I have this idea.
What if we could change the paradigm, that when women and children experience violence, they escape to a shelter?
Women have been protecting and sheltering women and children from abuse in their own homes, for time immemorial. The first domestic abuse shelters in Canada were created in 1965 by Christian inner-city missions. Then grassroots feminist organizations began opening shelters in the 70’s. The same trend was happening at similar times in the U.S. and around the world. Support services offer 24 hour crises hotlines, protection and shelter, food and clothes, legal advocacy, counselling and support groups, and a zillion more things. Yay sisters!
But I’m not seeing much change in this system and it’s been around now for over 50 years. Shelters continue to be chronically over-crowded and underfunded, volunteers and staff are maxed out, and most shelter stays are 30 days – and that’s if you’re lucky to find a spot. In Canada, women and children were turned away from a shelter when they were in a crisis 19,000 times in a month. 19,000 times! The same problems that existed in the 90’s, when I was staying in shelters with my child, still exist today. Something is not working here.
How could women and children heal from physical, mental, psychological, and emotional abuse in 30 days? Add on finding permanent housing, clothes and transportation, money and work, school, and legal action, and you can easily see that this task is insurmountable. Women and children need long-term protection.
I have a proposal.
What if shelters for women and children were used for immediate crisis care, but not as a long-term survival goal? What if there was a way to remove the abuser from the home, have him stay in a shelter, be GPS monitored with an ankle bracelet, have home arrest at the shelter, have court ordered domestic violence programs, and have him continue financial support for his harmed family? Wouldn’t it be easier and cheaper and morally right to have it this way? Wouldn’t this end shelter crowding? Wouldn’t this be a deterrent for male abusers? Women and children would then be protected, and would not have to leave the comforts of their home and established life. Why should abused women and children be subjected to more hardship after leaving violence? It doesn’t make any sense to me. Maybe more abuse would be reported and stopped, knowing that women and children would be truly cared for.
I know this is just the beginnings of this idea. I would like to hear your thoughts.
In Sisterhood I Trust –