Tuesday, November 23, 2021

Spousal Abuse of Men?

Naama Zarbiv (Arutz Sheva)
The plague of women who are Agunos still exists. Although there has been some improvement in the form of Halachic prenuptial agreements  (which is beginning to take hold even in Charedi circles) there are still husbands that refuse to give their wives a Get (Halachic divorce). Leaving these women unable to  remarry because they are still technically married to their estranged husbands. 

Women that suffer from this type of abuse deserve our support. Solving this problem should be among the top agenda items in the Orthodox Jewish community. But abuse by men of their wives during divorce proceedings is by far not the only instance of abuse. Spousal abuse is a major problem in all of society, including Orthodox Jewish ones. There are plenty of woman whose husbands physically and sometimes brutally abuse them.

Women are clearly seen as the primary victims of spousal abuse. Although men can be abused by their wives, it is thought to be so rare, that it is hardly ever discussed. And because of legitimate Agunah concerns abuse of women is the focus of advocacy groups that deal with these issues.

I have always tended to see it this way. Logic – it would seem – dictates that women – who are usually physically weaker than men are most often the victims of abuse. But according to one such advocate, Naama Zarbiv, this may not be the case at all. Here is what she said: 

(We) requested statistics for grievous bodily harm (GBH), inflicted on men by women and the reverse. We especially wanted statistics for GBH because it’s something that can be proven with physical evidence, and also because a lot of people claim that while the phenomenon of spousal abuse against the husband exists, it refers to emotional abuse rather than physical.” 

“The figures simply stunned us,” she says. Police statistics for 2020 showed that while 177 cases had been opened relating to the male spouse inflicting violence on the female, a whopping 2,068 cases had been opened relating to violence inflicted by the female spouse on the male. 

This disparity shocked me. Although opening a case does not mean resolving it, it cannot be that in most of those over 2000 reported cases that their husbands lied. Nor can it be that in most cases the women were reacting to violence initiated against them by their husbands While some of that might be true, that over 11 times the number of men reported being abused by their wives over the reverse can all be explained away like that. 

Why is this statistic not more known? I believe it is partly because men are embarrassed to publicly admit they have been abused by their wives.  But perhaps mostly the reason for that might be found in the following incident described by Zarbiv:

 “When I tried to talk about the phenomenon at a Knesset panel discussion, and requested statistics from the police so that budgets could be allocated accordingly, Tamar Zandberg (Meretz) – who was then standing in as chair of the committee – cut me off and muted my microphone, ‘explaining’ that violent women do not exist.” 

‘Violent women do not exist.’ It is that kind of comment that perpetuates the false narrative that women are the only (or vast majority) of victims of spousal abuse. 

I tend to agree with Zabriv. As I have said many times. today’s version of feminism is a radical departure from its original and justifiable mission of  mutual respect between the sexes and equality in the workplace. Today’s feminism goes much further than that. To the point of denying inconvenient truths that don’t fit their agenda. 

Here is Zabriv’s explanation for the metamorphosis feminism has undergone since the days when I fully supported it:

“Once a revolution attains its goals, extremists enter the picture and use the same language as the revolutionaries in order to advance a radical position. This is what has happened with the feminist movement, which attained its goals a while back already. Those using feminist language today are radical feminists and ‘post-gender’ activists, and their aim is to dismantle traditional gender structure and identity – to dismantle the social structure entirely, in fact.”

Although there may be some feminists that would not go this far, I don’t think Zabriv is that far off. 

That being said, we must not lose sight of the fact that a lot of women are brutally abused by their husbands. Nor should we ignore the fact that the Agunah problem is unique to women.  But working to improve their lot in life does not preclude working to eliminate the apparently much greater incidence of spousal abuse by women against husbands. If that is true, this is a very real problem that has been swept under the rug for way too long.