Bringing Resources ‘Under One Roof’ for Survivors of Domestic Violence

Feb 20, 2023 12:20 PM ET
5 women holding signs that read: "Teamwork Makes the Dream Work" and "Love Wins"
From left, Women Aware’s Catherine Cintron, Melinda Clugsten, Josephine Mingione, Maria Betanzos and Maliha Janjua sport jeans at Denim Day, an international movement to “wear jeans with a purpose,” stand in solidarity with survivors of sexual assault, and promote awareness and education.

In New Jersey, Women Aware helps survivors and their children move on from unsafe situations

“Last year, we served the most individuals we ever have in our 41-year history.”

That’s Women Aware, the leading domestic violence services agency which for more than four decades has served Middlesex County in New Jersey.

With a population of 825,000, the county relies on Women Aware to find placement for people who need to escape an unsafe situation and help them get back on their feet.

“We shelter more than 200 women and children on average per year for anywhere from 30-day stays to 90 days or even more,” says Susan Dyckman, Development Director at Women Aware. “Last year, that number rose to 278.”

During the pandemic, Women Aware expanded its shelter capacities by starting a hotel placement program, meaning that staff could still provide case management services until an opportunity to move individuals into safe housing emerged.

“It’s really amazing that, throughout the entire pandemic, Women Aware did not have to close our doors,” says Catherine Cintron, Director of Grants and Compliance at Women Aware. “Because we have always been committed to cross-training our staff, we could adapt staffing and expand shelter capacity to serve more clients than ever before.”

Cross-training was key for Women Aware, as staff who might normally spend their time in legal advocacy were able to rotate into roles such as a hotline operator when the situation called for it.

In 2021, Enbridge donated $15,000 to Women Aware as part of our commitment to help build sustainable communities near our operations. The funding enables Women Aware to meet 2023 goals that include sheltering 215 women and children, answering 6,000 hotline calls and providing non-residential services to 1,800 victims.

In addition to the daily services offered by Women Aware, the organization puts on the Moving Beyond Abuse 5K & Charity Walk during Domestic Violence Awareness Month in October. Enbridge provided a $5,000 grant in 2022 to help put on this event that connects Women Aware with the community.

The overarching vision for Women Aware this year is to continue to build upon an established facility that brings all services under one roof.

“We opened the doors of the Family Justice Center in late 2020, where the goal is to bring all resources necessary for survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault and their children under one roof,” says Dyckman.

The goal is to be as seamless as possible—particularly for individuals in times of urgent need.

“A survivor can walk in, no appointment necessary, and then an intake process occurs where a trained advocate meets with a survivor to hear their story and connect them to all necessary resources.”

And once a survivor moves through the shelter and resources and has landed back on their feet, they’ll often stay in touch.

“Often our client services colleagues will share survivor success stories,” says Dyckman. “To hear where the survivor was, and how far they have come, is a truly overwhelming feeling.”