What is Family Violence?

No community is immune to Family Violence. It extends to every social, cultural, religious and economic grouping. In Jewish homes, Family Violence occurs with equal frequency as in the wider Australian community. Orthodox, Reform, Conservative, Hassidic and unaligned families alike are affected by domestic violence.

The term Family Violence is used to describe patterns of behaviour that exert power and control over others. This can take the form of physical, emotional, psychological, financial or religious abuse and sexual assault. Statistics tell us most violence is directed at women. However, children and men may also be victims of Family Violence*.

“Those who make peace in their homes are as if they made peace in all Israel.”

– Avot di Rebbe Natan

Are you feeling?

  • That you are always walking on eggshells trying not to ‘create or cause’ another outburst?
  • Anxiously waiting to see his mood as he comes through the front door?
  • Are you afraid of saying anything in case it makes him angry?
  • Are you anxious – not sure what you did or didn’t do that made him upset?
  • Are you feeling overwhelmed and teary because you are being criticised and put down, feeling you will never be good enough?
  • Do you feel that you are not managing things well enough? That you should be able to do more, be more, cook better and be a better mother?
  • Are you afraid that you are not worthy of anything better? That you won’t be able to support yourself because you don’t have the skills?
  • Are you lonely? Do you feel that can’t tell your family or friends how hard this relationship is or how you are being treated?
  • That it’s all your fault.Maybe if you were smarter, more attractive, more capable you would be able to make this relationship work and be happy?

If you answer YES to any or most of these questions you may be experiencing Family Violence.

Types of violence

Family Violence often occurs in a recurring pattern. We call this the Cycle of Domestic Violence. At times there is calm (sometimes called the honeymoon period), then tension builds to a peak when blow-ups and outbursts occur. Abusive behaviour can take one or more forms:


Injuries or use of physical force that may or may not require medical attention, for example –

  • restraining
  • grabbing
  • pushing or shoving
  • pulling hair
  • shaking
  • hitting
  • pinching or biting
  • burning
  • using a weapon
  • forced drug/alcohol use


Language or actions that diminish the partner’s sense of self worth, for example –

  • persistent criticism
  • constant name calling
  • causing embarrassment
  • mocking or humiliating
  • constant put-downs
  • insulting cynicism and sarcasm


Threats and intimidating behaviour that cause fear or isolate the woman, for example –

  • Threatening to take children away
  • Limits contact with friends or family
  • Threats of harm to victim and family
  • Blaming victim for abusive behaviour
  • Deliberately ignoring, or silent abuse
  • Persistent monitoring of whereabouts
  • Stalking and harassment
  • Invasive use of technology
  • Threat of self harm or suicide
  • Damage to property
  • Threat to or actual abuse of pets


Behaviour that makes or tries to make a person financially dependent, for example:

  • Taking control of financial resources
  • Controlling someone’s earnings or income
  • Withholding money or access to funds
  • Providing inadequate funds for food, toiletries, medicine and personal items
  • Preventing the partner from working
  • Forbidding access to education
  • Threatens to have her fired from work
  • Giving inaccurate financial information

Religious & Spiritual

Holding sway over the way a person worships or participates in their community, such as:

  • Deciding the synagogue a woman attends
  • Forcing someone to be more or less religiously observant
  • Preventing access to a chosen community
  • Insisting she conforms to his Jewish ideal
  • Misreading Jewish teachings to justify abuse


Conduct of a physical, verbal or non-verbal nature that is demeaning to the victim, for example:

  • Limiting reproductive rights
  • Preventing contraceptive use
  • Forcing her to go to the Mikvah before the appropriate time
  • Pressuring a woman for sex during her time of Niddah
  • Forcing abortion
  • Coercing prostitution

For unwanted sexual behaviour, pressured sexual contact and physical violation, refer to sexual assault.
Download the JTAFV Cycle of Domestic Violence or Duluth Wheel of Violence resource.

Effects of abuse

Typically, abuse leaves the partner feeling responsible or disempowered. For this reason, many people in difficult circumstances take time to recognise the problem. Some Jewish women are even reluctant to seek help because they:

  • feel responsible for Shalom Bayit
  • love their partner and are committed to the marriage
  • believe the family will be shamed in their community and carry a stigma
  • wonder how they will manage financially or they do not have independent means
  • are persuaded it is better for children to live with both parents
  • worry about their children’s prospects in life, including a good “Shidduchim” (life partner)
  • have lost confidence or become isolated because of the abuse
  • feels pressured to stay or is frightened of what may happen if she leaves
  • think the abuse is their fault and hope the partner’s behaviour will change

What should I do?

If you are living with Family Violence, ensuring your safety and that of any children is the highest priority. To do that, you will probably need help. Counselling support, professional services and trained Rabbis are available to help limit your vulnerability and protect your privacy.

The next steps you take will create a plan of action and help build a life free of abuse. Contact Jewish Taskforce Against Family Violence for confidential support information and service referrals. Or see our Links page.

General Population Statistics for Victoria, *2012 – 2013

Number of Family Violence incidents reported in Victoria 60,829
Rate per 1,000 of population 93.11%
Average number Family Violence incidents reported to police each week 1,169
Proportion of female victims 75.1%
Proportion of male perpetrators 76.9%
Proportion of victims aged 15-44 69%

*Figures based on Victoria Police Crime Statistics 2012/13

Other pages in this section

What's your role in family violence? Did you know the person sitting next to you could be a victim?
Intervention Orders