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How abuse shelters teach women to game the system

August 24, 2008 — Mary Runge of Palm Bay, Florida, found herself without a job and her savings depleted. So last month the single mom went knocking on the doors of local charities for help. The 47-year-old mother of three was urged to tell the girl at the local abuse hotline: "tell them we have been abused, and we will receive all we need."
But Runge had never been a victim of abuse.

It used to be that in order to get into an abuse shelter, you had to have visible signs of harm — even if the injuries were fake. Columnist Denise Noe recounts her experience with a couple who had been evicted from their apartment. The wife reasoned, "My husband could black my eye so me and the kid could go to a battered woman's shelter."

But nowadays, abuse shelters dispense with the formalities — any good sob story will do. You see, intake workers are told to "always believe the victim."

Anthony Westbury, president of SafeSpace in Stuart, Florida, explains his shelter's open-door policy this way: "you don't put up any more barriers for victims wanting to enter the shelter." In Enid, Oklahoma, the YWCA Emergency Shelter actually advertises on its website, "we do NOT require proof of abuse."

"In all the time that I volunteered there, I saw one woman who showed signs of physical abuse," a former shelter worker revealed. The residents "were just gaming the system....All they had to do was make up some tale about some man abusing them — no proof needed — and they could stay up to 2 months at the shelter."

So once inside, how do these women milk the system?

The basic shelter package includes free room, board, and baby-sitting. And chauffeur-driven transport in the shelter van. Some shelters offer free pet care. In Naples, Florida, the Shelter for Abused Women and Children features a beauty salon where residents "can be pampered in a safe and convenient location."

Taxpayer-funded legal help is also available for just about any problem. If you need to get rid of a pesky husband, Bethany House in Falls Church, Virginia, can help. A former shelter volunteer describes the shelter as a "free hostel for women with emotional problems if they are willing to hate their husbands enough and are willing to take out protective orders against their husbands."

Daily shelter routines can be described as loosey-goosey. The women come and go as they please. Asked what the Buffalo Women Calf Society does to help women become self-sufficient, Melinda Zephier, a staffer at the South Dakota shelter, answered limply, "We don't push them."

Romantic liaisons thrive. One former shelter director revealed, "After hours, some of these women would sneak men into their rooms — the same men who had supposedly abused them." Other women take up with their female co-residents.

At Another Way in Lake City, Florida, you can toke a little weed and not worry about the consequences. "I, on numerous occasions reported illegal drug use that I had witnessed take place on Shelter property and often my complaints were ignored," a former employee revealed.

Once the "abused" woman is released from the shelter, she moves to the front of the line for welfare benefits, HUD housing programs, and almost everything else. If she is an illegal immigrant, a work permit is almost a sure bet.

There's more to the shelter shake-and-bake routine.

Because once word gets out that reaching the status of an "abused woman" is a free ticket to Easy Street, everyone wants to get a piece of the action. That means many must be turned away, including those women and men who are true victims of abuse.

All this comes as good news to the domestic violence industry. That's because telling potential donors and lawmakers about all the women and children who were refused help is one of the best cough-up-your-money arguments they have.

For example, the National Network to End Domestic Violence claims in its recent Domestic Violence Counts report that nationwide there were "2,923 unmet requests for emergency shelter." And the Colorado Domestic Abuse Assistance Program reports, "In 2006, 5,886 individuals were turned away from shelters in Colorado due to a lack of capacity."

Don't ask me to explain how there were 5,886 persons turned away in Colorado and only 2,923 unmet requests nationwide.

Fortunately, there are still a few good women left, ladies who refuse to sell their souls to a free-wheeling shelter system. Mary Runge is one such woman.

"I do not want to live on this twisted, sick system. I don't want them in my life...I don't want to play the game and lie. I only need help," Runge plaintively told me.

"All women are not feminist," she announces proudly.



  1. For example, the National Network to End Domestic Violence claims in its recent Domestic Violence Counts report that nationwide there were "2,923 unmet requests for emergency shelter." And the Colorado Domestic Abuse Assistance Program reports, "In 2006, 5,886 individuals were turned away from shelters in Colorado due to a lack of capacity."

    Don't ask me to explain how there were 5,886 persons turned away in Colorado and only 2,923 unmet requests nationwide.

    The number that the NNEDV reported was from one 24 hour period, not the annual total.

  2. Homeless Drug addicts and alcoholics are getting smart, it would seem ? They have learned all you have to do is claim domestic violence to be pampered, and put up in a nice shelter.

  3. DON'T WORRY, BE HAPPY.......

    In Pinellas County , 6th Judicial Circuit Court, this will soon change radically. Watch the news, it will definitely be well know. It will be as late as Feb/Mar 2010 but it will stop and some judges will be embarrassed.

    This happens because you can lie in Family court and get away with it, PERJURY IT IS CALLED BY FLORIDA STATE LAW MAKERS. But it is NEVER prosecuted, so the best liar wins. NOT FOR LONG.

    How can you have justice if no one is afraid of any punishment? You DON'T !

    I have a plan, I have the power, and I will see it corrected.

    one who suffered by lies at the hands of a judge who let them go.....

  4. Sorry, I mean Feb/Mar 2011

  5. This is the country of injustice, where women have it all, men became women slaves, treat her nicely, she can dump u, but u can't dump her. If you don't do it her way, she can ruin your whole life by a phone call and get a restraining order, then call the cops 50 times or more and tell them you violated the restraining order 50 times, get her lover in your house that was yours and let him call the cops too and say he saw you around, another misdemeanor, some neighbor might call and say he saw you too, another misdemeanor. she goes around the neighborhood saying he is trying to kill me, will come back and she gives every one a picture of yours, and give the people more paranoia. who wants to have an interesting day will say he saw u there, he is the protector of the shire against this evil woman abuser. law did give women the power to send you to prison for a life time if she is persistent, 50 misdemeanors= a life time behind bars, or a life time defending your self, sentence up to a year for each violation of restraining order. bail for each case, lawyers fees. this is the case if you want to clear your name after you already lost you house, possessions and everything else.
    you better die then, she sentenced you to the real death, you are in a grave and have nothing but the cloth on you back, and if people found you they will put you in jail based on false allegations by the demonic people which the system gave the power to.
    a gross misdemeanor for vengeance every week, poor man, became inferior to women, abused by the system and all who works in it. jail is not the natural habitat for man, it is like a grave for the innocent, words can never describe the pain of an innocent man in jail, treated like an animal just because he allegedly existed in front of his home, and even if that was true, this stupid country punish people now for there mere existence some where in public or in front of a home, knowing that this person did never hurt a human before and has no criminal record.
    this system help thieves take your property and all you hold dear from collections, money, cloth, etc by this restraining order. what is this kind of due process, country of freedom and all this false banners.
    I couldn't keep up with being (the most wanted), just because I was getting a divorce, i can't afford and how can I, they already took everything, no money, no place to stay, only hell is waiting for you, i had to leave the whole country and will never come back to the country of injustice, there is not a single piece of evidence against me except false witnesses, no photos, wasn't caught violating the restraining order on the spot, at least some one can use their cell phone and take a pic of me going near the property or something. Well I am not wasting my life behind bar and in courts, waiting for a possibility of being sentenced falsely even for a month, I will die out of despair, misery, out of feeling abused by the system which is more creul than any real beating or domestic violence abuse.

  6. It makes me sad to realize how many people are abused by a legal system that's supposed to exact justice. There is a movement to stop or at least cut down on some of these frivolous tro's. I feel for you, and hope things improve. I was so sure my petitioner would contrive evidence to make me look guilty of violating the order, that I articulated that sentiment in the hearing. The judge said, "Well, it's one thing to accuse someone. It's another one all together, to prove it". And sure enough, my petitioner DID file a motion against me, which resulted in 2 mutual no contact orders being thrown out. There are judges and government officials who aren't totally blinded by these false accusations. Be heard! If you need any legal advice, Chris and I have studied this issue in depth. Don't hesitate to contact me. Good luck. Paula