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campaigning for domestic violence courts

The largest affiliate of the CWOI, Wizo Israel, has initiated the establishment of dedicated domestic violence courts in Israel, in a campaign to streamline justice for the victims of domestic violence.
On the International Day of Elimination of Violence against Women, Gila Oshrat, President of CWOI and of Wizo Israel, together with MP Merav Michaeli, organized a panel discussion on this subject in the Knesset, which included: the Minister of Justice Tzipi Livni, lawyers, social workers and professors from the Academia. The key note speaker was the Hon. Judy Harris Kluger, Chief of Policy and Planning for New York State's Unified Court.

For women escaping from the vicious cycle of domestic violence, facing a convoluted court system and a protracted criminal process against their abusive partners is nothing short of a nightmare. Unfortunately, as it stands today, this is exactly the reality in Israel.
After turning to social services and the justice system for protection, these highly vulnerable domestic violence victims often must face their abusive partners in several different courts to handle the different facets of the case – including civil, family and criminal – before several different judges. With the majority of these women terrified to come forward at all – much less press criminal charges – an inefficient court system and intimidating legal battle is a huge obstacle standing in the way of empowering abused women to secure protection from their abusive partners and rebuild their lives.
To further complicate matters, like the victims, law enforcement and social services officials also have to testify and explain the case to several different judges. As can be easily imagined, more than infrequently, the various presiding judges often only hear only select facets of the case and receive a fragmented picture of the story, leading to inefficient and sometimes conflicting sentencing.
Ahead of International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, WIZO is hosting a special 'One Family, One Judge' initiative in the Knesset.  The proposal seeks to launch a single, designated court for domestic violence to streamline the legal process by integrating the various parties and courts involved – including law enforcement and welfare services – under the supervision of one judge. Furthermore, judges presiding over these designated courts will receive special training on the nature of domestic violence.
To help present the model to the Knesset, WIZO has invited American judge, Hon. Judy Harris Kluger, Chief of Policy and Planning for New York State’s Unified Court System and an instrumental figure in implementing the US version of 'One Family, One Judge.'

Help from America

Speaking on the challenges facing domestic violence victims in NY, Judge Kluger explains that previous to IDV (Integrated Domestic Violence) courts, domestic violence victims had to face their husbands in a number of different courts: Family court, divorce court and criminal court if criminal charges were to be pressed. Sometimes, Kluger mentioned, different judges from different courts would give conflicting sentences, especially when divorce and custody issues were concerned. Thanks to IDVs, one judge – with insight into all aspects of the case – oversees all facets of domestic violence cases, ensuring the more efficient delivery of justice.
Further to this, Judge Kluger explained that rates of recidivism have declined under this integrated system, which is a problem in Israel, where follow-up to domestic violence cases is often non-existent.

The numbers: Domestic Violence in Israel Today

To the great dismay of WIZO, domestic violence rates are on the rise in Israel, and an inefficient legal system does little to address the problem. In 2013 alone, 19 women were murdered by their partners and 11,000 domestic violence complaints were registered with the police. In total, the estimated domestic violence victim population numbers 200,000.
A Cause for Optimism

Promisingly, integrated domestic violence courts have been launched successfully in over 300 courts worldwide with positive results. Should the 'One Judge, One Family' initiative be implemented, Israel may be on the brink of a breakthrough in addressing its domestic violence problem.