With families cooped up at home due to virus, domestic violence complaints soar
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With families cooped up at home due to virus, domestic violence complaints soar

Amid pandemic lockdown and mass unemployment, facilities for women nearly full; hotlines report uptick in reports of abuse

Illustrative photo: An Orthodox Jewish woman sits in the garden of the abused women's shelter in Beit Shemesh, July 15, 2014. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)
Illustrative photo: An Orthodox Jewish woman sits in the garden of the abused women's shelter in Beit Shemesh, July 15, 2014. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

Shelters for victims of domestic violence in Israel are nearly at full capacity amid the coronavirus outbreak, prompting the Welfare Ministry to pledge to open new facilities, according to a report on Monday.

“We are looking at existing structures that can serve as shelters, and mapping and monitoring the needs every day. Every woman who needs help will receive it,” the ministry said in a statement to the Haaretz daily.

The shelters are at 90 percent capacity, according to Welfare Ministry figures, while those who work there put the figure at 95%. Sources told the paper the reason for the backlog was both a rise in complaints of violence and the fact that women who had planned to leave the shelters have remained due to the virus.

Hotlines for victims saw an uptick in abuse complaints since restrictions on movement have been introduced in the country, the report said. Social welfare authorities were expecting the number of domestic violence cases to soar due to the pandemic and financial uncertainties.

“We aren’t prepared for the tsunami that will come. It’s an extreme situation we haven’t seen before,” Rivka Neumann, director of WIZO’s Division for the Advancement of Women, told the paper. “We see families who are reporting violence for the first time, and a deterioration among families that were already in the cycle of violence.”

The Welfare Ministry is working to make sure women seeking to leave their homes had somewhere to go. According to the report, 50 women flee to domestic violence shelters every month.

Israelis have been confined to their homes as a result of the pandemic, with exceptions made for buying food and essential items, and all schools have been canceled. Over 1,200 people have been infected with the virus since the outbreak, which caused one fatality.

The unemployment rate in Israel has skyrocketed to 16.5 percent, with over 500,000 people losing their jobs since the start of March, the Employment Service said Sunday. The unemployment rate was 3.6% in the fourth quarter of last year, according to the Bank of Israel.

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