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:
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.
Previous Topic Emergency safe spaces