Why Does She Stay?

by | Sep 16, 2021 | Formation, Homelessness, Reflections | 1 comment

“Why does she stay?”

It’s a simple question. The answer is not.

Invisible People’s “Options for Abuse: Homelessness or Domestic Violence” opened my eyes to an issue of which I had only minimal awareness.

The next time you wonder why a domestic violence victim doesn’t leave her abuser, consider where she should go exactly.

Imagine running from an abuser to find yourself in jail because you and your children have nowhere to go except your car or a sleeping bag.

The obvious and beyond…

Victims of domestic violence have developed a complex mix of physical, emotional, financial and psychological difficulties. Yet we can point out one truth that forces the victim to stay with an abuser. She won’t be any safer when she’s homeless.

In the best of situations, emergency shelters can give only brief respites from the turmoil in victims’ homes.

The average length of stay is 60 – 90 days. Survivors may be coping with depression, trauma, hopelessness, isolation and substance abuse disorders. Abusive partners often block employment and education, and control all the family finances, keeping victims financially dependent. Healing emotionally and physically takes time as does building reliable income. Ninety days just isn’t enough when affordable housing can take years to acquire. We expect victims to leave their homes without any idea when they may have a safe place to live again.

Emergency shelters had to turn away 6,972 victims who needed a safe place to stay because the shelters were full. Multiply that by 364 days and you start to see the scale of the problem.

Until the U.S. is willing to provide enough shelter and affordable housing for victims, we are tacitly allowing it to continue. As a country, we look the other way and abdicate our responsibility to be part of the solution.

Affordable housing just isn’t there for people trying to escape abuse in their homes. A study done in 2018 by the National Network to End Domestic Violence reports that domestic violence hotlines received 19,459 calls in one day.

Even when victims have been working, or have skills to work, finding affordable housing is a daunting task if they have low wages.

…a worker earning the federal minimum wage must work at least 99 hours per week to afford a one-bedroom apartment anywhere in the United States. A wage of $22 per hour is beyond most victims in the months after they escape, if ever.

It is much worse for disabled people relying on Social Security Income.

Many domestic violence victims are unable to work initially as they recover from the injuries done to them.

A study by the Health Care for the Homeless Council found that half of its participants reported being the victim of a violent attack while homeless.

Bottom line… If a victim must choose between abuse in their home or the high risk of abuse on the street, it’s a stretch to think they are better off on the street.

More about… Maryellen Hess Cameron.… she is a freelance writer and non-profit consultant who helps organizations define and communicate their missions. She has a Master’s degree in Public Administration, and led two agencies serving people with histories of homelessness, mental illness, abuse and poverty.

I was especially struck by her “Sleeping with one open can lead to psychosis”!

1 Comment

  1. Tom M

    Well presented. Thanks