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Safety and security should be central to all aspects of accommodation and services

Last edited: September 14, 2012

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In line with a survivor-centred approach, safety should be a primary goal of any shelter or safe space. Accommodation and services should be designed to promote the immediate safety, physical and emotional well-being, and longer-term physical, legal, and socio-economic security of survivors. This can enable them to overcome the multiple consequences of violence toward rebuilding their lives, and assist women and girls at risk of abuse to prevent future violence altogether (United Nations Secretary General, 2006a.b).

Safety and protection measures should be considered in planning and designing shelter facilities and services provided as well as in policy-advocacy and community outreach efforts.

Survivors may be vulnerable to future violence, from being stalked by an abusive ex- or current partner; retaliation attempts by family members for seeking external assistance or due to perceptions of 'honour'; or being pursued by a network of organized crime, as often in cases of trafficking or sexual exploitation. Women who leave abusive relationships may be particularly at-risk of femicide, especially in cases where there are specific patterns of abuse (i.e. history of violent behaviour, sexual violence, strangulation, stalking, and threats of murder) and circumstances (e.g. unemployment, custody proceedings over children from the relationship, ownership of a gun or other lethal weapon). The potential severity and nature of these risks underscore the importance of comprehensive risk assessment and safety planning, and maintaining ethical principles, including upholding women’s anonymity and confidentiality.