Jewish Women's Aid warns of unprecedented domestic abuse crisis amid lockdown

JWA Chief Executive said that abuse had 'escalated' during the lockdown


The Chief Executive of Jewish Women’s Aid (JWA) has said that there has been a “massive increase” in the numbers of women seeking help during the coronavirus lockdown, but warned that they were only “the tip of the iceberg”.

Naomi Dickson said that JWA was experiencing demand for services over a third greater than at the same time last year, and that caseworkers had remarked that women reaching out for support during lockdown were “exhibiting greater signs of anxiety” and that “physical abuse seems to be looming larger than before”.

“What we’re seeing is an escalation where women are unable to get out,” Ms Dickson said.

“They are telling us that their children are witnessing more abuse than ever before, and that it is causing trauma,” she added.

She said that lockdown had been “misused by perpetrators who have used it as another tool to abuse and control women,” adding that JWA was “incredibly aware of the huge amounts of women who are unable to seek support while in lockdown with a perpetrator.”

The trends that JWA have experienced matches with a broader national picture – in May, the National Domestic Abuse Helpline reported that it had been receiving a 50 per cent increase in calls.

“As the lockdown eases and as perpetrators start leaving the house,” Ms Dickson said, “there will be an increase in demand for services and we will have some very difficult, sad and awful cases on our hands where women are reaching out for support after having a really dreadful and frightening lockdown.”

Jewish Women’s Aid, which was founded in 1995, is an organisation that supports women affected by domestic and sexual violence. It operates education programmes in schools and a national, anonymous helpline, and has a volunteer base of 146 around the UK.

Ms Dickson said that while she was “worried” about the coming months, saying that “tight budget” meant that many voluntary organisations did not have the “capacity to expand swiftly”, she was confident that JWA would be able to support all those who needed help.

In May, JWA launched a fundraising to ensure that it could meet the increased demand for support.

The organisation said that it was "very conscious of the economic damanage caused by the pandemic" and were expecting "medium to long-term consequences" as a result. 

JWA has also been providing financial support to those in need, by providing grants to women with children who need technology to keep up with schooling, or women who have welfare needs, such as rent, shopping and utility bills.

This week, the JWA has also been liaising with St Andrews’ University and Jewish student organisations after numerous allegations of rape and sexual assault were raised at the university – centred on an all-male Jewish fraternity. 

The JWA said: “We stand firmly against any and all instances of sexual violence and want women and girls in the Jewish community to know that we are here to support them if they are affected.” 

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