We Need to Stop Keeping DV Shelters Under Wraps

Writing for 'NYT,' Rachel Louise Snyder says open shelters can be just as safe, offer other benefits
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 17, 2024 10:45 AM CST
We Need to Stop Keeping DV Shelters Under Wraps
Stock photo.   (Getty Images/gorodenkoff)

Shelters that domestic violence victims flee to have historically been shrouded in secrecy, ostensibly to keep victims safe from their abusers. But Rachel Louise Snyder rethinks this hush-hush approach, noting that it not only keeps abusers and the general public in the dark about the shelters—it can also keep victims from finding services, too. In her essay for the New York Times, Snyder notes that traditional, closed shelters not only isolate its residents from the support system of the outside world, but also may not be so secret in the first place. "Neighbors know. Utility workers often know. Postal carriers know," Snyder writes. "And in an age of increasingly accessible technological surveillance, abusers know, too. Or can find out." She even cites a 2020 study that found "there is no longer a clear connection between a secret and inaccessible shelter location and the safety of survivor-residents."

The research also noted that more open shelters are usually still careful to take appropriate precautions, and that "they were able to provide survivors with an invaluable benefit: greater social connectedness." Snyder details all of the services—and safety measures—at Peace House, a public shelter in Park City, Utah, that can accommodate up to 60 residents and features "classrooms, meditation rooms, counseling offices, a food pantry, a dog run, a playground, a roof deck, shared common areas, a child-care center, and safe rooms in case someone unwanted does gain access." But there's one thing Peace House lacks: secrecy. "If you're going to allow it to be in the dark, then you're going to get more dark," founder Jane Baker Patten says. Snyder's full essay here. (More domestic violence stories.)

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