Safe places for women and children need reliable support

The women’s shelter is not just a place that provides sleeping and cooking facilities. It is a place that offers women and children affected by physical, mental and sexual violence a place that can save lives and help them make a fresh start. A place of hope when all is dark for those affected. The women’s shelter in Wächtersbach is one such place in the Main-Kinzig region, and has been around for 30 years. The Women’s Shelter in Hanau has been providing protection, shelter and advice for more than 40 years.

“Violence can take many forms. Many people think of physical violence first. But psychological violence, insults and belittling are also part of it,” explains Brigitte Machnitzke of the sponsoring organization Women Help Women Wächtersbach. However, moving to a women’s shelter is often not enough for the affected women and their children, because a large number of former partners do not accept the separation peacefully. There is stalking and bullying, the ex-partner is spied on: in the circle of friends, in relatives, in the neighborhood or at work. It’s a very stressful situation. Or it can happen that the ex-partner spreads lies about the ex-partner in order to put her in a bad light. Or the mother has a bad mouth towards her children. That is why the addresses of women’s shelters are not published.

“All of this is a huge problem for those affected and a huge emotional burden, adding to their insecure living situation,” says Leah Kercher, who accompanies women on their way out of violence with Brigitte Machnitsky. Many women who seek shelter in a women’s shelter alone or with their children initially feel annoyed when it comes to dealing with daily life outside the usual structures. In the women’s shelter they receive help and support, for example through necessary visits to the authorities and the submission of various requests. “As a rule, women secretly leave their partners for fear of excessive violence in direct confrontation. Then they come with very little baggage. Teams in women’s shelters are prepared for such situations. It is important that affected women have the courage to take this important first step,” says Brigitte Machnitsky. The women’s shelters are therefore furnished and equipped with bed linen, towels and kitchen utensils. The women’s shelter in Wächtersbach, along with the one in Hanau, offers 48 places and several family rooms. “However, the demand is just over double,” said Brigitte Machnitsky’s personal assessment.

Women’s shelters in Hesse work together and use a website for this, which helps to quickly search for vacancies, so that the road to the women’s shelter sometimes leads to a distant city, which can be very useful in case of an acute threat from the ex-partner. What all women usually have in common is years of suffering, accompanied by the ultimately vain hope that their partner can change their behavior after all. “Women have had a bad time, going out is their last resort and involves a lot of emotional stress. It takes time for them to rearrange their lives. During this stage, the women receive support and advice from us, and the children also receive psychological care so that they can process and sort out what they have been through more appropriately. Better, ”explains Brigitte Machnitsky.

Says a resident of the women’s shelter

One such child is 17-year-old Annika (name changed), who has been living at the women’s shelter with her mother and two younger brothers for a year. Due to the domestic situation with her drug-addicted father, the young woman has taken a lot of care in the family in recent years and has also taken responsibility – also for the father. This was unexpected, especially when he was not on drugs. It started with alcohol, then became cocaine and heroin. This father, who is addicted to drugs, is terrifying and strange to children. But there was this other father, dear and kind, who wanted to help get rid of drug addiction. So the daughter kept calling to find him a place in rehab and tried several times to quit drugs but to no avail. The mother was intimidated by the violent partner. Although the couple had long since separated, the father showed up at the apartment one night, desperately in need of money to buy drugs. He was so upset that he began smashing furniture and threatening his wife and children. Before the police arrived, he escaped by jumping out of the window.
After this incident, the family’s aides learned that the family needed a safe place as soon as possible. A few days later, the mother moved with her children to the women’s shelter. Only now, months later, can the 17-year-old think about what she wants to do with her life. Because now she doesn’t have to worry about her father anymore and she doesn’t have any direct fear for her mother and siblings. “Of course we are still concerned about our father’s condition, whether he has had enough to eat and whether he is warm and dry. We haven’t had contact with him since that bad night.” This is the best solution for you and your family at the moment.

Women’s Shelter in Wächtersbach

Between 1992 and 2021, 1,322 women and 1,401 children were admitted to the Wächtersbach women’s shelter alone. Some only stayed a few days, and others lived in the facility for up to a year. “It also depends on how quickly a suitable and affordable apartment can be found and how quickly those affected can organize their lives again,” explains Brigitte Machnitsky. Since the conversion of the women’s shelter there in 2020, more rooms, kitchens and bathrooms are now available. The house has consultation rooms on the ground floor and provides space for group discussions. Furniture has also been renovated. In Hanau, plans are underway to expand the local women’s shelter. The situation of many women affected by violence has deteriorated significantly during the first lockdown of Corona, as they have been controlled more than usual by their partners due to spatial restrictions making it significantly difficult to contact the women’s shelter.

The social consequences of domestic and sexual violence

Domestic and sexual violence not only lead to severe and direct consequences for those affected, but also for society. The European Institute for Gender Equality estimates the costs to Germany at 54 billion euros annually. These high costs arise in the health care system, in the police and judiciary, and through the loss of work for those affected. Leah Kircher estimates that “these calculations are based on known cases, and the number of unreported cases is likely to be much higher.” This is why violence against women and children is not a private matter: “It affects all of us and that is why we plead not to turn a blind eye when we notice violence in a relationship,” emphasizes Brigitte Machnitsky. The women’s shelters are jointly funded by so-called municipal state funds from the state of Hesse, and are also supported by the county of Main-Kinzig, the city of Hanau and other municipalities in the region. But that doesn’t cover the costs, which is why women’s shelters rely on donations so they can offer additional trauma-dealing projects.

Operation of the city of Hanau supports women’s shelters

Brigitte Machnitsek confirms that “The Hanau City Race has provided reliable support for the work of women’s shelters in Hanau and Wachtersbach for 21 years, which is a great help to us.” Nearly 22 years ago, women from the First Hanau Running Club, the Main-Kinzig Sports District, and the women’s offices in Hanau and the Main-Kinzig District came together and brought the idea of ​​the charity back to life. To this day, these are the main players in the organizational team. Running in the city would not have been possible without the many volunteers from Hanau’s first running group, the work of the Main-Kinzig Sports District and other supporting clubs in Hanau. Organizing the race is a major community effort. Loyal sponsors are also indispensable pillars of running every year. The charity’s proceeds are administered directly to assist women and children affected by violence. Hanau Mayor Klaus Kaminski and District One Councilor Susan Semmler have taken over the sponsorship again this year, with the race once again taking place together on the street as usual.
“We are very grateful for any form of support. Our charitable walk is a strong sign of solidarity and shows that our society is not ready to simply accept violence against women and children,” explains Klaus Kaminsky, adding: “Violence in relationships is never a private thing. We all need to be vigilant. and looking together when we see signs of belittling, hurt and humiliation in our circle of acquaintances or in the neighbourhood. This is the only way we can help avoid escalation and call attention to offers of help in a timely manner.” Susan Semler also draws attention to the great importance of the city’s path: Someone who supports the work of our women’s shelters invests directly in the future of people asking for help in very difficult life situations, so that only women can see that future for themselves and their children again as a possibility. That’s why it’s so important that we as a community are sending a clear signal here.” , September 16, from 5 p.m. in Hanau Market Square offers this opportunity. Registration is possible online at www.hanauer-stadtlauf.de. “Under the motto ‘Register, Be There, Donate,’ we look forward to the many people who, after two years, will finally participate again, individually or in groups, or support the cause through their registration,” explained the two women and EO Officers, Grit Ciani (County Main-Kinzig) and Cornelia Gasche (Hanau). +++ evening

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