What Have We Learned? by Charles E. Corry, Ph.D.

© 2002 Equal Justice Foundation

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If you have, or know of a story about shelters that should be posted here please send it, or a link to comments@ejfi.org.


Shelters for abused women are an essential part of any campaign to control family violence. However, one of the first tactics always tried by any bureaucracy when things aren't going well is to attempt to hide the facts. Operating under a cloak of secrecy is intended to give outsiders the impression that what they are doing is worthy of public trust and support. Seldom, however, is that true. Even in the military, classification most commonly simply covers up incompetence.

While we have no documented studies such as the ones given on previous pages, there is no reason to believe shelters in Colorado operate differently than in Arizona, California, Canada, Florida, Massachusetts, or Virginia. There is a great deal of anecdotal evidence that suggest there are more similarities than differences.

Our tradition of providing refuge for women and children, and taking them to safe harbor in times of danger, has been turned on its head by current domestic violence laws. Instead, when police are called, it is the male who is jailed and barred from his home. The woman is thus left in the place where she claims to be in danger. That violates the legacy, and biological necessity, of providing protection for women.

If the man is removed, and the omnipresent restraining orders are effective, why is a woman's shelter needed at all? Thus, a review of the purpose and function of shelters for abused women is in order. Certainly there can be no justification for discriminating against male victims of abusive and violent partners as has been the standard in the past. Such discrimination is also banned under law. Nor can shelters be permitted to continue denying services to male children over age 12 when their parent seeks help.

One suggestion for a new role for shelters is to have men and women whose partners, commonly combat veterans, suffer from PTSD and TBI be encouraged to use these shelters when their partner's disability acts out and while their partner gets treatment.

We do not think there is much public support for women's shelters that simply act as a convenient place to stay while a woman gets a divorce, provide a legal way to kidnap the children, act as a center for feminist ideology, or to promote lesbianism. Particularly when the creed of many of these shelters promotes hatred and strife between man and woman. There is every evidence that many such shelters, as well as "victim's advocates" are functioning in exactly that role, however.


Violence prone women and shelter worker burnout


In her 1998 book The Emotional Terrorist and the Violence-Prone, Erin Pizzey speaks of a problem she encounters at shelters wherever she has traveled. On p. 13 she points out that:

"All over the United States, I addressed groups of workers who suffered from what they called staff burnout. This burnout occurred, the workers claimed, when they had made all provisions to establish a woman in a new and non-violent lifestyle, only to find their efforts seemingly betrayed by the return of the woman in question to her violent partner."

On p. 14 she continues:

"Once the condition of being 'violence-prone' has been recognized as a fully treatable condition, then all of the workers in the field of family violence can be enabled to help instead of punish violence-prone individuals. No increased understanding of human relationships, however, is possible in an atmosphere of suppression. Unfortunately, a large percentage of current research in the field of family violence is politically motivated or conforms to ideology motivated by self-interest or bias. An entire body of study and research in domestic violence has grown up in recent years for the specific purpose of maintaining this political position."

She then reaches the same conclusion (p. 15) that many other researchers have found as well: "...violence-prone individuals are created primarily by violent childhood upbringings. Childhood, violent families, and family dynamics consequently must be the foremost considerations and areas of focus in any further studies of violent relationships."

However, in the feminist creed, it is always the male who ends up as violent. Females are supposedly miraculously spared from the evils of a violent upbringing. Nonsense!

It is clear our present shelters for abused women are not equipped or prepared to deal with the conditions of more than half of the women they are presented with. Instead, many such shelters act as promoters of a simplistic feminist ideology that bears no relation to the problems they encounter. Violence-prone women quickly learn to manipulate the present system to their advantage and to the maximum discomfiture of any man they are associated with.

That must change.

While the problems with current shelters are numerous, we feel shelters are necessary. However, such shelters must stop acting as one-stop divorce shops and abandon the feminist ideology that simply blames men and promotes a lesbian lifestyle at public expense. To be effective, shelters must begin to deal realistically with the problems they are faced with, including violence-prone women.

The fundamental objective of a shelter should be breaking the cycle of violence and maintaining the family if at all possible. Where one or both of the partners are emotionally disturbed by trauma, injuries, or death, the shelter should coordinate with the Veterans Administration or local mental health agencies to obtain necessary treatment.

We also need to move back to the tradition, and biological necessity, of taking women in danger to such shelters. That approach obviates the civil rights problems and abuses of restraining orders. Ordinarily the male would remain in his home but in many cases of PTSD or TBI he may need to enter treatment. After a cooling-off period in which all parties sober up, complete treatment, and have time to reflect, an evaluation of the situation could be made.

Medical or psychological problems either the man or woman might be suffering from could be reasonably appraised by shelter workers who were familiar with both violence-prone women and men.

Their judgement would then be based on available information rather than feminist dogma. Mediation, medical treatment, or, as a last resort, court hearings, could be used to try and fix the problems the couple are having. PTSD and TBI are not domestic violence and are usually recognizable as such by asking a few simple questions, for example:

• Is one of the partners a combat veteran,

• Has one or both of the partners been involved in an accident,

• Has the couple lost a child or close relative, etc.

Surely intake questions such as this could be used to help determine what help the individuals need rather than insisting the woman is "battered" and must have a restraining order and get a divorce if married.

The shelter would thus be a haven for women that men could visit for evaluation and mediation with their partners. They would also make a courtroom the last place a couple ended up, rather than the first as under current law. The current practice of star chamber, ideologically-driven court proceedings are probably the worst possible place to conduct such evaluations.

It is essential that shelter workers talk with both the man and woman if a successful outcome is desired. Erin Pizzey began that way. It takes two to tangle and there are always at least two sides to a story. Nor should the shelter workers be permitted to make judgements. It is quite one thing to gather and evaluate data, and make recommendations based on that review. It is quite another when shelter workers sit in judgement and blame the man based on their dogmatic beliefs and feminist ideology. Compounding the problem today, shelter workers and "victim's advocates" carry their opinions and dogma into the courtroom to use against the male.

A very loose interpretation of maintaining the family should be used, however. While it is important, if not essential, for children to have both parents, that does not imply the parents must live together, though that is the most desirable option. Both parents should be encouraged and, if necessary, taught how to care and nurture their children jointly whether under the same roof or not. Also, shelters should be structured to arrange treatment when necessary for either a man or woman in order to maintain the family if at all possible without violence. In some cases it will also be necessary to provide supplemental nurture for the children to break the cycle of violence. That must be done in cooperation with the parents, rather than abducting the children as child protective services do at present. Our civilization is dependent on maintaining families whenever possible.

In addition, feminist therapists should no longer be permitted to encourage emotional terrorists. Such reprehensible behavior should be recognized and placed in the same category as those practitioners who encouraged their patients to uncover "repressed memories" of childhood abuse that are almost inevitably false.

Erin Pizzey's book on The Emotional Terrorist and The Violence Prone contains virtually step-by-step instructions on how to go about the necessary evaluations to enable shelter workers to recognize the type of woman they are presented with. Once an evaluation is complete, sensible steps can be taken to deal with their problems. Conversely, dogma is a terrible diagnostic tool to use for an individual evaluation.


Shelters for battered women are an essential part of any campaign to control family violence. However, present shelters must be restructured to eliminate dogmatic approaches, and embrace the complex reality of human nature and family life.



| EJF Home | Find Help | Help the EJF | Comments? | Get EJF newsletter | Newsletters |

| Domestic Violence Book | DV Site Map | Data tables | DV bibliography | DV index |


| Chapter 6 — Shelters For Battered Women |

| Next — Chapter 6 - The Face Of Battering |

| Back — Use Of Shelters With PTSD And TBI Victims |


This site is supported and maintained by the Equal Justice Foundation.

Last modified 5/18/15