Christine Stuart photo

The University of Connecticut along with the National Resource Center on Domestic Violence, released the first multi-state study asking women living in domestic violence shelters if they received all the help they needed.

Dr. Eleanor Lyons from the UConn School of Social Work said Wednesday that no one has ever asked these women, including those in 15 of Connecticut’s 18 shelters, about their shelter experience and if they had received the services they needed during and after their stay.

In Connecticut and the other seven states that participated in the study 94 percent of women said their stay was helpful or very helpful, she said.

Overall the these women reported positive outcomes, Lyons said. One of the women interviewed for the study said “I probably would’ve killed myself or stayed and got beaten to death,” if it wasn’t for the shelter.

Connecticut domestic violence survivors reported higher rates of having their needs met before they left the shelters than women in the seven other states, Lyons said. But Connecticut did fall short in being able to help its survivors find housing upon their departure from the shelter, which she said was not a reflection on the staff, it was just a community resource issue.

By the time the women left the shelter 98 percent found they achieved the goals they set for themselves and had hope about the future, while 90 percent felt they knew more about the community resources available to them. And 95 percent of their children felt more supported and 89 percent reported their children were better able to express their feelings without violence.

The primary needs they identified were complex. About 94 percent reported they needed at least one of the five types of economic supports and 53 percent had at least one need related to custody, obtaining a restraining order, or immigration.

Christine Stuart photo

Rep. Gerald Fox III, D-Stamford, who is the chairman of the former House Speaker’s Task Force on Domestic Violence in Immigrant Communities, said 30 percent of the criminal dockets involve crimes of domestic violence. “That’s a really startling statistic,” Fox said.

“If you take it one step further and you realize most in immigrant communities are not reporting these crimes, then we really don’t know the extent of the problem,” he said.

Before the end of the month Fox said the task force will hold a public hearing on its recommendations to the legislature, which will include training for police, judges, and prosecutors, in addition to a proposal to staff more of these shelters 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

He said the training of police, judges, and prosecutors will have no fiscal impact on the state’s budget. However, he knows getting 24/7 coverage of some of these shelters may be more difficult with the state running an $8.7 billion budget deficit.

The Office of Fiscal Analysis has estimated that it would cost $3.8 million to keep the shelters staffed 24/7, currently there are only two that are staffed 24/7.

“I think it’s a challenge,” Fox said. “But like I said if you’re going to look at what is the right thing to do and you’re going to say who needs this funding the most and whose more in need than a woman whose in a shelter with her small children at that very vulnerable and frightening time in her life. It would be my hope we would find a way to fund that.”