HFH Update 3/2005
Domestic Violence Prevalence and Prevention
Domestic violence is a widespread problem facing homeless populations in the United States, with a staggering ninety-two percent (92%) of homeless women having experienced severe physical and/or sexual assault at some point in their lives. Sixty-six percent (66%) of these women have experienced severe physical violence by a caretaker, forty-three percent (43%) were sexually molested during their childhood, and sixty-three percent (63%) have been victims of intimate partner violence.
From a sample of women in New York City transitional housing facilities, thirty-two percent (32 %) have experienced domestic violence. Of these women, eighteen percent (18%) report that they are currently dealing with domestic violence, while twenty-six percent (26%) indicate that they were abused by either a boyfriend or husband in the past. In response to the increased frequency of domestic violence, Homes for the Homeless (HFH) is expanding its domestic violence services, specifically to include the Healthy Emotional Relationships (HER) program. HER aims to provide women with the support, guidance, and knowledge they need to break free of violent domestic relationships, reclaim control over their lives, and take pro-active strides toward self-sufficiency. Participants learn about domestic violence and related issues, while they gain leadership skills and experience in speaking, motivating groups, and negotiating conflict. These activities, coupled with practical encouragement, counseling, referrals, and advocacy from the HER Instructor, boost participants' self-esteem, which in turn empowers them to make pro-active decisions and take positive steps towards independence. The program also focuses on assisting participants' children in their own cycle of learning, emphasizing non-violent alternatives, healthy expression, and acceptance of emotion.
The HER program will also work in coordination with HFH's successful Family Crisis Nursery program, which offers 24-hour temporary, emergency care to children at risk of abuse or neglect. The Crisis Nursery currently serves HFH residents and individuals from the surrounding community dealing with domestic violence. The parents who take their children to the Nursery for temporary relief will be able to take part in the HER program; they will have the option of participating in support groups, and receiving individual counseling and in-home aftercare services for up to one year. Their children will also be able to benefit from time spent in an age-appropriate HFH educational program.
Programs such as the HER program and the Family Crisis Nursery are designed to address the root causes of homelessness through education, counseling, and supportive services. Due to the high frequency of domestic violence among homeless women, this issue is a critical one, deeply connected with issues of self-esteem, family stability, and ultimately, independent living. By confronting this crisis at its source, Homes for the Homeless hopes to empower women to seek out secure and violence-free futures for themselves and their children.
Yesterday, the Public Advocate of the City of New York released "Domestic Violence Survivors and Children: City Can't or Won't Help Nearly Half of Women Seeking Shelter and Housing" criticizing the city's failure to provide adequate shelter space to domestic violence victims and their families.
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