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Helping Women and Children of Domestic Violence

Margaret never thought it would happen to her. She had a good job, a nice home, wonderful children and supportive friends and family. But Margaret had something else, a secret.

As she looked outside at the holiday lights strung in her neighbor’s yard, it seemed so peaceful. Inside is where her secret reigned. No one, absolutely no one, knew what would come next. But she did.

Her husband is screaming in the kitchen – throwing plates across the room as they hit the wall and shatter. She knows she’ll become his next target, and the knot forms in her stomach. The kids are in the living room crying, and in this moment, she knows they cannot withstand this abuse anymore.

Later that night, when she is alone with her children, she tells them to quickly put on their shoes and coats and follow her to the car. There is only a small window before her husband returns from the store, and everything else must be left behind. The kids ask where they are going, but she remains steadfast at the wheel – determined to get to safety.

Because of the generosity of our donors, this family has a safe place to go…Women’s Center & Shelter of Greater Pittsburgh (WC&S). They arrive frightened and weary, worn down by the life threatening events of their lives. Greeted by WC&S Advocates with warm smiles and open arms, their lives begin to change in ways they can only dream.

Everything from legal support, medical care and counseling is offered free of charge. But perhaps most valuable is the moment of peace that begins as they lay down in their own room in our Emergency Shelter. One moment of peace that begins a whole new world.

As mom drifts off to sleep, knowing for the first time in what seems like forever, that she and her children are safe, she hears the words of her advocate ringing in her ears, “I promise, we are here. You are fully supported and won’t go through this alone.”

It is impossible to a put a price tag on the work that your donations allow us to provide here at Women’s Center & Shelter. Transitioning women and their children from a place of abuse and fear to safety and hope is a priceless gift. From basic necessities to vital resources, your support allows domestic violence survivors to move forward into a new life, free from abuse.

Your year-end donation makes all of this possible. Please…

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FAQ about Abuse



All too often intimate partner violence survivors hear these words from friends and family. Have you ever said this to a loved one? Women’s Center & Shelter (WC&S) is striving to break this cycle of victim blaming.  Here at WC&S we take a different approach. Instead of asking, “What’s wrong with you?” our staff asks, “What happened to you?”


This is a common question our staff and clients hear.  If you hear someone say this, will you have the courage to counter with, “Why does he abuse?”< BUT REALLY, WHY DOESN’T SHE JUST LEAVE?

What we really cannot stand about this question is the implication that “just leaving” is a simple thing.  In reality, it is the most dangerous time a victim of abuse faces.  It is when most domestic violence fatalities occur.

Have you ever caught yourself asking a loved one this question? Next time, don’t ask him or her to just leave. Instead, provide our hotline phone number (412-687-8005) so that she will have a safety plan to protect her when she does leave.  If she does not want to call, you can call and learn from our hotline advocates how best to support her in this process.

Why *really* doesn’t she leave? There are many reasons:

  • She loves him.
  • She can’t afford to live on her own.
  • She doesn’t want her kids to be separated from their father.
  • She’s only known abusive relationships her whole life.
  • She does not know where to get help.
  • She believes him when he says it won’t happen again.
  • Family encourages her to stay overtly, or by minimizing his actions and cleaning up his mess.
    • For example, a client recently said that in the early years of their relationship, her husband would not physically abuse her, but he would damage the belongings she purchased, such as household furniture.  When he broke the new dining room set she had purchased, her mother-in-law took her shopping for a new set, downplaying the abuse. Her abuser emotionally manipulated her by saying she was too materialistic. Meanwhile, she was financially controlled by continuously losing items she had spent her salary on.

This is only a tiny snapshot of the multitude of reasons women stay in abusive relationships.  They are a complex set of interconnecting factors ranging from social, financial, moral, and safety concerns.  For every individual, they are unique.


Women’s Center is focused on creating a sanctuary for survivors when they make the decision to leave.  Since 2008, we have been actively practicing the Sanctuary Model, which involves taking a trauma informed approach to working with victims of intimate partner violence.  The focus of Sanctuary is to provide services and to engage in activities that meet the unique physical and emotional needs of the women and children recovering from the damaging effects of interpersonal trauma – because most victims of intimate partner violence suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder.

We incorporate SELF into everything that we do. SELF stands for Safety, Emotional Intelligence, Loss, and Future. When the women and children leave WC&S we want them to take with them this new way of thinking.  With the tools and skills that we practice on a daily basis, we hope that our clients will be able to go and live their lives in a healthier, safer and more emotionally satisfying way – free from violence

After reading, do you understand how to be supportive to a friend in an abusive relationship? What are some ways that you can help a friend move forward?