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Domestic Violence and Homelessness

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There are many victims of domestic violence, who find themselves hesitating to seek help, who fear homelessness. They are dependent on their abuser who may provide for them in some capacity.  Abused women have limited options to escape their situation.

The US Department of Health and Human Services cites, “Survivors have reported that if a domestic violence shelter did not exist, the consequences for them would be dire: homelessness, serious losses including loss of their children, actions taken in desperation, or continued abuse or death.”
(Source: Lyon, E., Lane, S., & Menard, A. (2008). Meeting survivors’ needs: A multi-state study of domestic violence shelter experiences. Washington, DC: National Institute of Justice.)

Melissa Withers, an associate professor at USC wrote in Psychology Today, in March 2018,  “Statistics linking IPV (Intimate Personal Violence) and homelessness are alarming. Multiple studies report that more than 80% of homeless mothers with children are IPV survivors. Some women choose to stay in abusive relationships because of economic dependence upon their partners.” (psychologytoday.com)

In Hernando County, victims of domestic violence can seek help from Dawn Center, a certified domestic and sexual violence center. I had the pleasure of recently discussing programs and services offered by Dawn Center, with Director, Shannon Sokolowski.

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“Many studies have found that family violence is a leading cause of homelessness for women and children in particular. Dawn Center provides services to survivors of all backgrounds,” Shannon said.

While there are victims of domestic violence who may become homeless if they leave their abusers, there are also people in the homeless community who become victims of domestic violence, themselves. Being homeless makes them more vulnerable, as potential victims of domestic violence. Most of the time, they do not have anywhere to go, and have few to no friends or family to run to for safety. Nor do they have personal transportation, to drive away from a dangerous situation. For example, “Homeless youth often run away to escape abuse and violence at home, but (once they are homeless), they are exposed to further sexual victimization and even, human trafficking.” (psychologytoday.com)

However in Hernando County, when it comes to needing to seek help from a domestic violence shelter, Director Shannon Sokolowski stated, “Dawn Center does have a variety of transportation assistance options for survivors enrolled in the emergency shelter program to assist survivors in meeting their goals. If a survivor is seeking shelter but has a transportation barrier, Dawn Center has a series of strategies we will explore with that survivor including collaborating with local community partners as needed to help that survivor reach safety.”

In addition, Shannon remarked, “Dawn Center has programming available to adult and child survivors alike.”

She further advised, “Survivors can reach for help anonymously to Dawn Center’s 24/7 crisis helpline at (352) 686-8430. We understand that confidentiality is a major safety concern for those we serve. It is important to note that Florida Statute 39.908 protects the confidentiality of domestic violence survivors seeking services from certified programs like Dawn Center. Additionally, there is a statutorily created privileged relationship between survivors of domestic violence or sexual violence and their advocate or counselor in certified programs such as Dawn Center. Therefore, like their relationship with their doctor or attorney, survivors can expect privacy and confidentiality from their relationship with Dawn Center staff and direct-service volunteers.”

The 24/7 crisis helpline is the first point of contact for survivors entering the Dawn Center program. It can be accessed at #352-686-8430. Dawn Center has several programs that operate around the clock that assist survivors. These include the helpline, emergency shelter, and forensic medical exams for survivors of sexual violence. These programs can be accessed at any time of the day or night through the helpline number.

If interested, anyone can help local domestic violence victims. “Dawn Center relies greatly on community support. Community groups and individuals who would like to get involved by giving of their gifts, time or talents can contact the Community Engagement Coordinator at 352-639-0892, by email at [email protected], or by visiting the website at http://www.DawnCenter.org”, Shannon said.

Hernando County citizens and visitors should also know that the Dawn Center just celebrated their 25 year anniversary. On April 25, 2019, a Birthday Bash is planned to celebrate the special occasion at Timber Pines Performing Arts Center.  Dawn Center will also present community awards to volunteers and professionals in the community who provide valuable services to survivors. For more information call: 352-639-0892.  Tickets are on sale now on the events tab at their website: https://www.dawncenter.org/events–newsletter  

Leslie Stein
Leslie Stein
Leslie Stein has over 35 years experience as a Speech-Language Pathologist working with neurologically impaired adults. She received her undergraduate and graduate degrees at the University of South Florida in Speech Pathology.
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