Jewish Women’s Aid launches new service for sexual violence victims

Victims will be supported no matter 'when it happened in their lifetime and whoever it was perpetrated by'


The inaugural Jewish Women’s Aid fundraising dinner also served as the launch of the charity’s Dina specialist support service for women who have experienced sexual violence.

JWA chief executive Naomi Dickson told the 300 guests at a North London hotel that the service would be available to victims of rape, sexual assault and sexual harassment.

“Now more than ever, there is a desperate need for this type of service,” she said. “We experience sustained high numbers of Jewish women contacting us for domestic abuse support, all too often involving complaints about sexual violence.

“Jewish women are reluctant to speak about their experience of sexual violence due to an anxiety and guilt about maligning the community’s image. There is also a notion of shalom bayis [marital harmony], which makes it difficult for Jewish women to come forward. There is a sense of shame — and a fear they won’t be believed.”

Victims would be supported no matter “when it happened in their lifetime and whoever it was perpetrated by”.

The service — which has been awarded £80,000 from Comic Relief towards the next two years — will be available in person to women able to travel to North London, or by phone to others across the UK.

It has already received calls and emails for help and guidance.

In another first, the charity nvited men to the event in a bid to raise awareness.

Mark Adlestone, former chair of Manchester welfare organisation The Fed, said he was honoured to address the dinner, which raised £250,000.

“I am sure there are many men in this audience wondering ‘what we are doing here tonight’? What has the abuse of women got to do with us? Last summer, I was addressing a UJIA leadership programme and met a young Charedi lady who described herself as a survivor of sexual abuse.”

Hearing from her and others had illustrated “the devastating impact abuse had... years after it had ended”.

His message for the men in the room was: “If we are fathers of sons, are we bringing them up to be the kind of men we would want our daughters to marry?”

He introduced the guest speaker, Dame Margaret Hodge, who said JWA’s work was “particularly important at a time where local authorities have massively cut their support for domestic violence services. One in five women’s refuges has gone.”

In an additional fundraising endeavour, guests were encouraged to bring a designer handbag they no longer use for auction at a future function. More than 30 were donated on the night.

Elisa Bayer, who hosted a table on behalf of financial services company Investec, contributed a Dior bag that had belonged to her mother.

“She died this year [aged 89] and I wanted give it to the charity so they could benefit. My mother would have approved of this sort of thing.”

Laura Lehmann gave a black Bottega Veneta cross body bag.

“It is quite small but it is great to wear if you’re running around shopping or travelling,” she explained.

“I wanted to donate to JWA because it is a great idea and I hope they get a lot of money for it. Recycling is amazing and I’m really into it. Just because you don’t want something doesn’t mean someone else doesn’t.”



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