Domestic Violence Shelters

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.

1. 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.

Domestic Violence Statistics - House in Hand2. 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?

3. 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.

4. 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.

5. 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 anonymous?

6. How accessible is the shelter to public transport, schooling, and to other community services?

7. 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?

8. 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.


  1. Ryan Weeks says:

    “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.”

    And not a single one for men and their childeren. When you call the police to protect your childeren from the violent women, they mock you, harass you, and force you to leave your childeren behind to continue being abused.

  2. I don’t know where you are at, but at the shelter I work at we are a non-descriminatory shelter and are open to all DV persons, male, female, gay or lesbian. We want to keep victims safe, regardless of their gender or sexual preference. I am sorry you have not been exposed to that.

  3. Oh Ryan, I am sorry that you have been treated that way – keep trying – there are options to get you and your children in a safe enviroment. Since Susan (who commented above me) works at a shelter, maybe you can find out if she has some resources to share with you.

  4. Hi, Susan and Stacy!

    Ryan is correct. There are about 2,000 shelters in the United States, and VERY FEW of them offer comparable services to battered men, which they offer to battered women. We need to get out of the mindset that OUR shelter provides non-discriminatory care. Comparable care is a right of equality and humanity; there is no excuse why a battered man must travel a thousand miles for sheltering, when their life is imminent danger. (Ryan) shouldn’t have to look hard for help. If an abused woman were told to keep looking, there would be an uproar. What if he were your son, father, brother, neighbor, friend, etc.? This is a fact in domestic violence. I’ve been an advocate for under-served victims of domestic violence for almost eight years, and I hear frequently about his concerns from many others. They are very real, and there is absolutely no excuse.

  5. I want to say that MOST often leaving the house is on the fly, many victims don’t want to think about what to do next. Many times there is only a single shelter for miles. Not much for options regarding what is the best fit. One other very stressful definition on shelters is what the define as domestic violence. If an adult child is abusing his parent it is often not considered domestic violence, the key definition most often being “between intimate partners.”

    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.

    “off-spring,” really? It seems to be minimizing the importance of our ‘children.’

  6. i am currently at a shelter ,I greatly appreciate being able to stay there because i donot have any where else to go I can stay at my daughters for one night here and there and i can stay with my neice only on occasions ,i stayed over at my neices once and my daughters once and tonight i had asked to tay at my neices to go thru some things at her house that she wants to give me for my new place so I asked permision to stay over her house tonight (I have been in shelter for almost a month now)I am probably going to be in my new place by next week (the shelter has helped me with the money to get my place also which I really really appreciate i really am grateful and i am going to volunteer my time to them as soon as i get settled …but I am really upset by the way they are treating me there they are constantly acting like I am doing something wrong ,I have been trapped with my ex for years i feel great not being with him but my daughter and my neice are helping me to stay away if it wasnt for them i would feel lost and lonely i feel free from him and him keeping me from everyone and everything the last place that i would of thought to treat me like this is the womens center like i feel if my daughter and neice werent here that i probably would of went back to him unwillingly becuz of the way the women at the shelter are making me feel ..I havent done anything for them to be treating me this way I shouldnt have to feel like they are way better then me I feellike they shouldnt be aloud to act like they are holier then tho or better then i am really hurt and just in awe i dont even know what to do …like i said i really appreciate what they have done for me but why treat me like a child i have been treated like a child for twelve years i have done nothing wrong and i dont think the y should make me feel so hurt and upset

Speak Your Mind