Domestic Abuse and British Jews

We reported four months ago ( that Jewish Women’s Aid (JWA), the UK national charity for Jewish women and their children affected by domestic violence, was intending to carry out an online survey into the incidence and perceptions of domestic abuse against women in the Jewish community.

The results of that survey have just been published as chapter 3 (pp. 44-58) of Sarah Abramson and Cora Peterson, ‘You know a Jewish Woman suffering from Domestic Abuse’: Domestic Abuse and the British Jewish Community. The 96-page report, exclusively previewed in the Jewish Chronicle of 11 March 2011, is available to download from:

Data collection took place online, via Survey Monkey, between 15 November 2010 and 15 January 2011. The study yielded 842 complete responses, 94% of them from women and 81% from London and the Home Counties.

Recruitment of interviewees was primarily by means of emails forwarded by friends or colleagues (53%), JWA communications (19%) and synagogues (15%).

It is readily conceded by the authors that the sample was entirely self-selecting, non-random and probably not statistically representative of the national Jewish female population.

‘It may be … that people with personal experiences of DV [domestic violence], or knowledge of someone close to them experiencing DV, were more likely to fill out the survey. It is also possible that people sympathetic to JWA objectives were more inclined to take the survey.’ Awareness of JWA (84%) was certainly exceptionally high.

The profile of respondents, while covering a reasonable spread of ages and Jewish religious traditions, was also skewed towards the highly-educated. No fewer than 69% of the women had been educated to university level and 35% had postgraduate qualifications.

Although slavish reliance should not therefore be placed on the data, they are nevertheless still interesting as an indication of a social problem which, despite being hardly discussed in a public religious context, is probably just as widespread among practising members of faith communities as it is in the rest of the population.

Indeed, 68% of these Jewish respondents assessed that domestic abuse occurred at about the same rate in the Jewish community as in society at large. The proportion of Jewish women in the study claiming to have personally experienced domestic abuse (27%) was also close to the national statistic of 25%. Two-thirds of the abuse of Jewish women was at the hands of a partner and the rest by a family member.

Moreover, 55% of respondents said that they knew somebody else who had been a victim of domestic abuse. The number having either direct or indirect experience or knowledge of abuse was 60%, rising to 69% among those in their forties.

78% stated that they had never heard, or could not recall hearing, a rabbi addressing domestic abuse, and only 13% recollected a rabbi condemning such abuse. Just 7% viewed rabbis as a primary source of support in abuse cases, compared with 51% for friends, relatives and neighbours, 44% for JWA, 34% for the police, and 30% for health professionals.

British Religion in Numbers: All the material published on this website is subject to copyright. We explain further here.

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