Legal Information: Religious

Jewish Get Law (Divorce Law)

March 12, 2010

How does domestic violence play into the issues of “mesarvei get” and “agunot”?

The behavior of a mesarev get is itself a kind of abuse: 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. Domestic violence is made up of many kinds of abuse (physical, emotional, financial, sexual) that a woman seeking a get may have survived; if her husband forces her to become an agunah, this is another form of 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: domestic violence is never the woman'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 socio-economic 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 such 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 those of her children and future children.

Many battei din consider it a moral obligation to help an abused wife get away from her husband and receive a get.  If your beit din is not proactive, you might consider contacting one of the organizations that assist agunot and victims of domestic violence.