Bruises. Broken Bones. Black eyes. Low self-esteem. Fear. Worry. Grief. Tension. Denial. Depression. Shame. Guilt. Isolation. Threats. These are all words that can be used to describe domestic violence and its effect on victims. In my opinion, domestic violence, along with child abuse and sexual assault, is one of the most heinous and atrocious acts. Men, women and children are victimized and terrorized not by random strangers, but by loved ones.
Knowing the serious implications and lethality risks of domestic violence, it is common for people to question why victims stay in abusive relationships. However, it is the wrong question to ask. First, we must recognize that abuse occurs because of the choices and actions of the perpetrator, not the victim. Therefore, we should instead be asking why the abuser chooses to use abusive and violent behaviors in their relationship. Accountability should be placed where it belongs – on the perpetrator. At the same time, though, we do need to recognize that there are countless barriers that can make it difficult for an abuse victim to leave a relationship safely.
One of the greatest barriers is fear and for valid reasons. Leaving an abusive relationship is one of the most dangerous times for a victim as it drastically increases the risk of being seriously harmed or killed. Lack of resources, financial concerns, cultural and religious beliefs, feelings of shame and embarrassment, custody worries, isolation factors– the list goes on. Emergency shelters, like the Alliance Area Domestic Violence Shelter (AADVS), are extremely important for victims of domestic violence. They provide safety planning, advocacy, counseling, connection to resources and most importantly a safe haven during a dangerous time. However, shelters are only temporary and adequate, affordable housing can be the key in successfully leaving an abusive relationship.
There is a definite intersection between domestic violence and housing insecurity. Research indicates that domestic violence is a leading cause of homelessness for women and their children. The availability of income based housing far outweighs the needs. This is one of the many reasons that it is imperative that agencies such as the Alliance Area Habitat for Humanity (AAHFH) continue their mission of building and renovating safe, affordable houses. AADVS is extremely grateful for the presence of the AAHFH in the Alliance community and their efforts to increase stability and combat the housing crisis. During this Habitat for Humanity International Women’s Build Week and beyond, the AADVS extends our gratitude and appreciation to the staff, board, volunteers and families of the Alliance Area Habitat for Humanity.
Kimberly Stanley, MSW, LISW
Alliance Area Domestic Violence Shelter