We hear it on the six o’clock news, an order born of our increasingly terroristic society- “Shelter in place.” We all shudder at the idea of frightened school children waiting for danger to pass. However, the panic of choosing inaction amid chaos runs deep for me, building in my mostly sedentary soul, an insatiable urge to run.
For me, shelter is a secret place, far from the hunter. When faced with my father’s hard-edged abuse in the 1970’s, residing any place other than a shelter for battered women and children would have been a death sentence.
Lately, as I conduct research for my new novel, I find myself scouring the internet for photos of the single-story South Hampton motel that hid my at risk family. Last week, without the effort of a single keystroke, the shelter of my childhood found me.
My adoptive Mom met a new resident at the senior apartment complex where she resides in Georgia. The woman, a former New York social worker, was a harbinger of helpful information. Mom was chatting up my novel Waving Backwards (a bestseller at Ashleigh Senior Apartments. Take that NY Times.) She explained to her new friend how I found my birth family, and revealed the domestic abuse she suffered for seventeen years.
When Mom talked about the shelter, the woman lit with inside information, discussing every dilapidated inch of our motel. She also revealed the miraculous timing of our survival.
The South Hampton family shelter opened a few months before we arrived.
The old adage that ‘timing is everything’ has never been more apropos. For without the locked doors of the shelter, our little family, and a dozen others who resided with us that sizzling summer, would be statistics.
Today, New York has 2,768 shelter beds available in a total of 132 licensed residential programs across the State. In the late 1970’s, our shelter was one of three in the state. One of three! And it happened to be within driving distance of our home, and it happened to open just months before our arrival.
When I think of our good fortune, I also reflect on the abused families who sheltered in place and died for lack of options. In the United States, a woman is assaulted or beaten every 9 seconds, and back when ‘domestic abuse’ was not even a term, spousal murders were often reported as accidental deaths. So we will never know how many women died at the hands of their husbands in the years before our shelter opened.
Our survival was made possible by a group of angels who decided that beaten women and children deserved a safe place to stay.
A sobering statistic for anyone who believes that domestic abuse against women has declined since our shelter stay:
Between September 2001 and June 2012, nearly 6,500 American troops died in Afghanistan and Iraq; during that same period, more than 11,700 women died in acts of domestic violence.
If you are being abused, please don’t shelter in place. Get help!
Call the National Domestic Violence Hotline.
You can do this. You deserve help!
Call today- 1 (800) 799-7233.
Blessings for shelter wherever and whenever you need it most,
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Waving Backwards book trailer-https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m_ufjmq0l-U