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Importance of Shelter Transformation 2017/09/28
Dutch social worker Claire shared her Orange House experience.

The Asian Conference of Women’s Shelter ended on August 29th advocating for the transformation of women’s shelters. Among the experiences shared, Dutch Orange House is most worth to learn from. Orange House differentiates danger levels with red, orange, or green houses and does not adopt a closed-end management policy. They do not stop survivors and perpetrators from meeting. In fact, other than honor killing, Orange House will simultaneously give consultations to survivors and perpetrators to decrease the pressure on both sides. Orange House also has a child support program with women smokers accepted, not part of any qualification, as long as they smoke outdoors on the balcony.

 

Social worker Claire Loeber of Dutch BlijfGroep from Amsterdam said, through deep introspection, Orange House realized that domestic violence is not a personal or private matter but a social problem. To help victims stop the violence, we must focus on familial and societal environment to prevent the expansion and intensification of domestic violence, so action must be directed towards a wide range of people, from the survivors to the perpetrators to the witnesses. It is also important to take a comprehensive approach to the various support agencies like the police and judicial authorities for professional services.

 

Orange House started many reforms, such as changing shared facilities to private rooms due to Dutch studies that the shelter lacked an appropriate environment for rehabilitation. People suffer from increased pressure from lack of privacy and space. These reforms are known as the Orange House path, including keeping shelters secret to opening their facilities. Previously women shared their quarters, including bathroom, kitchen and so on with other women, but not women and their children can have private rooms. Social workers only observed the women’s actions before, but presently, the support services and accommodation are separated. In the past, there were no social services offered after 9:00PM, leaving only a contact number available, but now the front desk is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

 

Claire emphasizes the most interesting point, which is to typically for a shelter to separate the women from their partners and only inform them of their counseling, but afterwards, their partners are invited to come along to consultation. There was only one point of view before, but with both survivor’s and perpetrator’s perspectives, the narrative becomes more complex. In the past, only through a court ruling could these women come into contact with their children, but presently parents and children can meet together in supportive meetings. Before shelters provided activities for children, but now they have supportive programs for children as well.

 

In conclusion, Orange House is special in that it is a shelter that seeks to empower women to believe that recovery from self-conflict and self-doubt is a “normal” process so that women can make their own decisions and contact their partners to reflect together on their current reality. In contrast to Orange House’s progress, Taiwan is still stuck in whether a women should enter long-term placement or assessment stage in shelters and look unfavorably upon the perpetrators. While Orange House has great support from their government and work closely with law enforcement, Taiwan’s shelters cannot become a one-stop service with the lack of governmental resources and social awareness. There is still a long way to go in the future to improve.

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