Domestic violence is an epidemic that impacts at least one in every three women and up to one in seven men. Abuse is very prevalent, yet it is still an issue we rarely discuss. One of the main tactics used by abusers is to isolate the victim from friends and family, making it more difficult for you to leave. One of the main concerns for a domestic violence victim is how to leave safely, and where to go.
You have probably heard about domestic violence shelters, but you may have many questions about whether a shelter is right for you. You may be wondering where you will sleep, whether you’ll have to share a room, if you can take your belongings, if your children will be safe, if your pet can come with you, and if your partner will be able to find you. These are just some of the questions often asked by abuse survivors who are considering going to a shelter. Here are a few things you can expect at a shelter, to help you make a decision about whether it is right for you.
- You and your children will be safe. The top concern and priority of all domestic violence advocacy programs is to make sure you and your child(ren) are safe and cared for. Some shelters are in confidential locations, others are not. But, all have procedures and systems in place to keep you and your family safe. You will also have a chance to work with an advocate to develop a safety plan for other areas of your life, such as your job or your children’s school. Many shelters also offer programs for children, such as support and play groups, art therapy, and individual counseling.
- Your stay will be free. Domestic violence shelters are paid for with grants and donations from the community, so the service is offered for free. This will give you a chance to focus on your safety and healing during your transition, without having to worry about how to pay for rent or utilities. Some shelters will give you a certain timeframe for how long you can stay – such as 30-90 days – while others will just assist you for as long as needed to get you into a new home.
- Your stay will be confidential. Advocates with domestic violence programs are committed to protecting the privacy of survivors who reach out to them for help. They are also governed by laws and grant requirements that prohibit them from sharing your information with outside agencies, unless you give them specific permission to do so. Because confidentiality is so essential in a shelter, you will also be asked to keep the identity of others who are staying in the shelter confidential.
- You will be able to bring some belongings. You probably won’t be able to pack a moving truck full of all of your possessions, but you will be able to bring some essential clothing, toys, and belongings for yourself and your children. Some shelters limit you to one or two bags per person, while others may have more flexibility. Just remember that this is being done to make sure everyone in shelter is comfortable and has adequate space, and that this is only temporary. Some shelters will allow you to bring pets , while others will assist you with finding a safe place for your pets to stay while you receive services.
- You will supported and respected. Perhaps one of the most important aspects of being in shelter is that you are in the company of others who have been through similar situations. Abuse can be very isolating, and you may have started to feel like you are the only person who can understand. But you will find that others who are in the shelter have had similar experiences, and will have compassion and empathy for what you’ve gone through. You will also have the opportunity to talk with trained counselors and advocates who have vast knowledge about abuse, and who can help you work toward your goals. Being in an environment where you feel safe, respected, heard, and cared for will help you heal from the damage caused by your abusive partner, and give you the strength you need to move forward toward a new and better life.
If you are being abused, please know that you deserve better. You deserve to be safe and respected, every day. And if you need a safe place to go, a domestic violence shelter may be a good option, at least for a while. To find a shelter close to you, visit https://www.domesticshelters.org. To talk with an advocate today, call the National
Hotline at 800-799-SAFE (7233).