Domestic violence is an acute and complex social problem that affects men and women in all populations and religions, at all ages, and of all social and economic classes. As part of the inter-ministerial national program for preventing and responding to domestic violence, led by the Ministry of Welfare and Social Affairs, a dedicated committee has been set up to develop and introduce digital tools and advanced technologies for improving the response to domestic violence and reducing its scope.
This study presents findings from data collection through focus groups conducted with men and women caught up in the cycle of violence and referred to specialized care centers for dealing with domestic violence, and with the relevant care professionals. The study was conducted at the initiative and with the assistance of JDC-Elka and the Rashi Foundation as part of the committee’s follow-up work led by the Ministry of Welfare and Social Affairs.
The empirical, practical, professional, and moral rationale for this method of data collection, directly from service recipients and the professionals providing the service, is that they are the ones who have the knowledge, the information, and the perspective required to identify barriers, formulate policy, and develop solutions for preventing, identifying, and dealing with risk and emergency situations. This methodology reflects the conviction that service recipients should take part in policy-making, in line with the principle of “nothing about us without us.”
The goal of the data collection project was to map the needs, barriers, and challenges in the various systems dealing with domestic violence at the various stages of the cycle of violence. The mapping was designed to serve as a basis for improving existing services and developing new technological solutions for preventing risk and emergency situations, increasing public awareness of such situations, and providing an optimal response to the victims and perpetrators of domestic violence.
The focus groups findings are presented in this study according to six thematic axes specified by the dedicated committee:
- Identification of risk situations
- Assistance in real time
- Communities and support
- Educational and public discourse
- Professional care
- Knowledge and information
Regarding each of these six thematic axes, the following barriers were identified in the professional systems dealing with domestic violence: lack of availability, accessibility, and prompt response on the part of both the professional care providers and the law enforcement bodies, exposing the victims of domestic violence to higher risks; lack of standardization of the type and scope of the care services provided by various local authorities; shortage of human resources; difficulties in the exchange of information between the various entities concerned and lack of planned and systematic systemic work; complex and lengthy bureaucratic processes in the public services dealing with domestic violence at the various stages of the cycle of violence and lack of trust in these services; lack of awareness and knowledge among the public bodies in charge of identifying and preventing risk situations; lack of preventive interventions prior to the escalation of violence; and lack of educational and informational programs for raising awareness to the problem.
In addition, the following barriers were identified on the level of the individual, the community, and society: indifference to the problem in society, in general; the reluctance of those in the close environment to intervene in family matters; gender biased socialization and judgmental attitudes of society toward the victims of domestic violence; attempts by the community and the close environment to prevent exposure of domestic violence; the reluctance of domestic violence victims and offenders to acknowledge their involvement in the cycle of violence; and lack of knowledge and information among victims and offenders regarding the available assistance systems and the ways to contact them.
- This study offers insights and conclusions based on the mapping according to thematic axes and the comparison between the groups. While the data collection through focus groups was originally designed to identify and characterize needs that could be met by technological means, it yielded a wealth of knowledge on the needs of both service users and the professionals providing the service as well as on barriers in the existing services that had to be addressed. Hence, the new technological developments may complement the professional systems dealing with domestic violence but are not intended to replace the existing systems. Rather, the new technological developments are designed to offer solutions at each stage of the cycle of violence, from educational and informational programs through proactive detection and response in real time to professional care and enforcement by the authorities. It also emerged that preference should be given to basic technological developments such as secure and simple to use computerized databases for pooling knowledge and information and exchange of the knowledge and information by the professional systems.
- It is important to periodically conduct data collection projects of this kind to ensure the ongoing monitoring of policy implementation in line with its goals, to remove barriers that face both service users and the professionals providing the service, and to realize the principle of “nothing about us without us” according to which service recipients should take part in policy-making processes that directly affect their lives.