A conference titled "The Other Faces of Domestic Violence" that was held at Ariel University Center Monday was an unusually dramatic one, as academic conferences go.
Several fathers who have been unable to see their children for protracted periods of time because of spurious complaints of violence lodged against them by ex-wives told their wrenching stories. One father barely managed to hold back his tears as he told of a young son he has not seen for eight years.
Introduced by MK Alex Miller (Yisrael Beitenu), Head of the Knesset's Education Committee, and by the dean of AUC's School of Sociology, Prof. Yisrael Nebentzal, the conference coincided with a week in which the Knesset and women's organizations mark the UN's "International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women."
It featured speakers on the variety of topics that fall under the heading of domestic violence, or intimate partner violence – including violence against children, violence against men, and violence against the elderly – as well as violence against women.
Prof. Ben-David, Dr. Hagit Bonny-Noach and Dr. Inna Levy, all of AUC's Criminology Dept., went so far as to describe a "demonization" of men in modern Israeli culture that they compared to a "witch hunt" mentality.
The audience at AUC's packed Ra'ab Auditorium heard data according to which Israel is a world leader in the percentage of parents – almost exclusively fathers – who are made to see their children under strict supervision in so-called "visitation centers." According to the data, which relies on information published by the Ministry of Welfare, a whopping 25% to 33% of children in divorce cases that involve social workers' intervention are sent to "visitation centers" to see one of their parents instead of meeting them in a natural environment..
The periods of time in which a parent sees his children only in "visitation centers" can last months or years, and parents who have undergone this experience say that it is an excruciating one, which can wind up damaging the parent-child relationship for good.
One of the speakers was Lt. Col Orna Nachmani Arazi, Head of the Police's Department for Victims of Crime, which is in charge of domestic violence investigations. In the course of her lecture, a father who is prevented from seeing his daughter rose from his seat in the audience and accused the police of bias. In response, Arazi she told him that his was "an unusual case" and defended the police's policy of automatically seeing the woman as victim in cases of alleged domestic violence.