Women’s shelters provide safe accommodation, counselling, and support for women who have become victims of violence, and for their children – at any time, day and night. They are spaces where women find protection, help, and room to cope with the consequences of violence and to develop a perspective on a life without violence. The support possibilities are limited by the existing housing capacities and the staff resources of each women’s shelter.
In order to protect the women, the addresses of women’s shelters are usually not made public. In most cases, the initial contact takes places on the phone. The concerned women either turn to a women’s shelters themselves, or friends, acquaintances, or family get in touch. Sometimes also institutions such as police, public offices, counselling centres, or health care facilities establish contact.
Women’s shelters are facilities for women who are acutely affected or threatened by violence – regardless of their age, income, residential status, sexual orientation, or country of origin. It is also irrelevant what kind of violence they have experienced. There are restrictions when it comes to taking up women with acute mental impairments, addiction problems, or disabilities.
The services provided by women’s shelters for women affected by violence and for their children comprises safe accommodation, psychosocial counselling and care, as well as assistance in arranging the shared everyday life in a women’ shelter.
Counselling is offered both before and after the stay in a women’s shelters. If necessary, women can be accompanied when visiting public offices or other institutions. Persons from the social environment of the concerned women can also receive counselling, just as professionals.
The children of women who are affected by violence have usually witnessed the violence against their mothers first-hand and are often also victims of violence. This is why supporting the children is likewise part of the services offered by women‘s shelters. The aim is to reassure and encourage the children, to alleviate the effects of violence, and to show them strategies for coping with violence. Only older sons can often not be accommodated in women’s shelters, so that the possibility of taking up their mothers is limited.
The counselling services before and after the stay in the women’s shelter are free of charge.
Many women’s shelters subsidise the costs of accommodation by charging usage fees from women. If the women cannot pay these fees, the social welfare offices will be consulted in order to find a solution.
Federal Government Report on the Situation of Women’s Shelters, Counselling Centres, and Other Support Services for Women Affected by Violence and Their Children, published by the Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth, Berlin 2012 (PDF, in German).