How does domestic violence play into the issues of “mesarvei get” and “agunot?”
Refusing to give a get is a kind of abuse by itself. A man who refuses to give his wife a get is abusing his privileges under Jewish law and is seeking to control her in an abusive way. Often, when a man is unwilling to grant his wife a get, this is a continuation of controlling and abusive behaviors that were present in the couple’s marriage such as physical, emotional, financial, and sexual abuse.
Many Jewish women who have survived domestic violence feel shame because they believe that other Jewish husbands are not abusive and that they themselves have failed to fulfill their duty of creating shalom bayit (peace in the home). Remember that domestic violence is never the victim’s fault, no matter what your religion. Rates of domestic violence are about the same in the Jewish community as in the community at large, and they are the same across all income levels, all levels of education, all streams of Judaism, and all levels of observance. A Jewish woman is as likely as any other woman to become a victim of domestic violence. Like all victims, she does not deserve the abuse. She does deserve the right to take whatever steps are necessary to ensure her safety and happiness and the safety and happiness of her children and future children.
Many battei din (rabbinical courts) consider it a moral obligation to help an abused wife get away from her husband and receive a get. If your beit din (rabbinical court) is not proactive, you might consider contacting an organization that assists agunot (“chained women”) and victims of domestic violence on our Jewish Resources page.