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Alimut - How Israelis Define Domestic Abuse

Alimut Israelis Domestic Abuse

"Alimut": How Israelis Define Domestic Abuse

In recent years, the Israeli media has covered many cases of domestic violence. Usually, these stories appear in the news as a result of a man killing his wife.

In lieu of these occurrences, psychologists and social workers who have appeared on television, as well as the lecturers espoused by women's rights groups, have focused almost exclusively on the physical nature of domestic violence.

These experts warn women of the tell-tale signs of impending domestic abuse; a husband's sole control of household finances, unwarranted jealously, attempts by the husband to isolate a woman from her family and friends, controlling her physical appearance (clothing, make-up), constant criticism, and threats.

While we are familiar with photographs from police reports, showing women who were beaten, the experts aforementioned rarely discuss the domestic violence that ravages the soul; verbal abuse.

Verbal abuse can be just as detrimental to women's physical well-being violence. While I was being verbally abused, I would wake up in the middle of the night with my heart racing, as if I'd run a marathon. Later it was discovered by professionals in the medical profession, that my long exposure to verbal abuse had caused my blood pressure to sky-rocket. I was a thin, health-conscious 37-year-old who never touched a cigarette…ever.

Verbal violence is devastating. It is a case of literally living with the enemy. It involves constant negative criticism, public humiliation and disparagement, threats of physical violence (such as objects being thrown in one's direction, being roughly awoken at 4:00 AM because a husband cannot find a matching pair of socks). Verbal abuse is characterized by its hallmarks of fear and intimidation. At one point, I felt nearly suicidal. From an abused wife's perspective, there seems to be no way out when the woman has no personal income, when society respects the professional husband, and when the care and financial support of children is involved.

A woman who is the victim of either verbal or physical abuse may well have difficulty in being believed. When a husband is a respected professional (doctor, lawyer, professor, politician etc.) and has a large social circle, including professional cronies, who will vouch for his virtues and reputation, the wife of such a man may find herself up against an incredulous social milieu.

Being a victim of domestic abuse means living in a state of constant paranoia. The victim expects the worst to happen at any given moment. Some women feel it is their duty to cover up this dark secret, and put a good face on it when appearing in public.

It is urgent that professionals in the field as well as the media understand that domestic physical abuse and verbal abuse are one and the same. Women must be protected from both phenomena in equal measure.

Published: 2006-12-24
Author: Michelle Tellford

About the author or the publisher

Michal Tal
Author Biography

Born: Nyack, NY, 1951
Education: B.A. English Literature (Columbia University)
B.H.L. Bachelor of Hebrew Literature (Jewish Theological Seminary of America)
M.A. English Literature (Tel Aviv University)


I am an artist, writer, mother of four, and English teacher. I received my B.A. in English Literature from Columbia University, my M.A. from Tel Aviv University (Thesis: An Evil and Corrupting Presence: The Gothic House and Its Occupants). I am presently about to enroll in a doctoral program (English Lit.) at Bar-Ilan University).

I have published feature articles in the Israeli media; several articles, including “Beating Swords Into Plowshares”, for Aliyon, the Israeli immigrant monthly, an interview with a local sculptor for The Ra’anana News, “Guy’s Gotta Dance” for The Jerusalem Post, and “Being a Blonde in Israel” (a tongue-in-cheek discourse on racial prejudice) for Yediot Ahronot, Israel’s main daily newspaper. More recently, I published a children’s book, The Secrets of Silver Lake, with the publisher, Eric Cohen Books, (which creates and publishes English proficiency material for Spanish–speaking countries) under the nom de plume Michelle Telford. I am trying to market my historical novel, Lion of Judah, as well as my latest children's book, Ignatius von Fishcale.

My latest academic works have focused on the historical themes of the ideal woman and the spectralized, racialized "other" in 19th century Gothic English Literature.

Personal information:
Married: 1971
Emigration to Israel: 1980
Divorced: 1990
Four Children: Benji (attorney) Rami (EMT) Sarit (pre-college), Edan, Lieutenant in the IDF

Artist, writer, English Instructor

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