Our interview began on a positive note. A woman who had been a victim of domestic violence and sought shelter called Ruth Rasnic
to find out how now that she was independent, she could repay Ruth and
the shelter for the help that they gave to her, to begin her life anew.
Ruth’s response to the woman was to pass on help to someone in need.
The simple idea that a woman who is now contributing to society would
probably be dead, as a victim of domestic abuse demonstrates the
importance of Ruth’s mission.
As the founder and director of L.O. – Combat Violence Against Women, Ruth continues to be a leader in the movement to protect women from domestic violence. LO is the Hebrew word for no.
Ruth is a person who does not give up, and a visionary who puts her
thoughts into action. The inner strength to keep going and move ahead,
because it is “the right thing to do” is the very fire that burns
Today Ruth is running in the local Herzliyya elections. As she was
handing out flowers to passersby one recent Friday, an Ethiopian woman
stopped to talk. She asked Ruth, if she recognized her. The woman who
walked confidently and had the glowing look of a young woman enjoying
life said: “I am your daughter.” She went on to explain, saying that
when she was younger she escaped to a L.O. shelter. Today she is an
independent employed, single parent, the mother of a 17 year old.
With all of the work that has been accomplished there is a great deal
of both satisfaction and unhappiness. Although the shelters do rescue
women and many are able to build an independent life, all too many
women are incapable of living on their own due to the violence that
Rasnic and a group of women opened the first women’s shelter in April
1978, in Herzliyya. Fourteen months later a woman was murdered on the
shelter grounds. “I have never ever, ever gotten this out of my system.
I have never recovered form this and never want to,” says Ruth. “I will
always remember Caremla Nackesh because it reminds me that every woman
is a victim.”
Since then, the shelter has a much tighter security as well as shelter laws about how to protect women.
Seeing so many dysfunctional homes, Ruth now appreciates how fortunate
she was to be raised in a family with two parents who loved each
other. Born in Jerusalem in 1932, Ruth was “always an activist.”
She was involved in the pre-state underground; then joined Ruchama; a
Shomer Hatzair kibbutz and later the Israel Air Force.
Influenced by Betty Friedan, and aware that working women tended to be
more satisfied with their lives, Ruth got involved in politics.
Together with Shulamit Aloni, Marsha Friedman and Nava Arad, she
founded the Women’s Party in 1977. The party’s platform was to increase
rights and advance the status of women in Israel. “The ideology came
across in the media. It was a radical platform. There was an entire
section on violence against women. It may have been the first time that
a political party had a section on violence against women,” says Ruth.
“Six months after the election a man from Bat Yam murdered his wife. He
‘never expected her to die of the bashing. She was used to it’”,
remembers Ruth. “They had been married three months.”
“That was the trigger. I began to write to the media and to friends. On
Sukkot in 1977, a group of women came to my office. I had enough
experience in politics to know that we needed a set agenda,” says Ruth.
“We sat and discussed the issues and concluded that we need to form a
legal entity to combat violence against women. L.O. or NO was
founded—women were not prepared to suffer from violence anymore.
Changing attitudes and acceptable norms in society involved new
legislation. Since 1979 Ruth has been involved in each new legislation
passed. Some include:
- Protection order
- Employed battered women can get six months unpaid leave and can then return to their job and receive severance pay.
- Housing assistance for victims of domestic violence starting independent lives.
- Upon leaving a shelter women can receive funds to purchase furniture, electrical appliances when setting up an independent home.
- Exemption from municipal property tax
How does Rasnic weigh success?
- Public awareness. Today, domestic violence issues are
written about and given attention in the media. As a result, Israelis
are becoming sensitized to issues of domestic violence and violence
- Approximately 13 plays about battered women have been written and produced.
- Countless members of the Israeli Knesset visit the
shelters and spend time talking and learning from the abused women
about their plight.
- L.O. is responsible for three shelters: Herzliyya, Hadera and Rishon LeZion. More shelters are in the planning stages.
- A new legal department is slated to open in 2004.
Unlike other existing programs, this service will assist victims of
domestic violence who are working women and are not eligible for legal
aid. They will pay a nominal fee for service.
Statistics for women and children who took shelter in 2002
|No. of days in shelter
Beyond the shelters, the organization enables women to ease back into
society through a number of transition apartments, which enable women
to gain employment, build up the revenue necessary to rent housing, put
their children into school and begin to their new independent lives.
L.O. – Combat Violence Against Women
runs the national toll-free hotline for women in distress 1-800-353-300.
The hotline, which is answered by trained volunteers, operates 24 hours
a day, 7 days a week. The volunteers speak to callers in Hebrew,
Russian and English.
Additionally, the volunteers answer calls to the hotline for children and teens in distress at 09-951-8927.
By Michele Kaplan-Green