The Safe Homes Act (SHA) is designed to protect survivors from exactly this type of abuse and enduring harassment. The SHA allows survivors to end leases early or change locks when they are facing a credible threat of domestic or sexual violence or have experienced sexual violence where they live.
And yet the building would do nothing. Because the violence she’d experienced didn’t fit into their expectations for domestic violence and sexual violence.
Fundamental to our work as advocates is empowering survivors, helping them strategize and believe themselves capable of taking the actions they need to be safer. As Debra, another VIRA for over two decades, affirms, “Only a victim knows the abuser and how far that abuser would go.”
Survivors are experts in what is takes to survive moment to moment. We listen, offer counsel, and build more options with them.
When the Hotline first opened, connecting victims with shelter was the main task for VIRAs (Victim Information Resource Advocates, those who answer calls). Shelters had greater availability than today, though, because far fewer clients sought housing in the early years.
Housing is a huge challenge at present, much amplified during the pandemic and economic crisis, because victims are in close proximity with their perpetrators meaning their needs are often more complex and they face greater violence, with a higher lethality.