I can best explain by telling about a recent hot line call I received. A woman I'll call Linda was at a pay phone with her two small children. She'd just fled her abusive husband to keep herself and her children safe.
Because he'd isolated her from friends and family, she had nowhere to go. And because he didn't allow her access to finances, she had no money.
Linda told me she'd resided at a domestic violence shelter once before. She'd stayed there for the allowable time, which was four weeks, but hadn't been able to save enough money to rent an apartment. She had returned to her abusive husband out of necessity. But this time, she was determined to make it on her own.
I called every shelter in her area, but all of them were full. What happened to Linda is all too typical.
On a daily basis, advocates on the National Domestic Violence Hotline are unable to help many women reach safety because there's no room in the shelters. We need to create more domestic violence shelters and help guarantee that victims won't be driven back to their abusers by lack of longer-term housing.
When Linda and I hung up that night, she told me she would either sleep in the car with her children or go back to her abusive husband and suffer the consequences. Domestic violence survivors deserve better choices.
Mary Lowry is a writer and a hotline advocate at the National Domestic Violence Hotline. She has worked in the domestic violence movement for three years.