The number of calls made to hotlines for victims of domestic violence in the Orthodox community has increased three-fold over the past few years, Yedioth Ahronoth reported Thursday.
The number of haredi women who called the hotlines jumped from 477 in 2004 to 1,402 in 2007, while the number of women who were housed in shelters for battered women each month nearly doubled, from 24 to 40 on average.
Attorney Noah Korman, who established the first shelter for abused haredi women in 2000 and opened a second one two years later said, "The phenomenon of violence against women exists in the Orthodox community just as it does in any other, but it was not made public as it was in the secular sector. Haredi women preferred to keep it secret. It must be remembered that domestic violence brings great shame on an Orthodox family."
According to him, haredi women turned to the hotlines and shelters as a last resort.
"Women who arrived here did so after suffering years of abuse, when they felt they were in danger and could not take it anymore," Korman said.
'It's strictly forbidden to beat a woman'
He said the change in the rabbis' position regarding the phenomenon was also instrumental encouraging more abused women in the community to seek help.
"Haredi women are becoming more and more aware of the dangers related to domestic violence, and the new generation of rabbis is encouraging them to file complaints and break the cycle (of violence)," Korman said.
David Yosef, the rabbi of Jerusalem's Har Nof neighborhood and the son of Shas spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, declared on Wednesday that it was "strictly forbidden to beat a woman.
"If the need arises to involve the police in this matter, then they should be involved," he said.
Korman said most of the violent incidents against haredi women take place on Shabbat due to the fact that on weekdays the men are usually studying at yeshiva or tending to other matters.
He said that in many cases the violence erupts at the Shabbat diner table, adding that many of the haredi women arrive at the shelters with their children, "sometimes with nine or 10 of them".
On Wednesday Welfare Minister Issac Herzog visited a shelter for battered haredi women for the first time.
"The conspiracy of silence regarding violence against Orthodox women is slowly being broken, and we plan on helping them as best we can," he said.