Imagine if you faced two options – to reside in the family residence and be beaten and abused or live on the streets, where chances are you could be attacked there, too.
Women who are homeless are at greater risk for other types of violence, including sexual assault, according to Anne Menard, executive director of the National Resource Center on Domestic Violence. This remains the plight of the predominately female victims of domestic abuse; to choose between being abused at home or face life on the streets.
Domestic Violence.org defines domestic violence as “emotionally and/or physically controlling an intimate partner, often involving tactics such as physical assault, stalking and sexual assault.” The statistics are staggering, with one in four women likely experiencing domestic violence in her lifetime. All told, 1.3 women are victims of domestic violence each year. Of the female homeless population, 63 percent have experienced domestic violence in their adult lives, according to the National Network to End Domestic Violence.
Lack of housing options is the number one reason why women stay in abusive relationships. There is a strong correlation between domestic violence and homelessness. Often, these women have children, so if they are confronted with a choice to be homeless or to keep their children in their home and school, most victims will stay home. Thus begins the cycle of abuse, because, as children observe their mother being physically abused and their home environment racked by violence, this becomes the norm to them. Research has demonstrated that these children will be more likely to be in abusive relationships as adults.
But even when a woman gathers the courage to pack up and leave their abuser, challenges persist. Once they flee the dangers of the home environment, they are still in danger. Many are financially unprepared to live independently, as abusers often isolate their partners. Many of these victims are not employed, or are underemployed, and the partner may have taken steps to deplete any reserves of cash or securities in order to exert even more control over them. The perpetrators of the abuse will often try to locate the victim in order to punish them for daring to leave.
It is understandable why a woman will hesitate before taking the steps to break free from an abusive marriage or partnership. The thought of being displaced, especially when children are involved, is so frightening that these women talk themselves into staying and putting up with the abuse. But at some point, the situation could become so lethal that she will have no option but to leave her home, often in the midst of a domestic emergency. At this point, usually with the assistance of a hotline representative, she will be anxiously trying to find refuge. Unless she is fortunate enough to have a friend’s home to go to, someone her partner does not know, she is dependent on a homeless shelter or a domestic violence shelter.
According to the National Network to End Domestic Violence, victims of domestic abuse have unmet needs for both short and long-term housing. On a given day, 1,740 people could not be provided emergency shelter. A lack of affordable housing can cause a woman who does find a spot in a domestic violence shelter—meant to be a short-term solution—to remain stuck there, unable to afford rent on her own place. Landlords sometimes discriminate against victims if they have a protection order or any other indicator of domestic violence. If she should find a rental and the abuser tracks her down and assaults her, the landlord can evict her, causing her to become, once again, homeless. Harmed, helpless and homeless, the cycle repeats.
The most important step a woman who is a victim of domestic violence should take is to have access to a hotline. Once that connection is made, wheels can be put in motion to secure safety to the victim and her children. Sovereign Health’s Chandler, Ariz. female-only treatment center is there to answer your call for help 24/7. Take the first step towards freedom and call 866-598-5661.
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