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Training to respond to domestic violence
Jewish community spearheads course for Russian women
By Eric Fingerhut
The Washington Jewish Week
January 29, 2001
WASHINGTON, While America has become more aware of and ready
to respond to domestic
violence in the past two decades, Russia has not had the same awakening.
``Our government authority very rarely pays attention to this problem
or, it's better to say they pay no
attention to this problem at all," said Margarita Drozinskaya, who spoke
through a translator.
Drozinskaya is one of eight women who have come to the United States as
part of a leadership training
project on domestic violence in Russia sponsored by Jewish Women
International and NCSJ: Advocates on behalf of
Jews in Russia, Ukraine, the Baltic States & Eurasia, along with the women's
leadership and training organization
Project Kesher and the Russian Jewish Congress. The project is funded by a
$130,000 grant from the State
Department's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Exchanges.
The women three of whom come from Tula, two to three hours outside
Moscow, and three from Voronezh,
about eight hours away from the capital hope to learn how to get the
government to pay more attention to domestic
violence, as well as how to provide services and support for domestic
violence victims in their country.
Right now, if a woman in Russia calls the police reporting that her
husband is hitting her, the usual
response is, ``Can't you work it out?" After multiple calls, the police may
come, but nothing concrete happens. Only
if a woman is murdered will the legal system take over, according to the
Russia also is lacking in support groups and services for domestic
``Unfortunately, we are not able to provide financial support for
battered women," said Evelina
Shubinskaya of Tula, who also like seven of the eight Russian women spoke
through a translator. She said the
community provides some psychological and personal counseling to battered
women, such as ``programs to help
In addition, said Anna Stepanova, the community offers some legal
counseling, which provides advice on
family and housing law and suggests possible vehicles for legal action,
despite the lack of domestic violence laws.
But, she said, while there are a few domestic violence hot lines in
large Russian cities like St. Petersburg,
there is nothing of the sort in smaller cities like Tula.
The women who spoke on Sunday afternoon at the District of Columbia
Jewish Community Center are in
Washington as part of their 2 1/2-week training course in the United States.
The women began their course in
Baltimore, where they visited the House of Ruth domestic violence shelter and
Chana, a Jewish domestic violence
program. The group also met with experts and learned the basics of ``Domestic
Violence 101," said Diane
Gardsbane, director of programs at JWI.
In Washington, they were scheduled to learn about community organizing,
meeting with activists who will
talk about getting attention and building coalitions for their cause. They
then will travel to Richmond and Columbus,
Ohio, to see other types of shelters and learn how other communities deal
with domestic violence. In Columbus, the
group will be learning about family violence and working with the
Russian-speaking Jewish population there.
Lesley Weiss, director of community service and cultural affairs for
NCSJ, said the eight women were
selected in consultation with the Russian Jewish Congress and Project Kesher.
``When you look at the ways [Russian] women are treated in their
families, in the society, by our political
system, all this brings women together to change it," said Svetlana
Yakimenko, executive director of the NIS (Newly
Independent States) Project Kesher in Moscow, who spoke in English.
The women say they hope to learn various strategies they can use when
they get back home. ``The goal of
our training is to get educated ourselves, to increase our professionalism so
we can help support battered women in
our country," said Shubinskaya.
She has already been impressed by the ``high level of help and
assistance" for battered women in the
Elena Bauman said she hoped the group could ``break through the wall of
indifference" toward domestic
violence in Russia, and that another primary goal of the group is to obtain
knowledge on dealing with the media and
establishing contacts with legislators.
But it will not be easy. Stepanova noted that women do not have the same
rights as men in Russia.
``Seventy percent of the [employment] ads are specifically looking for men,"
she said, while in economic downturns,
women are always the first fired from jobs.
And fighting the problem in the Jewish community brings other
difficulties. ``Everyone knows about the
stereotype that the Jewish husband is the best husband possible; it's such an
old Jewish tradition," said Natasha
Slobodianik, program director of Project Kesher in Ukraine. ``Therefore for
Jewish women, it's more difficult to
reach out and say things are not perfect. We're going to change those
© JTA Inc., 2000. May not be reproduced without written permission.