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Emergency Domestic Violence Shelters Provide Safety and Security to Victims and Their Children

Why are emergency domestic violence shelters a critical resource for domestic violence survivors? Dr. Amanda M. Stylianou explains.

By Dr. Amanda Stylianou
June 6, 2016

Domestic violence takes an enormous toll on victims and their families. Experiences of isolation and financial dependence leave many victims seeking to separate from an abusive partner with few of the financial and social resources required to find a new place to live. For victims lacking safe housing options, domestic violence emergency shelters offer a safe refuge. In a typical day, nearly 24,000 victims and their children are receiving emergency shelter services in the United States. (National Network to End Domestic Violence (2014)

Emergency domestic violence shelters are considered essential in protecting victims from abuse and linking victims facing housing instability to longer term solutions. They offer unique benefits compared with traditional shelters for homeless individuals and families, including confidential locations and increased security protocols, as well as supportive services geared toward victims, such as safety planning, support groups, and advocacy.

Research suggests that emergency domestic violence shelters are a critical resource for victims.

  • Victims report feeling safe in shelters and rate shelters as the most effective service for coping with abuse and ending the violence. (Few, 2005; Tutty et al., 1999)
  • Domestic violence shelter use has been found to be significantly associated with the termination of an abusive relationship. (Panchanadeswaran & McCloskey, 2007)
  • Length of shelter stay has been associated with reductions in depression as well as increases in hopefulness, self-esteem, and psychological independence from an abusive partner. (Lyon, et al., 2008; Orava, McLeod, & Sharpe, 1996)
  • Shelter services increase victims’ self-efficacy and coping skills and lead to a perceived increase in decision-making abilities. (Bennett et al., 2004)
  • In their study of 3, 410 victim residing in domestic violence shelters, Lyon et al., (2008) reported that 93% of residents agreed that their shelter experience had positively influenced their belief that they could achieve their goals, 92% felt more hopeful about their future, 91% knew more about their options, and 85% knew more about community resources.

At Safe Horizon we are the city’s largest provider of domestic violence emergency shelter programs. In 2015 we provided shelter services to 914 victims and their 1, 285 children throughout the city’s five boroughs. Learn more about our domestic violence shelters.

  • Amanda M. Stylianou

    Amanda M. Stylianou, PhD, LCSW, is the senior director of research and program development at Safe Horizon. Dr. Stylianou has worked as an Advocate providing case management, supportive counseling, safety assessment and planning, and information and referrals to victims of domestic violence and sexual assault at SAFE in Hunterdon. Dr. Stylianou has been a Research Associate at the Center on Violence Against Women and Children at Rutgers and is an adjunct professor at the Rutgers University School of Social Work. Her many publications include several articles about the economic impact of domestic violence and other forms of abuse.