These are the barriers of escaping domestic violence

Collaborator: Rachael Schuit
Published: 10/21/2021, 1:37 AM
Edited: 10/21/2021, 5:48 PM

(TRAVERSE CITY, Mich.) When people hear stories about domestic violence situations, especially during Domestic Violence Awareness Month, the question of 'Well, why don't they just leave?' is bound to come up.

We spoke to Juliette Schultz, the Executive Director for the Women's Resource Center in Traverse City, about the barriers survivors face when trying to leave abusive situations. 

Schultz said the Women's Resource Center received 1,000 crisis calls in 2020, more than they typically get, and many of those were about finding a place to go after they leave their abuser. 

"Upwards of 80 percent of the survivors that come to our shelter, the first barrier is housing," said Schultz. "That's an immediate need for survivors who are trying to leave." 

The Women's Resource Center has an emergency shelter that fills up regularly.

Schultz said they put survivors of domestic violence in hotels if they have to, but that sometimes survivors can't find anywhere to go at all.

"I think that people forget that homelessness and domestic violence is very very interconnected, you know, and that's a huge piece," said Schultz "We know that one third of survivors are homeless at some point."

The lack of housing in northern Michigan is an issue local leaders and community members are always talking about, and one that also affects survivors of domestic violence.   

Schultz said the Women's Resource Center also advocates on behalf of survivors trying to find and maintain housing if the person wants that. 

"We advocate on behalf of our survivors with landlords," said Schultz. "We had a survivor who, utility bills were in arrears and so the new landlord didn't like that and we helped take care of that for them to make sure that they didn't have any outstanding bills."

The lack of housing isn't the only issue. Schultz said economic abuse can make it difficult for survivors trying to find a new place to live. 

"Typically when a survivor is leaving her abuser, she's leaving under emergent or urgent circumstances. So at that point in time, she may not have been allowed to have access to a credit card," said Schultz. "She may not have been allowed to hold a full time or part time job. She might not have been allowed by her abuser to pursue education and because of that her options are pretty limited when it comes to applying for housing. She may have poor credit."

When it comes to addressing the barriers domestic violence survivors face, Schultz says it's also about community education and acknowledging domestic violence as a problem in northern Michigan.

"This is happening in our community and there's sort of this not in my backyard mentality of you know I don't want a shelter in my backyard," said Schultz. "You know what is that all about. We're only as strong as the most vulnerable person in our community. So let's figure out who's the most vulnerable person in our community. Well, it's likely somebody who is homeless and if that if that person is homeless and is a woman it is likely that she has been a victim of domestic violence."

Schultz also hopes people will educate themselves on what domestic violence is and to recognize that it's not just physical, but can also be psychological and emotional abuse. 

"Is their partner stalking them, are they constantly calling them, are they wanting to control the friends that they go out with," said Schultz. "Are they isolating them. That's the number one tactic is isolating, pulling away from friends."

Another change Schultz would like to see: the question people ask when learning about a domestic violence situation. 

"We're asking the wrong question when we ask why doesn't she leave, cause why is he doing that?" said Schultz.  "He's making a conscious decision so it's, it's not about her leaving as much as it is about him making a decision to abuse."

The 24/7 crisis line for the Women's Resource Center is: 800-554-4972

If you would like more resources or information you can also visit their website


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