Gina Fromer Centre for battered women in Ashdod (by Gilla Liberman)
There are 16 shelters for battered women in Israel two of which belong to WIZO. Many different federations have donated money here. Begun in the 1970’s, it has been working for 30 years. The complex was donated by the municipality and WIZO supports it and runs it together with the Welfare ministry. The communities pay some support- if a woman was from Jerusalem, that municipality would pay something toward support. The woman only pays for school fees.
The shelter can hold 12 women and 25 children. At the moment there are 20 children in the centre. They live as in a commune. They are rostered to wash, clean, cook. They eat together. The staff shops for food. If they want to buy extra food they need to eat it out of the shelter. For example if buy treat for child, not fair for it to be eaten in front of the other children. They have their own kindergarten for those less than 3 years and those over 3 go to the local kindi. If a child is slow e.g. still in nappies they keep the child longer. They also bring in therapists e.g. for motor skills. The shelter employs 3 social workers- 2 work with the women; 1 expert in sexual trauma. The other is an expert in treating trauma. Battered women are traumatised. They may have been abused as a child as well as by their husband so there are layers of trauma.
It is very hard to stay in the shelter because there are lots of rules. Even if they go back to their husband, they never go back the same. They learn about valid relationships. They take part in group therapy which helps them learn about others and compare with themselves. Many return to the shelter having tried to go back to their husband for economic reasons. One woman was back for the 5th time!
Shrapnel fell on the yard in the war. The small children slept in the shelter and all the women and older girls slept in dining room. When they heard the alarm, they all ran into shelter.
Eight women were here during the war with 20 children plus staff. They had 45 seconds to get into the shelter when the siren rang. They worked in shifts. The director drove back and forth to Tel Aviv as that is where her children were. She said it was terrifying.