The nation's 1,200 abuse shelters are filled with homeless persons and substance abusers, making it hard for true victims of domestic battery to get the help they need, reveals a report released today. The report is issued by RADAR Services, a group of men and women working to improve the effectiveness and accessibility of domestic violence programs.

The report, Are Abuse Shelters Helping the True Victims of Domestic Violence?, reveals that only one in 10 persons are in the shelter because they are victims of domestic battery. Based on research studies, reviews of shelter websites, and interviews with former shelter residents and staff, the report is the most comprehensive evaluation of abuse shelters ever accomplished.

The report identifies problems with lax admission policies, unqualified staff, coercive tactics, and weak accountability measures. Some shelters hire staff with criminal records. Shelters often discriminate on the basis of sex, race, or disability. Many of these problems are widespread.

The report cites disturbing accounts by former domestic battery shelter workers and residents. At Safespace in Florida, a 26-year-old woman was fatally stabbed by another shelter resident. At the Brewster shelter in Arizona, a 12-year-old boy was sexually assaulted by a shelter resident. At Bethany House in Falls Church, Virginia, women are "coached by the staff to go to court and get a protective order against their husbands" even though abuse never occurred, reveals a former volunteer.

Lack of confidentiality for residents is one concern. One African-American woman revealed, "I was targeted because I was black…Nothing was confidential and what I discussed with staff was being discussed with clients."

"This report shows how our abuse shelters have lost sight of their intended purpose to help women and men who are victims of domestic battery," explains Elizabeth Crawford, director of the Domestic Violence Counseling Center in Charleston, WV. "If we want to fix the problem of domestic battery, we first need to fix our broken abuse shelters."

Citing a number of model programs, the report calls on shelters to clarify their mission and refocus on the needs of true victims.

The full report can be read at

Author's Bio: 

RADAR Services is a non-profit, non-partisan organization of men and women: