When it comes to escaping domestic violence, much of the conversation is centered around the abuse itself—how to identify abuse, how to leave an abusive partner, etc. While these things are important, it’s equally important that we talk about what happens after domestic violence survivors escape an abusive relationship.
Why Housing Matters
Women and children who have left abusive situations are frequently forced to rebuild their lives from scratch. The act of escaping domestic violence often means leaving behind stable housing, financial security, and even employment. This is especially the case for individuals who have endured economic abuse, and who may not have the financial resources to obtain affordable housing.
Furthermore, some people are forced to leave their homes suddenly and unexpectedly, without the opportunity to prepare or find a safe place to stay. If their abuser has also succeeded in isolating them from friends or family members (a common abuse tactic), they may find themselves without any place to go. For all of these reasons, domestic violence has been identified as a significant risk factor for homelessness.
Lack of safe housing may also deter some women from leaving their abusers in the first place. Particularly if children are involved, some individuals may deem the threat of homelessness to be greater than the danger of remaining in an abusive household.
Domestic Violence Shelters and Transitional Housing Are Critical for Recovery
The housing first approach has been proven to reduce homelessness and eliminate housing as a reason for staying in abusive relationships. According to a one-day survey conducted in 2016, over 41,000 domestic violence survivors utilized emergency shelters or transitional housing programs. Sadly, the quantity of available housing isn’t sufficient to meet demand, and some shelters are forced to turn away survivors due to lack of capacity.
People who stay at domestic violence shelters aren’t just benefiting from a place to sleep and a roof over their heads, as crucial as those things are. They also get a safe, confidential place to rest and determine their next move. If they were forced to leave their belongings behind, they receive food, clothing, and toiletries. Some shelters and programs even provide survivors with additional resources to help them start their new journey, such as education and employment resources, financial assistance, connection to legal services, and more.
At Connections for Abused Women and Their Children (CAWC), we believe that everyone has a right to a life free of violence. Our mission to end domestic violence is rooted in education, service, and advocacy. In addition to working toward broader social change, we provide empowerment-based and trauma-informed support in the form of shelter, counseling, and advocacy to individuals affected by domestic violence and their children. If you or someone you know is struggling with domestic violence, don’t hesitate to call our 24-hour hotline at (773) 278-4566. To support our work, consider volunteering or donating.