Womanspace: Safe Alternatives to Domestic Violence

by Jackie O’Malley

If it weren’t for Womanspace, I’d be dead,” said Emily, a victim of domestic violence.

Emily came to Womanspace with her two small children in search of somewhere to escape her abusive boyfriend.

“Domestic violence is like having a disease,” Emily said, “I have this disease of a boyfriend.”

Domestic violence is a disease; victims are robbed of their once healthy lives, and feel trapped, scared and helpless.

Susan Adams is the Coordinator of Volunteers & Community Outreach at Womanspace Inc., a nonprofit organization, which provides services for victims of domestic violence in the Mercer County area. She has witnessed the devastating effects of domestic violence on its victims. “You lose all control. You’re being controlled,” said Adams.

Womanspace statistics indicate that nearly half of homeless women and children are victims of domestic violence. An abuser controls every aspect of a victim’s life, sometimes including finances, making it difficult for a victim to afford a safe haven for her and her children.

Victims struggle to find shelters because resources are limited, says Adams, many shelters are at full capacity, forcing them to turn women and children away. Through no fault of their own, these victims are left in the streets with nowhere to turn. But Adams wants to ensure all victims that homelessness is not the only alternative to abuse. “There is help. It’s out there,” she said.

To prevent victims from succumbing to their fear of homelessness, Womanspace Inc. offers temporary, affordable housing for victims.

According to Womanspace, the Transitional Housing Program accommodated 15 women and 21 children in 2010.

The Transitional Housing Programs “provide individual and group counseling, childcare subsidies, affordable rent, and career assessment and direction,” according to Womanspace.

There are two types of housing programs; Barbara’s House, is “structured for clients who need housing for a limited time,” according to Womanspace.

The Next-Step Program “provides clients with housing for up to twenty-four months,” Womanspace says, “it allows 5 families per year to develop the skills and financial means to secure and maintain safe permanent housing.”

Emily and her two small children were one of these families. She was provided with the resources and support she needed to pursue a healthier, independent lifestyle.

According to Adams, “domestic violence can happen to anyone not just poor, inner city people, as people like to label victims.” Like a disease, domestic violence does not discriminate against age, class, gender or race. When this disease consumes a life, it triggers physical, emotional and psychological pain.

“But we don’t have doctors, we can’t just fi x it with medicine,” said Adams. Help and support from others are the closest we have to medicine.

Womanspace Inc. has guided Emily and her children, along with over 279,000 other victims over the past 30 years, toward healthier lifestyles. If you or a loved one is looking for help, Womanspace Inc. can be contacted at their confidential Domestic Violence hotline, 1-800-572-SAFE, or their Sexual Assault Hotline, 609-394-000.

*The name is not disclosed for the privacy of the victim.

This article originally appeared in the Spring 2011 issue of the newspaper.