Domestic Violence in the Jewish Community: A five part series to better understand the complexity

Part Two:



I am scared: Physical abuse


Sara wears long sleeves in the summer; she used to wear elbow length sleeves, which was much cooler and more comfortable on those hot days. But the long sleeves were safer-- no one could see the scars. The abuse started slowly, with less obvious signs such as name calling and possessiveness but now, he holds Sara down, throws books at her and occasionally hits her. He’s careful to leave marks only in areas covered by clothing-- never her face, never where anyone else would see. Nobody knows, and she doesn’t think anyone would believe her.


Abusive relationships are defined by an ongoing pattern of coercive behaviors which one person uses against the other to obtain and maintain power and control. There are many ways this can happen.  The most obvious form of domestic violence is physical abuse. Physical abuse is any intentional and unwanted contact which injures or endangers that person. Sometimes abusive behavior does not cause pain or even leave a bruise, but it’s still controlling. The abuser knows that his[1] actions can hurt and are dangerous. Although some abusers don’t always (and may never) use physical violence, the victim is aware that he could injure her and that she is in danger. The knowledge that she is in physical danger, paired with other coercive behaviors, creates a constant feeling of fear. This is the daily experience of victims of domestic violence. They never know when there will be another attack.


Some examples of physical abuse are:

  • Scratching, punching, biting, strangling or kicking.

  • Throwing something such as a phone, book, shoe or plate.

  • Pulling hair.

  • Pushing or pulling.

  • Controlling movement

  • Grabbing clothing.

  • Using a gun, knife, box cutter, bat, pepper spray or another weapon.

  • Locking a spouse in or out of a room/apartment/house

  • Withhold access to necessary medical care

  • Forcing her to use drugs

  • Starving her

  • Grabbing her to prevent her from leaving or to forcing her to go somewhere

  • Driving dangerously fast

  • Threatening to kill her and commit suicide if she ever tried to leave him

Sometimes the abuse may feel like its minor compared to what you have read about in the newspaper or heard other women talk about. But there are no better or worse forms of physical abuse; a person can be severely injured as a result of just being pushed. All these behaviors are controlling and dangerous.


If you are in imminent danger, please call 911. The Police can help keep you safe and connect you to services.  Anyone who thinks they may be a victim of physical abuse , or any form of domestic abuse, is urged to call the Shalom Task Force hotline, toll-free, at 888.883.2323 or 718.337.3700. Our confidential, anonymous hotline is open six days a week, and is staffed by a dedicated team of trained volunteers who can help you.    



[1] For the purpose of this article, masculine pronouns will be used when referring to perpetrators of domestic violence, while feminine pronouns will be used in reference to victims. This should not detract from the fact that there are many male victims and female perpetrators, however, this language reflects that according to the Center for Disease Control, the research reflects that nearly 1 in 4 women (22.3%) and 1 in 7 men (14.0%) aged 18 and older in the United States have been the victim of severe physical violence by an intimate partner in their lifetime.


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