Stabbed 20 times by her husband, she now fights laws favoring aggressors

TEL AVIV – She lay in hospital unconscious and bandaged like a mummy, barely surviving a brutal assault. Her husband for two years had ...


TEL AVIV – She lay in hospital unconscious and bandaged like a mummy, barely surviving a brutal assault. Her husband for two years had smashed her head, face and body with dozens of rolling pin strokes before strangling and stabbing her 20 times with a kitchen knife, all in front of their toddler. screaming.

A neighbor interrupted the attack and Shira Isakov was flown by helicopter to the nearest hospital in southern Israel in critical condition, with medics giving her a 20% chance of staying overnight.

She made it out, surviving, as she put it, “against all odds”.

Just 14 months later, Ms Isakov, 33, a former account manager of the Israeli branch of McCann, the international advertising company, has become a powerful force for legal and social change in the country, using her new voice and its national notoriety for advancing Israel’s struggle to combat violence against women.

Activists in Israel have long criticized laws they say favor perpetrators over victims and highlight a history of lax law enforcement and lenient sentences, with many non-fatal cases ending in settlements. plea with little or no jail time.

The Israeli government has long “turned a blind eye to domestic violence,” said Professor Shalva Weil, an expert on violence against women at the Hebrew University’s Seymour Fox School of Education and founder of the Israeli Observatory on Feminicide, adding that the conviction of the offenders was often “very arbitrary and light”.

But since the attack, Ms Isakov has become a household name in Israel and a hero to many, not because she has been the victim of horrific abuse, but because of the way her case and her voice have gone. helped change Israel’s legal landscape – especially when it comes to laws protecting the parental rights of abusers and their ability to control decisions about a child’s medical care and education from prison.

The assault on Ms Isakov took place on the eve of the Jewish New Year in September 2020. She was on the phone with her parents when it started, and they heard the beatings and her screams in real time.

The cruelty of the attack made headlines across Israel, but what made Ms Isakov an agent of change was the decision she made to go public with her story as she regained consciousness after six days in intensive care.

Her brother Ofer had photographed her as she lay on her hospital bed, horribly disfigured. When she was able to speak again, he asked her permission – if she wasn’t too embarrassed, he said – to post the photos and show the country what her husband, Aviad Moshe, had. made.

“I told her ‘I’m not embarrassed, this is what happened to me, this is what I look like'”, she said last week in an interview at her home, in the apartment in Tel Aviv that she once shared with Mr. Moshe. “Shame is upon him.”

She said she didn’t hesitate to make the decision and was willing to share the details to encourage other women not to ignore the warning signs of a dangerous relationship.

“For a woman who is generally well-groomed and presentable, it’s not pleasant to be seen with her face full of stitches, bruised, with her whole left side shattered, her head shaved and teeth broken,” a- she said, “But I refused to hide.

Media initially blurred the images of his purple, swollen face and scalp crisscrossed with angry red cuts and stab wounds. But after a nurse told her the courts had granted her husband’s request to prevent the publication of her name, to protect her reputation and that of her family, she insisted on being identified in the media.

Its national notoriety rose when Ms Isakov and her neighbor, Adi Guzi, who knocked on the door during the attack and then entered the house at risk of their lives, were among the 14 Israelis honored for their contribution. to the company during Israel’s annual Independence Day. Ceremonial day in April.

Until last year, Ms. Isakov had led a rather ordinary Israeli life in the middle class. Her parents immigrated from the Soviet Union in the 1970s, and she was born and raised in Karmiel, a quiet town in the Galilee Hills in northern Israel, moved to Tel Aviv at age 19 and earned a Diploma in Business Administration from the Open University.

She married Mr. Moshe, an electrical engineer, soon after they met. Their son Léon was born in November 2018.

The first act of violence occurred during an argument the following summer. Ms Isakov complained to the police that Mr Moshe pushed her around and kicked her. Mr Moshe said Ms Isakov attacked him first, and the case was closed due to lack of evidence.

“We reconciled and decided to give our relationship another chance,” she said. But she told Mr Moshe that “a second time, if there was one, it would mean divorce.”

Two months later, Mr. Moshe was offered a 12-month contract to work in Mitzpe Ramon, a remote town in the Negev Desert. The couple decided to move, leaving their small but stylish apartment near the coast in Tel Aviv for the arid south.

There they conceived a second child, but Ms Isakov miscarried later, just two hours after a particularly heated argument. From that point on, she said, the tension in the household intensified and the atmosphere turned ugly.

Ten days later, on the eve of the Jewish holiday, Ms Isakov called her parents to tell them that she would come with Leon to spend the holidays in Karmiel. Mr. Moshe stopped her from leaving and threw her to the ground. She told him the marriage was over and he started beating her.

Mr Moshe, now her ex-husband, is in prison, sentenced in August for attempted murder. He is awaiting a sentencing hearing and could spend 20 years or more in prison.

Ms. Isakov’s personal struggle is far from over, with more surgeries to come.

But since the attack, his achievements in the legal arena have been substantial, and his advocacy is credited with raising awareness among politicians and the general public about some of the shortcomings in the way Israeli society has dealt with domestic violence and its consequences. consequences. .

A first legal victory came when the court also convicted Mr Moshe of child abuse, although Leon, although deeply traumatized, was not physically injured – a legal precedent for Israel, according to Ben Maoz, the Ms. Isakov’s lawyer.

The next battle took place when Ms Isakov requested therapy for Leon and the hospital told her she needed to get the signature from the boy’s father. Leon’s enrollment in a new kindergarten and routine immunizations also required Mr. Moshe’s signature. Mr. Moshe refused to sign.

Ms Isakov and her lawyer turned to a concerned MP, Oded Forer, who had visited her in the hospital as a member of the Parliamentary Committee on the Status of Women and Gender Equality and is now Minister of Agriculture. Within months, the government amended the law to automatically nullify the legal guardianship rights of a parent accused of murder or attempted murder of the other parent or of the sexual assault of a child.

Ms Isakov is now seeking a similar Names Act amendment that would allow her to unilaterally change Leon’s last name from Moshe to Isakov without having to fight her ex-husband in court. And she is pushing for penalties to be imposed on convicted abusers who refuse to attend treatment programs in prison.

Ms. Isakov has also become a source of support for other victims of violence and their families. She recently raised $ 50,000 in gift cards for women in shelters. She is campaigning to increase state subsidies to relatives who raise the children of murdered women.

This month she started speaking nationwide almost daily at the invitation of local councils and leading companies and is fully booked until the end of the year.

Ms. Isakov’s determination to bring more attention to domestic violence and her ability “to speak beautifully and calmly about her trauma and to help others,” Prof. Weil said, helps Israel make notable progress.

Ms Isakov’s openness has been “very effective in reducing the rate of serious domestic violence and ultimately preventing the next femicide,” Prof Weil said, noting that so far in 2021, the number of women killed has fallen by a quarter compared to the same period last year.

With the scars on her forehead showing slightly under her makeup, Ms Isakov is keen to stress in her public speeches that she has refused to feel sorry for herself.

“I didn’t choose what happened to me,” she tells her audience. “But I chose my path in life, what I do with myself and how I raise my child.”

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Newsrust - US Top News: Stabbed 20 times by her husband, she now fights laws favoring aggressors
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