Facts about Women’s Shelters (Part 1)

Facts about Women’s Shelters (Part 1)

Women’s shelters are known by other terms, including women’s refuges, domestic abuse shelters, and battered women shelters.

Amanda Luzzader
Amanda Luzzader
Content Writer
Facts about Women’s Shelters (Part 1)

When war erupts, civilian populations are rarely spared from harm and hardship. Sometimes civilians are inadvertently caught up in the fighting, and sometimes they are deliberately targeted.

However, even when civilians are able to flee from areas where there is active fighting, their suffering can be very severe. This article will briefly outline the Ukrainian conflict, some of the humanitarian impacts, and likely future conditions.

The term "refugee" is defined by the United Nations' 1951 Refugee Convention as a person who is unable or unwilling to return to their country of origin "owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group, or political opinion." According to World Population Review, the year 2022 began with nearly 26 million refugees, half of whom were children. That number was said to have been the highest ever recorded. Unfortunately, the ranks of worldwide refugees have now been swelled by a new population: Ukrainian citizens displaced by Russia's invasion in late February 2022.

What is the Ukrainian Conflict about?

Russia's President Vladimir Putin has falsely claimed that the invasion of Ukraine is justified because Ukraine is part of Russia and because Ukrainian separatists have committed humanitarian atrocities. Most analysts agree that Russia's invasion of Ukraine is an attempt by Putin to (1) redraw the boundaries of Russia to include Ukraine, (2) appropriate Ukraine's wealth and resources to bolster Russia's deeply sagging economy, (3) inflict revenge for perceived geopolitical injustices, and (4) prevent the further expansion of NATO (the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, a military alliance that the United States and many European countries are members of).

A news report by PBS states that Putin has "created the largest humanitarian crisis Europe has seen in decades," but this is not the first time Putin has behaved this way. He rose to power in the late 1990s and early 2000s by launching a similar invasion into the former Russian state of Chechnya in Eastern Europe. Under Putin, Russia also conducted a brutal military intervention into Syria in 2015. In fact, those displaced and fleeing from the Syrian conflict (which is ongoing) comprised the largest group of refugees worldwide before the Ukrainian conflict erupted.

Have Civilians been Killed in the Ukraine?

On March 8, 2022, CNN reported that at least 406 civilians have been killed during the fighting, and 801 have been injured. Children, women, and the elderly have been among the casualties. These are considered mere estimates, however, and the actual numbers are assumed to be higher. It is also almost certain that many more civilians will be harmed or killed in the fighting to come.

Who is Affected by the Ukrainian Conflict? 

Unlike other recent conflicts in Asia and Eastern Europe, which have often disproportionately affected minorities, ethnic enclaves, and those of certain religions, the Ukrainian conflict so far is affecting all civilian citizens of Ukraine. As of this writing, it is difficult to say who has been or who may be affected, because although the issue has been closely scrutinized by governments and media throughout the world, the Russian invasion has been underway for only two weeks. However, it's safe to say the conflict will likely last a long time, perhaps years, and will eventually adversely affect very large numbers of people.

According to the BBC, approximately 2 million people have left Ukraine since the fighting began. Of these, most (1.2 million) have fled to neighboring Poland, with the remainder entering Hungary, Slovakia, Moldova, Romania, and other European countries. A small number of Ukrainians (about 100,000) have gone to Russia and Belarus (which is presently allied with Russia).

How are the Refugees Leaving Ukraine?

Wartime displacements are always disruptive and frightening, and they almost always lead to harsh conditions and injustice. The BBC has reported that refugees from African countries have been prevented from leaving Ukraine or have been "treated badly" at border crossings. While such accounts are troubling, the displacement of Ukrainian civilians has otherwise been relatively safe and peaceful so far. Great numbers of Ukraine's refugees have been able to leave the country using civilian transportation and mass transit. There are many reports of packed commuter trains, heavy highway traffic, and long waits at border crossings, but bordering countries are readily accepting Ukrainians as refugees, requiring only proof of legal Ukrainian citizenship and a minimum of medical documentation. The International Red Cross is involved, and there are talks between Russia and Ukraine regarding the establishment of refugee corridors, through which non-combatants can leave the country peacefully.

It's important to know that many families are being separated by the conflict. While civilians have been able to exit Ukraine as refugees, many are leaving behind family members to assist with the defense of the country. Others are sending their children away but then staying in Ukraine.

Also, unknown numbers of people have been driven from their homes but are still in Ukraine, living with friends, family, or in shelters. Access to food, electricity, clean water, and medical care in Ukraine has been disrupted and is expected to become critically scarce.

How Many Ukrainians are Expected to Flee the Invasion?

Conditions will almost surely worsen for all Ukrainian civilians. The Russian invasion has stalled in the face of stiff resistance by Ukrainian defense forces, especially in the capital city of Kyiv. Because of this, many analysts predict Putin will soon order the use of more brutal and indiscriminate force against civilian populations.

Ukraine's population is a little more than 43 million. According to a report by Foreign Policy News, the number of Ukrainian refugees will probably rise to 10 million, the largest number of refugees fleeing a single country since World War II.

Will the United States Receive Ukrainian Refugees?

According to Axios (as of the first week in March 2022), the United States has so far not accepted any refugees from Ukraine arising from the present conflict. The U.S. News and WoHow does someone find a women's shelter?

While this article was not written to advise women seeking escape from domestic violence, the first and most critical piece of information about women's shelters is how to find one, so I'll place it at the very top.

If you or someone you know needs to escape domestic violence, get in touch with the National Domestic Violence Hotline (NDVH) at


Text START to 88788


The NDVH is a nationwide federal program funded by the Violence Against Women Act (NAWA), a federal law signed by President Bill Clinton in 1994 and renewed and updated in 2000. By using the NDVH, women can receive immediate crisis counseling and also connections and referrals to local resources, such as women's shelters.

What is a women's shelter?

While their size, scope, missions, and operations vary greatly, a women's shelter can be broadly described as an organization that seeks to temporarily harbor, protect, and assist women and their children who are escaping domestic violence, sexual assault, and trafficking. An extended or implied objective of most women's shelters is to empower abuse survivors so that they can start lives free from domestic abuse. Women's shelters are known by other terms, including women's refuges, domestic abuse shelters, and battered women shelters. In this article, I'll refer to them as women's shelters.

What is the history of women's shelters?

Many forms of refuge for abused women have existed throughout history. For example, convents and even brothels are known to have been places where women could historically go to escape abusive husbands or family members. Other forms of refuge existed in varying forms and with varying levels of institutional organization.

Today's women's shelters and rape-crisis centers were established as one response to the battered women's movement, and issue-specific outgrowth of the feminist movement and civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s.

The first organization to shelter for abused women during this movement could be said to be Haven House, which was established in 1964 under the auspices of Al-Anon, a support group for anyone suffering from the adverse effects of alcoholism, including neglect, homelessness, and abuse.

The first widely acknowledged women's shelter was established in the United Kingdom in 1970 or 1971 by activist-writer and domestic-abuse advocate Erin Pizzey (author of Scream Quietly or the Neighbours Will Hear). The shelter was known as the Chiswick Women's Aid and later called the Chiswick Family Refuge, which is still in operation.

Two women's shelters can be attributed to leading the movement in the United States to furnish refuge specifically to women fleeing domestic violence. One is the Emergency Shelter Program (later called Ruby's Place), which was established in Hayward, California, in 1972 by a local church group. The other was established in 1973 in St. Paul, Minnesota, by a group known as the Women's Advocates. Both of these organizations are still in operation today.

After the first women's shelters appeared in the 1960s and 1970s, they proliferated rapidly. By 1983, there were approximately 700 women's shelters in the United States, which harbored approximately 91,000 women and 131,000 children. By 1990, there were approximately 1,200 U.S. shelters harboring more than 300,00 women and children. In 2004 there were reportedly just under 2,000 women's shelters. The number of women's shelters has increased similarly in other countries worldwide.

This article continues with a second part, in which we'll discuss how women's shelters work, how they are funded, and how they work to keep their clients safe.






https://www.capsa.org/housing/rld Report states that (as of the first week in March 2022) the United States had provided $54 million in humanitarian assistance to Ukraine and was planning to send more. The administration of U.S. President Joe Biden has granted Temporary Protected Status to all Ukrainians currently residing in the United States, which protects them from deportation and allows them to hold jobs for 18 months. Officials from the U.S. State Department are reportedly assessing the refugee situation in Poland and elsewhere, and the possibility of Ukrainians seeking refuge and resettlement in the United States has not been ruled out.