Why not a shelter?

There have been many tragic cases of domestic violence spotlighted here. Many times the victims may have known they were in danger, yet they returned to their homes, sheltered with a friend or family member, or returned to the abuser.

They may have been victims of previous ongoing assaults or they may have filed for a protection order for a recent episode. So why didn’t they seek out a shelter? There could be many reasons for that.

They may be reluctant to believe their abuser would go so far as murdering or attempting to murder them. And they may feel that by filing charges, getting a protection order the abuser might somehow gain some insight into the wrongs they had committed or that they might stay away long enough to “cool off”. Unfortunately it often doesn’t happen that way. Sometimes it further enrages the offender and they blame the victim, or sometimes they may see it as a challenge- they need to prove they can reach the victim despite the precautions they may have taken.

The person who has suffered from abuse may not realize that even though the accused offender has been arrested, he may get out of jail in a short time, sometimes within hours, while he is awaiting trial. Sometimes the person is not advised of the shelters availability by law enforcement..

Domestic violence is a traumatic event, physically, emotionally and even phychologically. And when faced with that kind of trauma, it is human nature to seek out a familiar place to mentally process the trauma. So they may return home or seek shelter in the familiar home of a friend or relative. Unfortunately, that very familiarity allows an offender to know to look for the victim there.

A parent may not want to uproot the family. They may work and the kids go to school, and have their own schedules. They may want to maintain their daily routine.

A fear of the unknown. And a fear of losing their ability to make decisions for their family. A shelter is staffed by social workers and maybe some volunteers.They attempt to make it as homelike as possible. Family groups are kept together. A parent is expected to care for their own children and themselves as much as possible. The shelter offers options, encouragement and support to the people who seek shelter there, but personal decisions are left in the hands of the person who has to live wtih them. Every effort is made for the persons to continue working and for the children to remain in their school. 

When arriving at a shelter, the shelter personnel will have questions. They are not idle questions, they are designed to determine the family’s needs, and what services the shelter may be able to help with. They will also be given the shelter rules. Yes they may be a bunch of strangers, but they are people who are experienced with working with traumatized children and adults.  

Shelters may differ in what services they can offer. Besides interim shelter they may be able to assist the person to find housing, legal advocacy, support groups, individual and family counseling, financial assistance and job location services, as well as other support found in the community.

A domestic violence shelter is not a final destination. It is a sheltered place to allow a victim a safe place to stay while they make decisions for themselves and their family.

How do you locate a shelter? Many times a shelters location is secret, for the protection of the residents. But domestic violence agencies can help a person locate one. So can most crisis lines, mental health agencies, social service organizations, and law enforcement agencies.



  1. Rhonda said,

    July 8, 2006 at 4:06 pm

    What a touching article. I publish a monthly Newsletter, which caters to women. I will mention your Blog in an upcoming edition.

  2. July 8, 2006 at 5:29 pm

    Thank you Rhonda. More women need to get the message. There may come a time when any woman needs to find a place that is really safe. They should not feel embarrassed, it happens to many women.

  3. Wendy said,

    July 9, 2006 at 3:37 am

    Thank you for posting this. Having worked in the field of dv for years now, it is so important to get the information out there regarding the options that are available to women. It has been my experience that many women are reluctant to seek shelter because of the notions many have about what a shelter is. However, the fact is that the most dangerous time for a dv victim is when she leaves the abuser and therefore a confidential dv shelter leaves the abuser less opportunity to seek her out and victimize her all over again.

  4. July 9, 2006 at 3:59 am

    Thank you Wendy. That is one of the goals with this blog, to bring more attention to Domestic violence and child abuse. Glad to see you have joined the ranks, you have a nice looking blog.

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