Off the Beaten Path

A domestic violence refuge suffers a big hit.

By Tara Murtha
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 14 | Posted Feb. 4, 2009

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Stephanie Price vividly recalls the time her ex-boyfriend beat her so savagely with a dining room chair that the wood splintered into smithereens against her body. Then he grabbed the vacuum cleaner and hit her with such force that a bone in her arm cracked and the blood vessels around one of her eyeballs burst black. That was 11 years ago.

Price tells her story from inside the Women Against Abuse (WAA) shelter, Philadelphia's only domestic violence shelter. She ran here when she didn't think she'd survive another beating at home and she had nowhere else to go. No one wants to wind up at a domestic violence shelter, now she buzzes through the security gate here five times a week.

For the past four years she's been working full-time at the shelter. The road from terrified victim of domestic violence to working as a professional on the front lines has been winding and paved with pain. Talking with Price, you'd never guess what she had to put up with; she waves her good-natured tough-girl attitude around like a wand.

Maybe it's a defense mechanism, but the positive vibe helps at work, where the 40-year-old spends her days helping women and their children cope with the emotional, practical and financial hurdles that come with escaping domestic violence. It's not easy work, and though it took seven years to get around to it, Price says she always had it in the back of her mind to work here and give back to the community that saved her life.

But now Price's job may be on the line. Last November, $296,268 reserved for WAA--15 percent of its operating costs--was quietly carved out of the city budget, a cut that went mostly unnoticed in the midst of public outcry over libraries closing and a shortened Mummer's parade.

Even if she keeps her job, for Price, the cuts are personal: She knows firsthand how hard it is to get back on your feet after surviving domestic violence, and now she sees it's only getting harder for the thousands of battered women and their children trapped by poverty.

Today, victims of domestic violence are less likely to secure a spot at the shelter and less likely to find housing when they transition out. Now, due to budget cuts, they are also dangerously--maybe fatally--close to losing the kind of personal advocacy that helped Price escape violence for good more than a decade ago.

Early last month, six positions at the shelter were eliminated. According to Heather Keafer, WAAs' interim executive director, the budget cut also initially included a provision that would eliminate case management positions. Case managers are advocates who help clients navigate the bureaucracy and fill out applications for services like housing, day care and school.

Battered women rely on the day-to-day support that case workers offer during the first few months of struggling to start a new life. They're a safe harbor of emotional and practical support for women and children accustomed to living in fear.

"It was helpful to know that other people were going through the same thing I was," says Price. "I thought I was alone."

Given that eradicating case management would reduce the shelter to the "three hots and a cot" method of service--three hot meals a day and a temporary place to crash--Keafer negotiated the terms of the budget cut so that WAA was able to make its own reductions elsewhere within the organization.

Not that there was much fat to trim to begin with. The staff cringes at the news from City Hall that Nutter is going to have to slash even deeper into the city budget.

"I know the mayor is looking to make more cuts," says Tammy Oliver, director of the shelter. "I hope he's not looking at our program anymore. We're starting to turn away larger families."

And family support is crucial. "The counselors assisted a lot with my children," says Price, by way of example. "My boys were traumatized. They had witnessed the abuse, so they had a lot of anger."

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Comments 1 - 14 of 14
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1. Kierra said... on Feb 4, 2009 at 08:48AM

“This is a very touching story, and Stephanie sounds like a wonderful person. I think that it should be a fund set up to assist her in her endeavor to open her own facility.”

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2. Jasmine said... on Feb 4, 2009 at 09:07AM

“Im very much proud of my mother.... And being a young female i know what to and what not to expect from a man.... Love you mom, & cute flick!!!lol”

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3. Alanna said... on Feb 4, 2009 at 10:30AM

“Is there any way to donate to help Ms. Price save up enough to register as a nonprofit? ”

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4. Liz said... on Feb 4, 2009 at 12:34PM

“This story was very touching and real. I have the pleasure of working with Stephanie and she has helps me everyday in anyway she can. We share a lot of laughs and I can count on her to make my day. I am not only proud of Steph, but inspired to do my job better to help all the "Stephanies" out there. Thank you for having the courage to share your story.”

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5. Mom Goldie said... on Feb 4, 2009 at 02:34PM

“Steph I'm proud of you. You are comming into your own since of who you are. We've always known that you, (are) a leader. God put you in this place and now it's time for you to give back with his help. God will help you , he is able. It broke my heart to hear what you had to go through but , I'm so glad that the lord was there to see you through. We know that he will get the Glory. Continue to do unto others as you would have them do unto you and you will continue to be bless. We have always prayed for you and will continue. I love you.(Smile)”

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6. Michael said... on Feb 4, 2009 at 07:03PM

“A nice article really nice oww child that was nice oww child that was nice iight Ya Boi.”

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7. anon said... on Feb 5, 2009 at 04:05AM

“Is there a way readers can help Ms. Price raise the money for her non-profit registration fees? I would gladly make a donation. ”

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8. tara murtha said... on Feb 5, 2009 at 06:02AM

“Please note, we've added Stephanie's email address above ( because so many readers are asking how they can donate to her project. Please email Stephanie directly to get in touch with her. Other readers are discussing organizing a fundraiser... PW will post that info as we get it. Thanks.”

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9. phillygrrl said... on Feb 5, 2009 at 06:42AM

“Thanks for highlighting this story, PW!”

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10. Alicia said... on Feb 5, 2009 at 07:27AM

“Wonderful story! Thank you women for sharing so that other women can be inspired. I hope our communities will continue to learn more about DV and how we each can help women better their lives.”

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11. lenni_lenape said... on Feb 5, 2009 at 08:26AM

“I have a daughter, and I always wondered what I'd do if she got involved with an abusive, obsessive man. Baseball bats was the only thing I could come up with. I admit to being unfamiliar with the legal options an abused woman has, but it seems the law provides little help. It would seem that the sick abuser would face more consequences for his assaults. Besides being subject to arrest for assault, one should be financial assistance to the woman in trying to get her life back together. Why are abused women "our most vulnerable and neglected citizens?" I'll answer my own question. It's the children who are trapped in these dysfunctional relationships that are the most vulnerable and neglected citizens. ”

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12. Concerned woman said... on Feb 6, 2009 at 03:31PM

“Why are these men not in jail? The women who have suffered abuse should be able to be in their own homes safely with access to the support of social services and financial resurces coming form the local, state and federal governments and from the men that have battered them. This is a very serious problem. What can be done to help, to make things better, and to pervent this type of abuse in the first place?”

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13. tara murtha said... on Feb 8, 2009 at 08:26PM

“Yes. DV effects both women and children. That is clear in the article. ”

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14. The Thrill said... on Feb 16, 2009 at 12:19PM

“This is really well done. Spotlights not only the specifics of an unfortunate situation, but a need for the current administration to do more. ”


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