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Domestic violence victims turned away from refuge shelters

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Summary of story from Indystar, July 30, 2011

Many female victims of domestic violence are being told there is simply no room for them when seeking help at refuge shelters.

In what is being called the worst shortage of shelter spaces ever seen in Indiana, women’s advocates blame a combination of factors for the crisis.

The dramatic rise in domestic violence, coupled with cuts in federal funding and a failing economy, has led to the lack of available spaces and an increase in domestic violence.

There is also great concern about the lack of funds available for transitional housing that allows women to move on from shelters, thus causing a build up in the system.

Julie Marsh, chief executive officer of the Domestic Violence Network (DVN), said her organization is having a drive to raise $30,000 to relieve the pressure on local shelters.

It is about halfway there, thanks to a $10,000 donation from the Women’s Fund of Central Indiana (WFCI).

These funds will go directly to people like the 30-year-old mother of two from the Eastside who has been at an area shelter for three weeks.

The woman, who didn’t want her name used because her boyfriend threatened to find her and kill her, said she was kept as a prisoner in her house for seven years and wasn’t allowed to work.

She went to a shelter after the boyfriend, 42, came home drunk, punched her and choked her to unconsciousness twice.

When he passed out, she swooped up her sons and left.

“I had never heard of this place before,” she said of the shelter. “I went to a friend’s house, and they told me about it and took me. I had nowhere else to go.”

When the shelter can’t help, the victims are sometimes forced into situations nearly as perilous as the ones they left.

Marsh said a long-term solution is making contact with businesses that have unused space.

She is calling for a community-wide approach to deal with the problem in a strategic way, asking people to think of any free spaces available in their areas that might make suitable shelter accommodation.

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