The Women’s Shelter (WS)
The Women’s Shelter in Iceland is the only Shelter of its kind in Iceland. It has a history of 37 years in providing women and their children a shelter when staying at their own home is not safe or possible due to violence. At present thirteen professionals work at the Shelter. Members of the implementation team are the managing director, shift manager and the financial director. Other members of staff at the Shelter are a lawyer, a social worker and counselors with various educations such as psychology, gender studies, sociology, criminology, anthropology and family counseling. There is close collaboration with child protection services, the police, educational institutions, immigration authorities and other NGO’s.
During the stay, women are offered interviews which can be in the form of general consultation, advice, support and information. Most of the women meet with a social worker and a lawyer to get general information on practical matters. Furthermore, a female police officer provides consultation at certain hours on permanent presence at the Shelter. The stay is free of charge for the women and their children and is open 24 hours a day all year round.
In 2018 the total number of women who had to live at The Women’s Shelter in Iceland was 135. Their age ranged from 18-82 years old, 56% were coming for the first time, and 38% had their children with them. In 2018 there were 70 children living in the Shelter ranging from newborns to 17 years old in age. The average time of stay was 32 days. Average number of inhabitants per day, every day of the year was 17, of which 11 women and 6 children.
1. Temporary housing project
As history has shown us at the Shelter, women often find it difficult to leave their abuser as they do not have a place to stay when leaving the Shelter. Although the percentage of women going back to their abuser when leaving the Shelter is 13% we still find it too many women and too many children who sometimes have no other choice than going back to the abuser. Hence, a non-profit housing organization was established by the Women’s Shelter in 2016, aiming at building a house with 18 apartments for women to live at for two to three years when leaving the Shelter. Whilst living there, the women will be able to have more time to get the support and assistance from various aspects of the society in order to start a new life. Members of staff have now gained quite a good insight into how, what and why to open such an housing option for female survivors of domestic violence.
2. Let‘s talk about violence
One of the Shelter’s aims is to assist children who have to live at the Shelter to recover from the dramatic situations and influences which violence has had on them. In 2016 the Women’s Shelter premiered a short animated cartoon called Let’s talk about violence. The staff at the Shelter wrote the script and advised on the drawing of the cartoons. The main goal of the cartoon was to deliver clear messages regarding domestic violence to children. The message children are supposed to be left with is that domestic violence is not the family’s private matter, it can take place in every family and that the violence is never the child’s fault as adults are responsible for the child’s wellbeing. Children are encouraged to speak about the violence as there is always someone who can help. Let´s talk about Violence, all around Iceland is a project aiming at showing the cartoon to staff at schools and kindergartens all around the island in order to prepare staff for showing the cartoon to their students.
Key person involved:
Hildur Guðmundsdóttir, is the ward manager at the Shelter and has held the position for the last couple of years. She has an extensive experience and hence understanding of the topic of domestic violence. She has lectured on the influence of domestic violence, the aims and roles of the Women’s Shelter on various venues. Ms. Guðmundsdóttir has conducted various research on issues relating to domestic violence such as a study on casting a light onto the life of women of foreign origin living in the Shelter, where do they go after their stay and how can the Shelter improve its service to that vulnerable group. Ms. Guðmundsdóttir has a valuable experience from both working directly with the survivors and within the field of presentations and exchanging information.