to keep our pets has particularly dangerous implications; it can potentially put both children and adults at risk.
Dr. Frank Ascione provides this eye-opening statistic: “In 12 independent surveys, between 18 percent and 48 percent of battered women have delayed their decision to leave their batterer, or have returned to their batterer, out of fear for the welfare of their pets or livestock.” (Violence Against Women, 13(4), 2007)
Why are these pet owners willing to go to extremes to hold on to their animals? Genevieve Frederick of the U.S. organization Pets of the Homeless elaborates on her nonprofit’s website, “Their pets are nonjudgmental; provide comfort and an emotional bond of loyalty. In some cases, they provide the homeless with protection and keep them warm.”
In addition, Dr. Andrew Gardiner, who helps run free veterinary clinics at two homeless hostels in Edinburgh, Scotland, offers this interesting observation: “… many homeless people say that having a pet is what gives them hope….”
Critically, keeping the family dog or cat is vital to children’s continued emotional stability. In her groundbreaking paper for the National District Attorneys Association (NDAA), Allie Phillips states, “When a child has been abused or traumatized, it can be the nonjudgmental comfort from an animal that helps the child heal…. Children often love their pets like family members and, if a pet is threatened, harmed or killed, this can cause psychological trauma to the children.”
Moreover, Jewish law requires us to be pro-active in cases of domestic abuse as well in situations of cruelty to animals. In a 2007 article entitled “Few are guilty, but all are responsible: The obligations to help survivors of abuse,” Rabbi Mark Dratch (executive vice-president of the Rabbinical Council of America and founder of Jsafe) writes: “… the physical, emotional and spiritual dangers that result from perpetrators of abuse and violence … obligate each of us to protect potential victims from them.” Among the texts he uses to base his conclusions about Jewish responsibilities toward people in domestic violence situations are Leviticus 19:16 and Deuteronomy 22:2 and, in the case of cruelty to animals, Exodus 23:5 and Deuteronomy 22:4.
According to the Jewish Coalition Against Domestic Abuse: “Domestic abuse occurs in Jewish families at about the same rate as in the general community – about 15 percent – and the abuse takes place among all branches of Judaism and at all socioeconomic levels. Studies show that abuse occurs in every denomination of Judaism in equal percentages, and we see abuse in all communities including the unaffiliated.”
Another complication once someone is able to transition back to a more stable living situation is access to affordable, pet-friendly rental accommodations. Vancouver has one of the lowest vacancy rates in Canada. Moreover, in British Columbia, there is no law permitting tenants to have a pet. In fact, the existing Residential Tenancy Act explicitly gives landlords the right to refuse pets, or to charge an extra deposit for accepting pets. Many renters have a hard time finding rental apartments and pet-owning residents have an even harder time locating suitable housing. People are often forced to choose between their pet and a roof over their head.
What then is available to these needy residents and their animals? The Salvation Army’s Centre for Hope in Abbottsford is currently working on becoming pet friendly. Shilo St. Cyr, program supervisor of Sheena’s Place, an Elizabeth Fry Society facility in Vancouver, reports: “We don’t accommodate women and children who have pets. We usually try to arrange for a dog sitter/shelter.”
Jodi Dunlop, Vancouver branch manager of British Columbia’s Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, reports: “Currently, our branches offer a two-week compassionate board for the animals. This gives the person leaving the violent situation a chance to find accommodation and not have to worry about the care and safety of their pet. In some cases, we have extended the care for the animal. It is dependent on each situation and also the animal’s welfare while in our care. There is no charge for this service. Our goal is to always reunite the animal with their owner.”
No doubt the animals are kept safe in foster care. But individuals and family members must temporarily deal with separation, both from their physical home and from the most cherished parts of that former home life.
Indeed, the flipside of this human attachment is such that dogs and cats of homeless people are also very attached to their owners. Gardiner points out: “The pet and the person spend so much time interacting with each other that the human/animal bond is incredibly strong. If these pets are taken from their owners, it is not uncommon for them to suffer separation anxiety or demonstrate other behavioral problems. In the worst case, a dog that is unable to adjust could end up being put down. That would be a terrible outcome.”
Nationwide, the number of Canadian domestic violence shelters offering pet facilities is still very small. While individual Vancouver cat and dog owners might find shelter for themselves and their pets at either 412 Women’s Emergency Shelter or St. Elizabeth’s-St. James Community Service Society, it appears the family member seeking temporary shelter in Vancouver would do best to contact either the BCSPCA branches in the Vancouver area or, as St. Cyr advises, contacting 211. Additionally, for more non-pet-related inquiries, the Women’s Safety and Outreach Program recently opened a weekday hotline between 5 p.m. and 1 a.m. – it can arrange transportation for women fleeing violence to housing (transition, shelter). As of this writing, the telephone number is 604-652-1010.
Deborah Rubin Fields is an Israel-based features writer. She is also the author of Take a Peek Inside: A Child’s Guide to Radiology Exams, published in English, Hebrew and Arabic.