Study Shows 315% Jump in Domestic Violence Cases in Israel During 1st Pandemic Year
Ahead of International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, figures show 26 women were murdered by their partners in Israel in 2020
The number of domestic violence complaints between spouses in Israel jumped by 315 percent in 2020, the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a study released on Sunday.
Ahead of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, which takes place on November 25, the Women’s International Zionist Organization (WIZO) releases an annual report. As part of its research, WIZO collected data from government ministries, the State Comptroller’s office, the Israel Police and the Israel Prison Service.
WIZO’s data showed that 26 women were murdered in Israel in 2020, compared to 17 in 2019. There was also a massive uptick in the number of distress calls made to the 118 domestic violence hotline, from 2,286 calls in 2019 to 5,866 calls a year later, a 157% increase. Of these, more than half were instances of spousal violence, also known as intimate partner violence; the number of calls related to spousal violence jumped from 688 calls in 2019 to 2,853 calls in 2020, a 315% spike.
According to Rivka Neumann, director of WIZO’s Division for the Advancement of Women, the increase in domestic violence was felt across all sectors of Israeli society and was linked directly to the pandemic.
“Everywhere you look, it’s as if someone has lit a fire,” Neumann told The Media Line. “During lockdowns women and children found themselves stuck inside homes with an abusive person.”
“There was no way for them to go outside and they couldn’t go to school or work,” she said. “This combination of locking people indoors and being [in close proximity] to a violent man resulted in a rise in domestic violence cases.”
Overall, the Israel Police registered 20,140 violence offenses and threats that took place between couples in 2020, an 11.6% rise over the previous year.
Of the 26 women murdered in 2020, 13 were killed at the hands of their partners, compared to 5 in 2019. Notably, 4 out of the 13 women had previously filed a complaint with police before they were murdered and 31.2% of the suspects were already known to police.
“We’re running into much more serious cases,” Neumann affirmed. “The financial difficulties, being forced to stay inside – all of these internal and external crises linked to the pandemic led to families that had never had issues before entering this cycle of violence.”
Instances of domestic violence also rose over the same period for male victims. In fact, there was a 43% jump in such complaints, from 1,003 in 2019 to 1,431 in 2020.
While Neumann is hopeful that these worrisome numbers will improve over the coming years as pandemic-related restrictions are eased, she argued that the damage wrought in 2020 would have repercussions for years to come. Moreover, those affected by PTSD, or post-traumatic stress disorder, will require extensive help.
All of these internal and external crises linked to the pandemic led to families that had never had issues before entering this cycle of violence
“Trauma is like a wound – if you don’t take care of it, it will get infected and spread,” she explained. “I call on the Israeli government to take on these findings and translate them into long-term [programs] because we have many more families that have entered the cycle of violence and we’re seeing new types of complex post-traumatic stress disorder.”
Similarly, World WIZO Chairperson Anita Friedman also called on the Israeli government to step up efforts to combat what she referred to as a “real plague.”
“Another woman murdered; another story that turns one’s stomach,” Friedman said in a statement provided to The Media Line.
“If the state is not upset by each of these murders, if a national state of emergency is not declared, and if government ministers’ schedules are not put on hold in a national effort to stop the bloodshed and suffering that are being passed down from generation to generation – then we have failed as a society,” she said.