I am Sam Vaknin, and I am the author of Malignant Self-Love, Narcissism Revisited.
Domestic violence shelters are run, funded and managed, either by governments or by volunteer non-government organizations.
According to a 1999 report published by the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, there are well over 2,000 groups in the United States involved in sheltering abused women and their offspring.
Before you decide to move with your children into a sheltered home or apartment, go through this checklist. Make sure everything is okay before you embark on this important trip instead.
First of all, it is important to make sure that the philosophy of the organizers of the shelter accords with your own. Some shelters, for instance, are run by feminist movements and strongly emphasize self-organization, cooperation and empowerment through decision-making. Other shelters are supervised by the church or other religious organizations and they demand adherence to a religious agenda.
Yet other shelters cater to the needs of specific ethnic minorities or neighborhoods. Check these issues out before you make a commitment.
Can you abide by the house rules? Are you a smoker? Some shelters are for non-smokers. What about boyfriends? Most shelters won't allow men on the premises.
Do you require a special diet due to medical reasons? Is the shelter's kitchen equipped to deal with your needs, for instance, if you are a diabetic?
So gather intelligence and be informed before you make your move. Talk to battered women who spend time in the shelter. To your social worker, to the organizers of the shelter. Check the local paper archive and visit the shelter at least twice, once during the daytime and once at night.
How secure is the shelter? Does the shelter allow visitation or any contact with your abusive spouse? Does the shelter have its own security personnel? How well is the shelter acquainted with domestic violence laws and how closely is it collaborating with courts, psychological evaluators and law enforcement agencies? Is recidivism among abusers tracked and discouraged? Does the shelter have a good reputation?
You wouldn't want to live in a shelter that is shunned by the police and the judicial system, for instance.
How does the shelter tackle the needs of infants, young children and adolescents? What are the services and amenities the shelter provides? What things should you bring with you when you make your exit? And what can you count on the shelter to provide? What should you pay for? What is free of charge?
How well stuffed is the shelter? Is the shelter well organized? Are the intake forms of the shelter anonymous? How accessible is the shelter to public transport, to schooling and to other community services? Does the shelter have a better prevention or an intervention program? Does it have a workshop or a women's support group?
In other words, does the shelter provide counseling for abusers as well as ongoing support for their victims? Are the programs run only by volunteers, laymen, peers? Are professionals involved in any of the activities in the shelter? And if so, in what capacity? Are they consultants? Are they supervisors? Does the shelter provide counseling for children, group and individual treatment modalities? Education and play therapy services or only management services? Is the shelter associated with outpatient services such as vocational counseling and job training, outreach to high schools and the community, court advocacy and mental health services or referrals?
Most important, don't forget that shelters are temporary solutions. They are transit areas and you are fully expected to move on.
Not everyone is accepted. You are likely to be interviewed at length and to be screened for both your personal needs and compatibility with the shelter's guidelines.
Is it really a crisis situation? Are your life or health at risk or are you merely looking to get away from it all?
Even then, after such an intrusive interview, expect to be placed on a waiting list. Shelters are not vacation spots. They are in the serious business of defending the vulnerable.
So when you move into a shelter, you must know in advance what your final destination is.
Imagine and plan your life after the shelter.
Do you intend to relocate? And if so, would you need financial assistance to do it?
What about the children's education? Their friends? Can you find a job? Will your family support you? Have everything sorted out before you move into the shelter?
Only then, take your things and leave your abuser for good.