Related Tools

Shelter services in brief

Last edited: September 14, 2012

This content is available in


Shelters are commonly designed to offer a variety of specific benefits to help women, their children, and girls, and where relevant, address a wide range of challenges they may face when escaping abuse. This support involves a combination of direct service provision, individual advocacy, and participation in coordinated community responses to facilitate survivor access to services not provided on site. The support may include:

  • Safe accommodation on an emergency basis to respond to immediate protection needs in situations of violence, including crisis intervention, risk assessment and safety planning.
  • Medical treatment for immediate and long-term consequences of violence (i.e. those resulting from violent injury, effects of trauma, chronic distress and/or restricted access to health care by their abusers).
  • Counseling and therapeutic supports to develop survivor understanding of the typically complex dynamics associated with abuse and leaving situations of violence, as well as assistance to overcome the traumatic affects of it.
  • Financial and economic assistance to address difficulties resulting from or exacerbated by abusers’ control of financial resources (e.g. taking credit in partner’s name, forcing partner into debt in cases of domestic violence, perpetrators withholding money or other benefits) and influence over economic opportunities (i.e. employment, promotion, education).
  • Legal assistance related to:
    • Protection from the offender (e.g. witness protection, orders of protection, special visas/residency permits/asylum for victims/witnesses)
    • Prosecution of the offender
    • Child custody and access proceedings (i.e. contact with children)
    • Compensation and restitution for survivors and their children
    • Long-term housing support (United Nations Secretary-General, 2006b).

In addition to the direct support to survivors, shelters also play an important role in raising public awareness on violence against women to encourage social change in their communities.