QUICK ESCAPE FROM SITE

Confidential private accommodation

Private accommodation may be needed for women who need additional security, for example, where the potential for confidentiality being broken in communal facilities could place them and their dependents in serious physical danger. Such cases may include trafficking survivors fleeing criminal rings or women whose perpetrators have made specific life-threatening remarks/gestures against them or their dependents.

Service providers may support women to access private accommodation by working with individual landlords or housing authorities to identify and acquire houses or apartments for sheltering individual women, small groups of survivors or families. These spaces are usually reinforced with specific security measures, such as extra locks on windows and doors, security cameras or alarms, arrangements with security companies or police to ensure calls for emergency assistance from the address receive rapid responses.

Considerations for developing private accommodation include:

  • Conducting an assessment of the space to ensure it is appropriate and can offer the necessary security to women and their children.
  • Establish a clear and detailed agreement with landlords and authorities granting use of the space, stating terms of use and payment for space; plans for alterations to the physical infrastructure, frequent change in residents, and privacy needs are clear prior to any women being accommodated. The agreement should identify focal points from each agency who will be responsible for upholding the conditions and a timeframe in which the agreement will be reviewed (e.g. annually). This can prevent any misunderstanding or sudden shift in support for the arrangement, in cases of changes in the housing staffing or management.
  • Create a contingency plan in cases where the location is no longer secure for the survivor (e.g. the perpetrator becomes aware of her location, a change in staff or policy within the local police reduce the security guaranteed for women staying in the space, etc.). This may include preparing a list of similar sites where women can move to with short notice.
  • Ensure women staying the residence understand the different security measures in place, agree to uphold confidentiality, and are involved in developing a contingency plan if they need to move. This should be included in the safety planning process.
  • The costs of maintaining each space should be identified and determine the number and types of accommodation that will be provided (e.g. apartments for single families or joint living arrangements); as well as options for accessing subsidized housing grants from state authorities or working with other service providers to share use of the space and costs for each agency.

Example:

The International Foundation for Crime Prevention and Victim Care (PCVC) in Chennai, India, provides a range of services for survivors or abuse and their communities. In addition to its crisis counseling and helpline for women in abusive relationships, PCVC has operated Astitva since 2001, a two bedroom apartment which serves as the only undisclosed shelter in Chennai city. The organization piloted various models for the shelter, from operating as a joint office /shelter, a separate shelter with a live-in manager, to its current form, a private apartment for women leaving situations of domestic abuse and their children. While open to women of all backgrounds, the organization identified that women from middle to higher income levels would not often leave their homes for a government shelter, due to the lifestyle changes and disruption it would create for them and their children. The Astitva apartment allows the women to continue to live in a private setting (sometimes sharing an apartment with another women and her children), and helps in the transition after they leave home (e.g. with making school changes, sharing living/bathing space, etc.), which may offer women an opportunity to leave the violence that they would otherwise not see as a possibility.

To address security risks for the survivors, PCVC works with landlords to ensure the tenants’ information remains confidential and refers to the apartment as a guest house, with tenants’ addressed as guests. As a precautionary measure, the apartment used for the shelter is changed on an annual basis (or more frequently if any personal information is disclosed). Each apartment is fully furnished, with rent and other expenses initially supported through private donations. As needed, women have access to vocational assistance and financial support to identify and pursue educational and professional opportunities, alongside other psycho-social and legal supports related to leaving the abuse. This improves women’s ability to financially support themselves and their children over time and provides them alternatives to returning to the abuse.

Source: Communication with Prasanna Poornachandra, CEO, International Foundation for Crime Prevention and Victim Care.

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