Long Term Impact Study_Policy Brief

Shelters Services for Women Survivors of Intimate Partner Violence: Factors that Enhance the Long-term Recovery of Women that Exit Domestic Violence Shelters

This policy brief is based on the findings of a study undertaken to understand women's experiences of the variety of services offered by shelters and the factors that aided or hindered their long-term recovery from abuse; an aspect that is crucial to improving government and non-profit sector policy and practice. The brief is associated to the Heinrich Böll Foundation and the National Shelter Movement of South Africa‘s “Enhancing State Responsiveness to GBV: Paying the True Costs” project which was funded by the European Union.

South African women face lethal abuse at the hands of their intimate partners, with as many as three women being killed every day, making South Africa’s femicide rate five times higher than the global average. Seeking to leave abusive relationships is incredibly complex, arduous and risky especially if women lack the resources to move out on their own and/or do not have social support networks that they can rely on. Those who do not have safe housing or shelter services face the risk of being forced into unsafe income generation activities, precarious tenure, criminality and increased risks and vulnerability to further violence. Returning to abusive partners places women at risk to intensified abuse, and additional physical and psychological trauma, if not death.

Shelter provision for women and their children can literally make the difference between life and death. Shelters play a fundamental, mitigating role in responding to, and addressing, violence against women and their children. Yet, shelters are often undervalued, with those rendering such services often facing precarious challenges.

Over the years, the HBF and the National Shelter Movement of South Africa have undertaken several studies on shelters that have proved vitally important to understanding the complexity of rendering shelter services to a largely vulnerable population. What the prior studies had not done, was to talk to the women who actually made use of these services. Understanding women’s’ experience of the variety of services offered by shelters and the factors that aid or hinder their long-term recovery from abuse is crucial to improving government and non-profit sector policy and practice.

This policy brief is based on the findings of the last study (Long Term Impact Study) undertaken by the two organisations through their “Enhancing State Responsiveness to GBV: Paying the True Costs” project. The study sought to answer three questions: to what extent are shelters able to effectively meet survivors’ immediate needs; did shelters services hold long-lasting impact for survivors; and what other interventions/strategies/resources are needed to meet survivors’ needs in the long-term?

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