Domestic Violence & Gets
In halacha, marriage is a sacred commitment between husband and wife. Because Jewish law esteems marriage so highly, it looks unkindly on any abuse of the marital bond by either partner, including domestic violence.
Most rabbis, when a couple approaches them about marital conflict, will suggest that the couple participate together in counseling. A battered woman may be intimidated or reluctant to attend counseling for fear that her abuser may inflict further physical or emotional harm. An abused woman may want to alert her rabbi about the presence of domestic violence in her marriage if she feels it is safe to do so and her rabbi assures her that their conversation will remain confidential.
If counseling is not an option, or if after counseling, the spouses do not want to reconcile-a woman can initiate proceedings for a get in many Jewish communities. Some Orthodox authorities will not allow the woman to pursue a get because of a strict interpretation of halacha. In most sectors of Judaism, including Reform, Reconstructionist, Conservative, and many more progressive Orthodox synagogues, a woman can ask her rabbi to convene a beit din to discuss her need to obtain a get.
This is a particularly relevant and delicate issue in abusive relationships. An abusive husband may use this religious power to further abuse and control his wife by refusing to give her a get forcing to her to become an agunah (chained woman).
Why might a woman be unwilling to seek a civil divorce or a get
Jewish women may feel particular shame if they are living in an abusive or controlling marriage, because they feel they have failed to create shalom bayit, or peace in the home, still considered a primary duty under halacha. A Jewish woman may also feel shanda or shame at the failure of her marriage. Many Jewish women are brought up to believe that Jewish men make loving, gentle husbands, and victims of abuse may fear that others in the community will not believe them if they speak out against their husbands. Jewish women, like many women who live with domestic violence, may be afraid to leave their husbands out of fear of losing their children since many abusive men threaten to take children away from their mothers. Orthodox women, many of whom live in small, tight-knit communities, may fear having their private problems known within that community; they may also feel uncomfortable exposing their difficulties to people outside the community, such as lawyers and caseworkers.
Information contained on this website should not be construed as legal advice. Read full disclaimer.