Study Finds Domestic Violence Shelters Are Meeting Needs of Most Victims

Aug 8, 2012 by

Becoming homeless. Losing everything, including their children. Doing something desperate. Facing continued, life-threatening abuse. That is what victims of domestic violence who received help from shelters say their fate would have been if those shelters did not exist, according to Meeting Survivors’ Needs: A Multi-State Study of Domestic Violence Shelter Experiences. Released today, the groundbreaking study is based on a survey of 3,410 people served by domestic violence shelters in eight states during a six-month period in 2007 and 2008. It finds that three-quarters of domestic violence victims (74 percent) rate the assistance they received at a shelter as “very helpful” and another 18 percent say it was “helpful.”

“The National Institute of Justice (NIJ), a component of the Department of Justice’s Office of Justice Programs, is proud to have administered this study, which will help us better understand the challenges facing domestic violence survivors,” said NIJ Acting Director Kristina Rose. “Domestic violence shelters are a critical resource for keeping victims and their children safe. The data from this study will be instrumental in enhancing the coordinated community response to violence against women.”

Meeting Survivors’ Needs finds that the most victims staying at domestic violence shelters are 18 – 34 years old, and have children under age 18. One in four (24 percent) had stayed at a shelter before the visit during which they took this survey. Ninety-two percent say they “know more ways to plan for my safety” because of the shelter, 85 percent know more about community resources, and 84 percent of those who are mothers say “my children feel more supported” as a result of their shelter stay.

“This study shows conclusively that the nation’s domestic violence shelters are meeting both the urgent and longer-term needs of victims of violence, and helping them protect themselves and their children,” said Dr. Eleanor Lyon of the University of Connecticut, Institute for Violence Prevention and Reduction at the School of Social Work, who was the primary researcher for the study. “Victims attribute meaningful change to the help they received at the shelter – but they also see room for improvement.”

One-quarter of shelter residents (24 percent) faced transportation challenges, and 54 of those challenges were resolved. One-third (32 percent) say they had conflicts with other residents, and 73 percent of those conflicts were resolved. Some victims say that the shelter was unable to fully meet their needs related to housing, education and finance, as well as their emotional, mental health and physical health needs.

The study is based on surveys of residents of 215 domestic violence shelters in Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Michigan, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Washington. It is the most comprehensive study of its kind ever done. Other findings:

  —  78 percent of survivors had children under age 18, and 68 percent had
      minor children with them at the shelter.
  —  Nearly all survivors (99 percent) reported they got the help they
      wanted with their own safety and safety planning (95 percent).
  —  Four in five of those who needed it (81 percent) got help finding
      affordable housing, and three in four got help with a job or job
  —  Nearly all mothers who needed it got help with their children’s safety
      (98 percent) and schooling (92 percent).
  —  Nine in ten survivors (91 percent) who needed it got help with a
      protective or restraining order, more than four in five with divorce
      issues (82 percent), immigration issues (84 percent), and
      custody/visitation issues (83 percent).

Shelter residents were asked to complete a written survey at or near entrance, and again at or near exit.

This project was supported by Grant No. 2007-IJ-CX-K022, awarded to the National Resource Center on Domestic Violence by the National Institute of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice. Points of view in this document are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice.

Source: National Resource Center on Domestic Violence

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