Let me start from the beginning.
When women and children are abused and have fled their home, they usually search for a shelter to take them in. They call number after number in hopes that someone can give them safe haven. Quite often the shelters are full. Can you believe that? There are so many abused women and children that shelters are frequently at maximum capacity. I’ve lived through this exact experience.
Once you’ve found a shelter, you have to do an intake. It is a helpful/hellish occasion where you have to describe in detail the horrible and humiliating things that have happened to you and your children, so that it’s documented and the advocates know how to support you. Once that’s finished you’re shown to your room. Most women don’t have a premeditated plan of leaving their abuser. It’s usually a life or death moment. That means they’ve left everything behind. It’s kind of like being a victim of a house fire. All you have are the clothes on your back. If you’re lucky, the shelter has some donated clothes you can use and a personal hygiene kit.
Okay. Now you’re safe. A mother can take a breath and calm down or maybe even cry. No. Here’s the thing. Life is continuing on around you. The kids have to go to school. How are they after the abuse and can they even go back right now? How close is their school to the shelter? You may be staying in one that’s miles or towns or cities away. Do you have a car or do you have to bus it? What will the kids wear to school? Were you able to grab their backpacks and homework? Are they safe if they go back? And the mom. Does she have family to contact? How about her job? Does she have appropriate work attire? Can she afford to take any time off from work to heal? And if she works from home as a mom and was financially dependent on her abuser, what money does she have? Probably none.
So add up the trauma from the abuse, plus not having any comfort items from home, sleeping in a safe yet totally foreign environment with other women and children who are experiencing their own suffering, then tack on the reality that you’re probably going to have to start some kind of court proceedings. Like getting a restraining order pronto and temporary custody of the kiddos. And, a lot of shelters have a time limit on how long you can stay there. The ones I stayed at were three weeks. Three weeks. How does a woman get her life together in three weeks? She doesn’t. She will have to find another shelter for her family to stay at. Then that whole above process starts again until she can find a longer stay at a transition house.
This is an extremely condensed version of what a woman and her children have to go through.
Do you have a similar story? Write to me @firstname.lastname@example.org