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SPA Seminar Series Highlights the Policy Challenges of Domestic Abuse

A shadowed fist in the foreground. Individual crying in the background.

Andrea Hetling of Rutgers University, recently gave a talk about her book, Home Safe Home: Housing Solutions for Survivors of Intimate Partner Violence, as part of the SPA Public Administration and Policy Research Seminar Series.

Hetling, associate professor in the Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers, shared her work tracing house options and supports for domestic abuse victims over time with SPA graduate students and faculty at the noon lecture.

Often the experiences of women who suffer from violence and those who live in poverty are intertwined. Women can be both trapped by abuse and trapped by poverty, she said. Abusers tend to try to control women by isolating them from their family, friends and finances. Funding constraints often limit the stay for women in shelters and even after two years many survivors are not able to find stable living situations.

“Economic factors are the biggest factors that keep women from escaping,” explained Hetling. “There has been work to adjust policy to make it friendly to survivors, but I argue it is not sufficient,” said Hetling.

There may be emergency domestic violence shelters that take families for three to six months and sometimes transitional housing that lasts longer. Hetling says the goal is a more permanent solution. Her research shows it can take time for women to recover and the general social safety net is not particularly designed to meet the needs of survivors.

One case study included in the book focused on a permanent housing model in Bronx, N.Y. Many women interviewed said they appreciated the stability of housing – the privacy, independence, and safety it provided their families. This model also created a support system of neighbors the women trusted and residents expressed an increased feeling of empowerment. Moving forward, Hetling said it is worth considering how to best measure appropriate outcomes of such programs and how policies need to differ by the needs of the community.

Hetling’s book was co-authored by Hilary Botein and published by Rutgers Press in December 2016.