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What It Takes DC #7: The Importance of Safe, Stable Housing

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Note: This is the 7th post in DASH’s ongoing What It Takes blog series, which examines and explains the various factors that make getting safe from abuse so difficult. Each post explores factors that survivors have to navigate on their journey to finding safety. Learn more about the campaign at the What It Takes page, and please spread the word: #WhatItTakesDC. 

The biggest barrier for survivors trying to find safety from abuse is access to safe, stable housing for them and their children. Check out our blog from last week for more information on the shortage of housing for survivors of domestic violence in the District.  This week we are exploring this issue in a more personal way  through the story of Alice, a former DASH resident. Alice was the keynote speaker at the 5th annual Allies in Change event in April 2015 – below she explains the barriers that she faced when trying to leave her abuser and find a safe place to stay.

My Story:

Hello my name is Alice; I became a resident at (DASH) January 22, 2010. I came to (DASH) due to domestic violence, I was not physically abused but emotionally and verbally abused.

I will not forget the day I said I had enough of my abuser which was my son’s father. On 12/22/2009, my abuser came home high on P.C.P, he has been an addict since his mom died on May 25, 2007.  Back then I worked the night shift at a nursing home in upper NW. As I was getting ready for work a loud “boom” came from the living room of my home. My abuser tossed our son across the room, he was high and hallucinating. His words were “that’s not my son he looks like a monster” quickly I fought him for throwing my son, I walked into the kitchen when I turned around there was a long butcher knife to my neck. He told me if I moved he will kill me. That’s when I knew my life and the life of  my children were in danger.

I called the police and no arrest was made, they asked that he remove himself from the residence. I wasn’t able to go to work that night due to the incident and at the time I was the only one working. My son was not hurt in this attack he was 15 months at the time. The New Year was approaching and I knew I was going to leave him. I didn’t have anywhere to run due to lack of family support. I reached out to family but all seem to reject me and even my situation. Sometimes they would go as far to say “I told you so” and at that time safety and comfort was more important than criticism.


Finally I went to the D.C. Superior Court to file a (CPO) against my abuser. The judge granted the order the same day; the court building assisted me with “Crime Victims Compensation” my daughter, son and I were placed in a shelter. The shelter I was placed in was worse than the home that I had just left. I was placed in one room, with no bathroom. It was just a room with a one full size bed, a sink and a small size refrigerator. I shared a bathroom with 7 other women many of the women got high in the bathroom. They always seem to smoke P.C.P and every time I smelled that odor it took me back to that moment.  My children and I didn’t eat a balanced meal for 2 weeks we lived off microwave dinners.

Showering at this shelter was terrible many of the women were having sex in the bathroom. There were used condoms on the floor, drug bags, and crack pipes even blood stains around the toilet seat. Me and my kids washed up over a small sink inside of our room for 2 weeks. When I left my abuser and also my apartment I left everything, I left with one outfit and my kids had 3 outfits a piece. I didn’t have any money to survive he stole what little I did have saved.

Finally on 1/22/2010 I received a phone call from DASH to come in for an intake. I rushed to gather my personal documents I was placed 2 days later. Finally I felt safe and comfortable they gave me a two bedroom apartment “It actually looked better than the apartment I was paying $1000 for” to live in. The apartment was furnished 100% my kids were so happy. I haven’t seen them smile in days at that time my kids were 1 and 3 years old.

I will never forget the first thing we did was shower for a long time and I cooked a home cooked meal “You would have thought it was Thanksgiving in January” I cried so many nights wondering how did I allow myself to fail me and my children all for one individual love. While at DASH I used every resource available to me. The first program I lived in at DASH was Huruma it was a 60 day program. I was afraid at times that me and my children would be homeless again.

I worked with my advocate every time I was scheduled. She found resources for employment, school, and permanent housing. I lost my job because I didn’t have childcare me and my children safety was more important at the time. I enrolled into school to become a (CNA) the course was a 4 week program. I completed this course successfully. One day DASH had a meeting with all residents announcing they were opening a bigger location.

I already knew I wasn’t going to be part of their growth because my time was almost up. Then when they said “ALICE  you are going with us,” I cried so hard I was more than thankful and over joyed. I picked the kids up from daycare they were enrolled full-time. I told the kids about the exciting news even though they were too young to understand. The day had come for me to move out I was packed and ready to go I signed my 2 year lease at DASH’s new location called Cornerstone.

They placed my keys inside of hand my apartment, 1D which meant to me “ONE DREAM, ONE DESTINY, and ONE DESIRE” At DASH I built a trusting relationship and also a loving one. DASH was and is really there to help women become better and do better. They had yoga, zumba, meditation, childcare “playroom”, and potlucks, cooking classes, crochet, counseling, addiction counseling, advocate support, clothes and food drives, holiday baskets and free give a ways, to basketball games, President Easter egg roll and much more.

I really enjoyed myself while living at DASH, this program has changed me as a mother, daughter and even as a person and the way I think today. When I came to DASH I was bitter, angry, frustrated, depressed and sometimes disrespectful because I was mad at myself. I had to take medication to control my behavior back then.

I advocated for myself so many times via email, phone and writing letters. I called DCHA almost every day I fought for permanent housing. I told them my story every time I had the opportunity too. One day I came home to DASH I checked my mailbox a letter from housing was sitting there. I opened the letter and they accepted my request and I danced across the main lobby floor.

I was schedule to come in for an interview 3/13/12. Everything was approved I moved into my own permanent housing 8/31/12 a three bedroom house where I live today.  I moved into my own home I promised myself no man could live with me not like my abuser again unless it was my husband.

I never knew if I would get married but I did want to marry before the age 35, I’m 28 years old now through the trials and tribulations I have been a full time college student since 3/12/12. I’m majoring in criminal justice to become a homicide detective. I’m proud to announce in 2 weeks I will graduate with my bachelor’s degree.

During my time in college in 2012, I met a wonderful man, his smile, his walk, his personality was nothing but positive. He looked passed my story he promised me a better future and we have been best friends since. This year on 1/15/2015 I married this amazing man that I admired and he also admired me I’m no longer just Alice I am now Alice, a strong survivor.

Madams Organ Fundraiser

Join us at an after work Happy Hour Thursday, June 25th from 5-9pm at Madams Organ! It’s a great chance to mingle with DASH staff, supporters and volunteers while supporting a good cause.

$1 for every drink and food item sold is donated to DASH.

What It Takes Blog Series #4: Domestic Violence in the Digital Era

Note: This is the fourth post in DASH’s ongoing What It Takes blog series, which examines and explains the various factors that make getting safe from abuse so difficult. Each post explores factors that survivors have to navigate on their journey to finding safety. Learn more about the campaign at the What It Takes page, and please spread the word: #WhatItTakesDC. 

The National Domestic Violence Hotline reports that “digital domestic abuse” is on the rise, “more girls are reporting that their boyfriends stalk them via text message or threaten to humiliate them with social media. What starts in cyberspace rarely ends there,” writes the Daily Beast.

What is Digital Domestic Violence?

Digital domestic violence is the act of harassing or stalking a former or current partner through technology and social media. Abusers are increasingly using Bluetooth, spyware and popular location check in apps like squarespace to track their partner’s location. It’s alarming that abusers can remotely install these tracking applications on their partner’s phones without the survivor ever knowing. “When your abuser is tracking your phone, it means he knows when you seek shelter and help, even the route you take to work and can access  your text messages to friends and family. It’s a way for him to maintain power and control with threats to ensure that you don’t leave him,” cautions a DASH advocate.

She eventually realized that her abuser was tracking her location via the Bluetooth on her phone.

One DASH client reported that her ex-husband went as far as installing tracking devices on her two cars after the divorce. She was forced to leave her cars in different states in order to throw him off and protect her safety.  Another survivor reported that her abuser kept appearing at the grocery store when she was there shopping. She started going to grocery stores across town at weird hours of the day but he would always show up. She eventually realized that her abuser was tracking her location via the Bluetooth on her phone.

Harassment is the other common form of digital abuse. Abusers intimidate and harass their partners by posting or threatening to post incriminating photos and statuses or sensitive information about their partners. Photos that were once private between two people in a relationship suddenly become public for all to see – and often the survivor gets unfairly blamed. Abusers also send threatening messages and texts to their abusers, forcing them to live in fear.

It can be really traumatizing for survivors trying to find safety because you don’t know what they are capable of or when it’s going to stop.

A DASH advocate says this is not uncommon, “Clients come in all the time with stories about what their abusers are doing online, sending messages, posting nude photos and constantly taunting them. It can be really traumatizing for survivors trying to find safety because you don’t know what they are capable of or when it’s going to stop.” One DASH client reported that her abuser was creating fake Facebook profiles under her name and then adding all of her friends and family. He would then use the profile to taunt her. He posted explicit photos of her, wrote false statuses about her parenting skills and tagged her family members. When she would report the page and have it taken down, he would create another page. It’s proven difficult to combat digital abuse because it so often happens anonymously, states a DASH advocate.

Isolation or Safety?

Because of this, survivors of domestic violence are limited with few options and often have to isolate themselves from their friends and family by changing their phone number and email address and deleting their social media accounts.  Otherwise, they risk continued harassment and stalking from their abusers. For survivors who want to maintain contact with friends and family but also to stay safe from abuse, it can be difficult to know what to do.

It’s suggested that survivors use aliases instead of real names online, but even that isn’t foolproof. “Depending on your Facebook friends or your profile picture, even if your Facebook is private or under a different name, they can still track you down,” says the DASH Housing Clinic advocate.

What can survivors do? Don’t take risks, get a new phone, and delete your profiles. This can be really isolating, however, for survivors who want to continue having  contact with their support network of friends and family. For survivors who decide to maintain an online presence it’s important to change all passwords and be extremely conscious of the photos that are being posted. Even something small like a piece of furniture, a street sign or a car interior can be used by abusers to stalk and harass. As part of a survivor’s safety plan, consider using a computer or device outside of the home such as at a library or at the home of a family member or friend where the abuser would not have access.

Take Action:

You can learn more about what it takes for survivors to get safe at WhatItTakes.org or donate to DASH to support access to safe housing for survivors here.

DASH February Events

The District Alliance for Safe Housing is excited to announce a number of new events and partnerships this February!

2/14: The Valengrinds Day Massacre

Join us on Valentine’s Day for a head banging concert to remember at the Rocketship featuring everyone from Cold Blue Mountain to Clay Davis. For more info check out the Facebook Event.

2/17: Fat Tuesday Beer Tasting at the Red Derby

We’ve got a great event for our beer lovers out there! Oskar Blues presents Dale’s Firkin (What’s a firkin?) with $4 pours starting at 5pm. Get a chance to meet the brewers and discuss fermentation processes, craft beers and micro breweries. All proceeds go to DASH.

2/21: Selfish Dreams Beauty Expo and Fashion Show

The Chicara’s Dreams team is hosting a fashion show and free beauty expo to benefit DASH on February 21st. To purchase a ticket to the fashion show and for more info check out the event page.

2/25: Water Cooler Wednesday

Ad 2 DC is hosting a happy hour at Penn Social to raise funds for the special campaign they are putting on for DASH this spring. More info can be found here.

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