Domestice violence shelters
This article is meant to be a general guide to seeking and
finding help in shelters. It does not contain addresses, contacts,
and phone numbers. It is not specific to one state or country.
Rather, it describes options and institutions which are common
the world over. You should be the one to "fill in the blanks"
and locate the relevant shelters and agencies in your domicile.
For help, refer to Hot
Be sure to read Coping
with stalking and stalkers for information on other
options and getting help.
Shelters are run, funded, and managed either by governments or by
volunteer non-government organizations. According to a 1999 report published
by the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, there are well over
2000 groups involved in sheltering abused women and their off-spring.
Before you opt for moving with your children into a sheltered home or
apartment, go through this check list.
- It is important to make sure that the philosophy of the organizers of
the shelters accords with your own. Some shelters, for instance, are
run by feminist movements and strongly emphasize self-organization,
co-operation, and empowerment through decision-making. Other shelters are
supervised by the Church or other religious organizations and demand
adherence to a religious agenda. Yet others cater to the needs of specific
ethnic minorities or neighbourhoods.
- Can you abide by the house rules? Are you a smoker? Some shelters are
for non-smokers. What about boyfriends? Most shelters won't allow men on
the premises. Do you require a special diet due to medical reasons? Is the
shelter's kitchen equipped to deal with your needs?
- Gather intelligence and be informed before you make your move. Talk to
battered women who spent time in the shelter, to your social worker, to
the organizers of the shelter. Check the local newspaper archive and visit
the shelter at least twice: in daytime and at night.
- How secure is the shelter? Does it allow visitation or any contact with
your abusive spouse? Does the shelter have its own security personnel?
How well is the shelter acquainted with domestic violence laws and how
closely is it collaborating with courts, evaluators, and law enforcement
agencies? Is recidivism among abusers tracked and discouraged? Does the
shelter have a good reputation among them? You wouldn't want to live in a
shelter that is shunned by the police and the judicial system.
- How does the shelter tackle the needs of infants, young children,
and adolescents? What are the services and amenities it provides?
What things should you bring with you when you make your exit—and
what can you count on the shelter to make available? What should
you pay for and what is free of charge? How well-staffed is
the shelter? Is the shelter well-organized? Are the intake forms
- How accessible is the shelter to public transport, schooling, and to
other community services?
Does the shelter have a batterer intervention program or workshop and
a women's support group? In other words, does it provide counselling for
abusers as well as ongoing succour for their victims? Are the programs run
only by volunteers (laymen peers)? Are professionals involved in any of the
activities and, if so, in what capacity (consultative, supervisory)?
Additionally, does the shelter provide counselling for children, group
and individual treatment modalities, education and play-therapy services,
along with case management services?
Is the shelter associated with outpatient services such
vocational counselling and job training, outreach to high schools
and the community, court advocacy, and mental health services or referrals?
- Most important: don't forget that shelters are a temporary
solution. These are transit areas and you are fully expected
to move on. Not everyone is accepted. You are likely to be interviewed
at length and screened for both your personal needs and compatibility
with the shelter's guidelines. Is it really a crisis situation,
are your life or health at risk—or are you merely looking
to "get away from it all"? Even then, expect to be placed on
a waiting list. Shelters are not vacation spots. They are in
the serious business of defending the vulnerable.
When you move into a shelter, you must know in advance what your
final destination is. Imagine and plan your life after the shelter.
Do you intend to relocate? If so, would you need financial assistance?
What about the children's education and friends? Can you find
a job? Have everything sorted out. Only then, pack your things
and leave your abuser.
Following are just some of the wonderful books on this topic
available from Amazon.com. Click on the cover art to learn more.
For even more resources, visit Amazon.com
Mary Kay Inc. Supports Women's Shelters
Since 2000, the Mary Kay Ash Charitable Foundation has awarded millions of dollars
to women's shelters across the United States. From 2005 through 2007, the Foundation
has awarded $20,000 grants, totaling $3 million, to 150 shelters in all 50 states for
each of these years.