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An Online Resource Library on Gender-Based Violence.

Conflict Resolution Tools for Domestic Violence Shelter Staff

November 01, 2009

Although most domestic violence victims* who seek assistance from local domestic violence programs do not need emergency shelter, far too many do. For those fleeing an abusive partner, finding a safe and supportive refuge for themselves and their children is critically important. In most cases, domestic violence shelter staff and volunteers work hard to create and maintain a ”home-like” feel for the families that come to a shelter and a shared sense of communal living among shelter residents. Some programs are able to offer individual rooms with private bathrooms for residents, while others may have two or three families sharing a room or a suite of rooms with a common bathroom. Typically, a shelter has other common areas where residents prepare and eat meals, play with their children, watch TV, use a computer if one is available, and socialize.

Sharing living space with others is difficult under the best of circumstances and conflicts are inevitable – anyone who has grown up in a large family or shared an apartment with others knows this first hand! But group living is particularly challenging when you are sharing communal space with strangers who, like you and your children, are living in real fear, are unsure of the future, and are recovering from the trauma of domestic violence.

While advocates working in shelter programs are expected to build a community and manage a household of women and children from diverse backgrounds and circumstances, many may not receive the necessary training to resolve the types and intensity of conflicts that may arise within the shelter. Such training should equip advocates to better identify, understand and respond to the many challenges associated with communal living, including those described in Meeting Survivors' Needs: A Multi-State Study of Domestic Violence Shelter Experiences, discussed in more detail below.

In order to help address the training and technical assistance needs of domestic violence advocates, the National Resource Center on Domestic Violence (NRCDV) developed this brief collection on Conflict Resolution Tools and Resources for Domestic Violence Shelter Staff. Building on the findings from the Meeting Survivors’ Needs study, this online collection includes selected materials and resources intended to equip advocates with a contextual framework and practical skills to better resolve conflicts that often arise within a shelter environment. A full set of publications related to Meeting Survivors' Needs: A Multi-State Study of Domestic Violence Shelter Experiences can be found on VAWnet, including the Research in Brief, Executive Summary, and Final Report, as well as Webinar materials, a Shelter Study FAQ, and related resources.

NRCDV provides a wide range of free, comprehensive, and individualized technical assistance, training, and specialized resource materials and projects designed to enhance current intervention and prevention strategies. To suggest other resources we should include in this collection or for ongoing technical assistance or other resources, please contact NRCDV at 800-537-2238 or

*A note about language: Because most domestic violence victims are women abused by a male partner, and most residents of domestic violence shelters are women and their children, we will use "she" and "woman" when referring to a victim of domestic violence. Also, the term "victim" is used here instead of "survivor" to serve as a reminder of the violence and control faced by women in abusive relationships seeking services from a domestic violence shelter. All victims of domestic violence, regardless of their gender or the gender of their abusive partner, deserve safety and advocacy.