Survey: 200,000 Israeli women have been abused

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JERUSALEM — About 200,000 Israeli women, or about 11 percent of the current female population, have been beaten or abused by their partners at least once, a new study has found.

Jerusalem's JDC-Brookdale Institute conducted the international survey on a variety of health and social issues. Based on a representative sampling, it found that 67,000 Israeli women suffered domestic violence in 1998 alone.

The institute's definition of domestic violence encompasses the physical, sexual and psychological realms. It includes acts such as hitting, shoving and slapping, as well as injuring pets, threatened violence, and taking absolute control over family finances, social contacts and social activities.

The study claims to provide the first estimates of the extent of the phenomenon, the characteristics of women who are victims of violence and the treatment provided for them within the health-care system. The survey was conducted as part of an international comparative study financed by the Commonwealth Fund in the United States.

Reports of domestic violence are lower in Israel than in the United States, where 31 percent of the women reported having been the victim of domestic violence at some time.

The Israeli part of the study found that the rate of women who reported having at some time been the victim of abuse was higher among those with an education below the 12th grade — 19 percent — in comparison to 11 percent among those who had graduated from high school and 5 percent among women with higher education. Those with lower levels of education also reported more incidents of domestic violence in the past year.

The percentage of those reporting that they had at some time been a victim of violence was particularly high among divorced women — 52 percent — compared to 11 percent among widows, 8 percent among married women and 5 percent among single women. Divorced women also reported more incidents of domestic violence in the past year.

With respect to the frequency of violence among Israeli women who had been victims in the past year, 19 percent reported that violent incidents occurred every day or several times a week, 42 percent several times a month, 14 percent several times a year and 25 percent less frequently than that.

Regarding treatment for victims of violence, 26 percent of the Israeli women spoke to their family doctor or with another medical professional.

In most of the cases — 77 percent — the conversation took place at the initiative of the woman; it was initiated by the physician in 9 percent of the cases.

Of those who spoke with their physicians, only 16 percent were referred to file a formal complaint with the police and only 32 percent were referred to support services dealing with domestic violence.

In the States, a slightly higher percentage had spoken to a physician — 29 percent. The doctor initiated the conversation in 20 percent of those cases.

In addition, 23 percent of American women reported that their physician had referred them to the police to file a complaint. Also, 48 percent were referred to supportive services.