“When Staying Home Isn’t Safe”

By Carol Ruderman

Stay home. This is the advice that, more than any other measure, is supposed to keep us safe as a global pandemic works its way through our communities. Home should be our place of refuge.

For most of us, staying home means reducing our risk.

For those experiencing domestic abuse, it means becoming more vulnerable.

One in four women will experience domestic abuse in their lives. Twenty people every minute are experiencing some kind of intimate partner violence in the United States alone. And the sad reality is, those numbers reflect the Jewish community as much as any other.

Now factor in the added stresses – physical, emotional, financial, spiritual – that COVID-19 is wreaking, and will continue to wreak on our lives. “Incidents of intimate partner violence often increase during emergency situations,” says Barbara Siegel, SHALVA clinical director. “Perpetrators have more time with their families and support systems break down.

As we collectively take the necessary precautions to distance ourselves from one another, some women in our community find themselves trapped with their abuser.

But there is hope. You can help.

“We are distant, but not disconnected,” says SHALVA Executive Director Carol Ruderman. “This is the time; every one of us can make a difference. Rabbis, cantors, educators, Jewish professionals, parents, neighbors, and friends – we can all step up and ensure that women are safe in their homes.”

Today, in the face of this unprecedented challenge, SHALVA asks every one of us to make this commitment.

Here are a few things you can do if you are concerned that someone you care about may not be safe in their relationship:

  • Reach out. Get in touch, regularly, using whatever means is safest and most reliable to reach your friend.
  • While speaking with someone experiencing abuse, use empowering, not judgmental or accusatory, language. Abuse is fundamentally about power and control, and now more than ever it’s important that the victim maintains a sense of agency over her own life.
  • Come up with a code word that you can use with your friend if they ever feel they are in danger.
  • Help your friend plan for safety
  • Let them know that SHALVA is here for them, with free and confidential counseling services via telephone.

We ask that every one of us agree to check in on at least one other person. Sometimes that’s all it takes to change – and even save – a life.

If you are ready and willing to take this challenge, in this time of deep uncertainty, SHALVA is here to support you. Commit to this action by adding your email here, and we will send you resources and tactics for having these important conversations in a healthy, helpful way.

And know that SHALVA is here for you, too. “Knowing, or suspecting, that a friend is experiencing abuse is its own kind of trauma,” says Ruderman. “Our phone lines are not only open to those experiencing domestic abuse, but to those affected by it second hand. We are here for you.”

This pandemic has forced us all into a massive social experiment. It will test our mettle as individuals, and as a country. Now is the time to prove that the Jewish community will continue to do what it does best. Love our neighbors. Be responsible for one another. We will show that even six feet apart, we will not stand idly by.

Carol Ruderman has served as Executive Director of SHALVA since January 2014, and has been a leader in nonprofits for over 20 years. In all her work, Carol is committed to making sure women facing domestic abuse get the help, support, and resources they need.

SHALVA supports Jewish women experiencing and healing from domestic abuse, through counseling, supportive services, and community education.