ONU Femmes - Entité des Nations Unies pour l’égalité des sexes et l’autonomisation des femmes

A place to heal for domestic violence survivors

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Date: 06 December 2013

New York City, USA —

UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka engaged with survivors of domestic violence and service providers today at a shelter in New York City. The visit took place during the 16 Days of Activism to End Violence against Women.

UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka meets with Safe Horizon CEO Ariel Zwang at the Lang House Shelter in NYC on 6 December 2013
Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka tours Lang House shelter with Safe Horizon CEO Ariel Zwang in NYC on 6 December 2013. Photo: UN Women/Guy Calaf

“Survivors of violence need our support to heal and get their lives back on track,” said Ms. Mlambo-Ngcuka. “UN Women advocates globally for the provision of essential services together with our UN partners and it is encouraging to see the support that is being offered here at Safe Horizon,” she said during her visit.            

Nine women and 11 children have found a safe haven in the shelter run by Safe Horizon, a leading victim assistance organization in the United States that touches the lives of more than 250,000 people affected by crime and abuse each year. The organization operates nine shelters across the five New York boroughs providing up to 750 beds for survivors of domestic violence and their children. “The shelters provide comprehensive support in navigating the courts, housing, public assistance and more,” explained Ariel Zwang, CEO of Safe Horizon.

UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka (centre) after saying goodbye to one of the beneficiaries of Safe Horizon's Lang House shelter, during a tour in NYC on 6 December 2013
Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka (centre) says goodbye to one of the beneficiaries of Safe Horizon's Lang House shelter. Former resident Reverend Lisa Robinson (right) joined Ms. Mlambo-Ngcuka on the tour. Photo: Guy Calaf

“I needed a place where somebody would listen to me and where I could just cry,” said Lisa Robinson, who fled a violent relationship with her two children in 2010 and found counseling support at Safe Horizon. “It is not an easy step to leave, but I did not want my kids to ever think that violence should be part of a relationship.” She recalls how her children benefited from the programmes offered and how the counselling helped her to “focus and breathe”. Two months after she left her partner, she was able to finish her doctorate to become a reverend.

Globally, one in three women and girls experience violence in their lifetime, making it one of the most pervasive human rights violations. Ending violence against women is a priority for UN Women’s work worldwide.

“Today too many women suffer in silence, with nowhere to go for support and services. They need essential services such as shelter, counselling, and health and legal support. Women also need justice,” said Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka. “To realize this agenda, we work with partners for effective policies, programmes and laws and for their implementation backed by sufficient resources.”  

Such resources provide for the neat, small apartments in the shelter where women and children can find an interim home for up to six months. Shelter Director Sidonie Scotchman and her team welcome every family with the immediate necessities and then help on every step: identifying schools for the children, arranging for healthcare, offering counselling and – importantly – helping with the search for jobs. “The women always worry about how they will survive and be able to provide for their kids,” says Ms. Scotchman. “Economic independence is crucial.”

Ariel Zwang welcomes the 16 Days of Activism as an opportunity to speak out: “People suffer in silence and alone, so awareness-raising and solidarity are critical.”