Why might a woman be unwilling to seek a “get” or a civil divorce?
As mentioned above, 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, which is considered a woman's 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. Remember, domestic violence is never your fault and you are not responsible for your husband's behavior.
Women who keep kosher may be afraid to leave abusive husbands because of the difficulty of obtaining kosher food or observing Shabbat in a shelter or safe house. Orthodox women may fear exposing their children to secular culture in a shelter. There may be shelters available that have a kosher kitchen or that might provide you with resources so that you can bring in your own kosher food. Talk to a domestic violence advocate in your state to find out what is available by going to our Places that Help tab under Advocates and Shelters.
Jewish women, like many women who live with domestic violence, may be afraid to leave their husbands out of fear for their children or fear of being separated from them. Or they may fear that they will not find help or a safe place to go to if they are divorced. Orthodox women, many of whom live in small, tight-knit communities, may fear having their domestic problems known within that community; they may also feel uncomfortable exposing their difficulties to people outside the community, such as lawyers and caseworkers. There are legal services agencies out there that specialize in helping Jewish Women. To find out if any exist in your community, go to the Finding a Lawyer page under the Places that Help tab at the top of the page or go to Shelters, organizations, and help for Jewish Women. You can also go to http://www.jewishwomen.org.
You do not have to continue to be abused.