An interfaith campaign against domestic abuse launched this week is sounding the alarm over “spiritual abuse” within religious communities.
Organisers say the form of abuse is present across all faith groups, including the Jewish community, and can be defined as “the misuse of religious scriptures and teachings to oppress or harm an individual.”
The campaign, organised by the Women's Interfaith Network and the Faiths Forum for London, drew support from Naomi Dickson, CEO at Jewish Women's Aid.
"Spiritual abuse is a common method of abuse in the Jewish community and something our support workers are trained to recognise and respond to.
"It may be that a woman is told by an abuser that she has to put up with being mistreated in order to maintain ‘shalom bayit’ – a peaceful home – or they might misrepresent Jewish law and custom to control her. This form of abuse is more common in faith communities which is why this campaign is so important,” she said.
The campaign, Faiths Against Domestic Abuse Awareness Week, which runs from 23 November to this Friday, also seeks to highlight the impact of the lockdown on victims.
Domestic abuse charities have recorded a surge in demand for support in recent months. Refuge’s national domestic abuse helpline has drawn more than 40,000 calls since the start of lockdown.
Lady Gilda Levy, chair and co-founder of the Women's Interfaith Network, warned domestic abuse is "being exacerbated by the pandemic."
"Domestic abuse is an act of brutality that affects all faiths, cultures and societies and none are immune. We owe it to the victims to make our voices heard in condemnation. I am so proud that Women’s Interfaith Network has joined forces with Faiths Forum for London to highlight this growing problem, which is being exacerbated by the pandemic."
The campaign received the backing of Kingston Liberal Synagogue. The shul tweeted its support on Wednesday, warning that “faith communities have an essential role to play in preventing domestic abuse.”
Jewish victims can seek support from Jewish Women’s Aid and their domestic abuse helpline on 08088010500 or their sexual violence support Line on 08088010656.
Victims can also call the 24-hour Women’s Aid Domestic Violence Helpline on 0808 2000 247 or the police on 999 and dial 55 when prompted if unable to speak.