Since domestic violence and allegations of domestic violence are a big part of what’s wrong with family law as it relates to child custody, I thought I’d do a piece on this study entitled “Are Abuse Shelters Helping the True Victims of Domestic Violence?” It comes to us courtesy of the organization Stop Abusive and Violent Environments (SAVE).
It doesn’t pretend to be an in-depth treatment of anything; rather, it simply sketches some of the many problems, questions and issues that attend domestic violence and the system of shelters in this country.
Like many other people and organizations, SAVE is dead serious about domestic violence. It’s so serious in fact that it wants people to know what DV is, who does it, who the victims are and, most importantly, how to effectively deal with the problem. In other words, in all those ways, SAVE is at odds with the DV industry generally.
SAVE takes pains to recognize the fact that there are many providers of services to DV victims who get it right. Those are the ones that don’t discriminate on the basis of gender (or any other way) and that attempt to provide genuinely therapeutic conditions for residents.
Sadly, the list of those shelters is short.
The SAVE report,
is based on an extensive review of research articles and reports, analyses of federal tax returns, an analysis of over 75 shelter websites, and interviews with former employees and residents of abuse shelters.
It is not flattering.
Perhaps most damning is its finding that DV shelters are often only incidentally involved in sheltering DV victims. You’d think they’d be primarily doing that, but apparently that’s often just not so. In fact, DV shelters tend to be indistinguishable from homeless shelters. That is, they offer room and board to women who don’t have anywhere else to go. Often of course that describes women who have been driven out of their home by violence, but often it doesn’t. Indeed, in many places, social service providers make no distinction between homeless and DV shelters.
And neither do the shelters themselves. As we know, DV shelters rarely require any proof that a woman is actually a victim of DV. The “believe the woman” mindset rules, so essentially, any woman who shows up at a DV shelter gets a roof, a bed and food. Not surprisingly, a lot of the residents exhibit no symptoms of victimization and some even deny it.
Likewise, given the fact that alcohol and drug abuse often play major roles in actual DV incidents, many of the residents of DV shelters are alcohol abusers and drug addicts. For example,
Among women admitted to La Casa in Las Cruces, New Mexico:
• 39% admitted to engaging in illegal activities to get drugs during the previous year.
• 85% were using alcohol during the incident that triggered the woman”s shelter admission.
• 14% had injured themselves or others as a result of drinking.
As we know, 35 years of social science on DV reveals that women are as likely as men to commit intimate partner violence. So it should come as no surprise that residents of DV shelters tend to be violent themselves.
• A recent survey found 67% of women in shelters had committed one or more acts of severe partner violence in the previous year.
• At one Alabama shelter, one-fourth of the residents were currently engaged in stalking their partners.
• Erin Pizzey, founder of the first abuse shelter in the world, reports that among the first 100 women who came to her program, 62 were at least as violent as the partners that they were leaving.
So it’s not unusual for violence, even murder, to break out between the residents of DV shelters.
The DV industry routinely refers to any form of violence by a male partner against a female partner as “battering.” Now, the dictionary definition of the verb “to batter” is some version of “to strike repeatedly with heavy blows.” So given that, you’d expect that the most important services DV shelters provide are medical. But you’d be wrong.
The SAVE report cites three studies – one in Florida, one in the San Diego area and one in Hawaii – on needs assessments done in DV shelters. They found that in each, medical needs were the lowest priority of all with 9%, 10% and 8% of residents respectively even mentioning a need for medical or health services.
Those figures correspond to the estimates of shelter directors in New Jersey and Texas who candidly admitted that only about 10%-20% of the women in their shelters had any kind of physicl injury, whether caused by DV or not.
I won’t go into SAVE’s recommendations for improvement in too much detail. Suffice it to say that the organization would like to see DV services delivered by professionals to those who need help with domestic violence issues in their lives. That’s as opposed to the often unprofessional, discriminatory, ideology-based, accountable-to-no-one, approach that many shelters exemplify today and that are described by the SAVE report.
Domestic violence shelters can provide good and necessary services to victims of domestic violence. If they did that and only that, they would provide service to men, but the vast majority do not. If they did that, there would be far fewer of them, they’d be cheaper to the taxpaying public and they’d be more effective at combatting domestic violence.
Unfortunately, acting in concert with police, prosecutors and family courts, DV shelters all too often assist mothers in separating fathers from children. All of the above have formed the habit of taking allegations of domestic violence at face value and failing to do the type of commonsense investigations that due process of law would seem to require.
As such, they often abet the scurrilous practice of taking fathers out of the lives of their children based on little or no actual evidence of wrongdoing. The curious history of domestic violence shelters shows that that is no accident. The radical feminist ideology that has pervaded much of the domestic violence industry since its very beginning holds that intimate relationships between men and women are the seat of women’s oppression by men. As such, it has always been an article of faith with them that women are better off separated from the men they love. So it’s no surprise that women’s DV shelters are part of a larger system that does exactly that.
Or, as the SAVE report says,
By 1988, a national survey found that 45% of shelters viewed their main role as promoting feminist political activism, while only 25% of shelters accorded first priority to providing treatment and support for victims of abuse.