Related Tools


Last edited: September 14, 2012

This content is available in


As part of the arrival process, and to support women and girls to feel safe, welcome and comfortable at the shelter, it is important to provide assistance to address their emergency needs (e.g. physical injury, emotional trauma). Shelter staff should respond to a woman's immediate needs before general information gathering is completed for those who choose to stay at the shelter.

Crisis intervention is one of the primary responsibilities of shelter workers, who may respond in-person with women and girls visiting the shelter facility or on the telephone when receiving crisis calls from the community.

Crisis occurs when an individual perceives an event or situation as intolerable and experiences effects that exceed their coping resources and strategies. Characteristics that are typical of crisis include:

  • Time-limited, though they may develop into a series of recurring events.
  • Often difficult to resolve, involving complicated circumstances.
  • Both elements of danger and impetus for change.
  • Confronts the individual with choices.
  • Causes the individual to experience emotional disequilibrium.

Individuals respond differently to crisis; common reactions include:

  • Overcoming the crisis and coping effectively within a short period of time.
  • Blocking the emotional pain of the crisis, and as a result, experiencing ongoing effects of the crisis situation.
  • Appearing to become immobilized at the time of the crisis and struggling to move on in their life unless specific intervention is provided to address the situation.

Women and girls may be in crisis when they initially access a shelter and its services as a result of their experience of abuse. They may also experience crisis in response to various events or circumstances that arise during their stay in the shelter triggering memories and strong emotions (such as hearing about another woman’s experience that is similar to her own; being reminded of something that she associates with the perpetrator or experience, such as a particular object, sound, etc.) (James, 2009 as cited in Alberta Council of Women's Shelters, 2009).