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Last weekend marked Jewish Women’s Aid (JWA) annual Shabbat event and the launch of the charity’s #AMaskWontProtectHer campaign to raise awareness around domestic abuse within our community.

Rates of reported domestic abuse have rocketed since the Covid19 pandemic began. In the first 7 weeks of the first lockdown, a call relating to domestic abuse was made to the police every 30 seconds. Furthermore, in England and Wales alone, every week, 2 women are murdered by their current or former partner.

Our community is not exempt from this abuse. In June alone, 150 women sought assistance from Jewish Women’s Aid (JWA) – an alarming 22% rise on the figure for the same month in 2019 – while demand for counselling also saw an increase by 28% for the month of July. JWA also reported a sharp rise in the number of children receiving support. Their latest figures show the charity helped 30% more children compared to last year, while demand for children’s therapy sessions rocketed by 67%.

As JWA’s Chief Executive Naomi Dickson commented:  “There has never been a time when external societal conditions have had such a negative effect on women experiencing domestic abuse.” She added: “Abusers are manipulating well-intended anti-Covid measures to control and torment Jewish women. Our dedicated staff are doing everything they can to support the increasing number of women and their children, but we need our community to take collective responsibility for making sure that women feel they can reach out for support.”

So, you may well ask, what can SWESRS as a community do at this time? Firstly, we can learn more about the signs of domestic abuse and how to support someone we think may be experiencing abuse which can take many forms including physical, emotional, spiritual and psychological, sexual, coercive control and emotional abuse too. We recently organised a training session run by JWA which gave those attending an insight into domestic abuse, myths and stigma relating to it. I would highly recommend visiting JWA’s website – www.jwa.org.uk as there is a lot of very useful information and reading available.

We could also look to support domestic abuse charities at this time, so that they can continue their vital work. I was delighted that SWESRS chose my community group ‘Bags of Kindness’ as their Mitzvah Day 2020 project. Bags of Kindness supports women and children in domestic abuse refuges across London and Essex. This year’s appeal was to provide brand new pyjamas for the children to be given in ‘buddy bags’ when they arrive into refuge having fled their abusive homes. You can read more about Bags of Kindness at www.bagsofkindness.org.uk and CLICK HERE if you would like to support SWESRS’ appeal.

As well as being SWESRS Community Care Coordinator, I am a Jewish Women’s Aid ‘Ask Me’ ambassador. I am happy to discuss any concerns you may have regarding domestic abuse in total confidence and to support and signpost to relevant services.

We have a collective responsibility to safeguard others who we feel may be at risk of or experiencing abuse

Wishing you all a peaceful Shabbat

Claire