Freedom House helps disabled victims of domestic violence

December 23, 2012 4:53:30 PM PST
Tucked away in Harlem, there's a shelter aimed at helping a very specific group of people. They're not just victims of domestic violence, they're also disabled.

It's the only shelter of its kind in the country, and it's making the difference for women like Grace.

We can't show her face, but we can tell you her story.

She may not be a chef, but Grace is pretty passionate about cooking.

Even if it's just basic scrambled eggs, it's comfort food, in a comfortable place.

"This is my comfort zone," she says.

But Grace wasn't always comfortable in her own home, let alone safe.

She's a victim of domestic violence and three months ago, she escaped to Freedom House.

"I never knew there was a place like this," Grace says.

A safe, tucked away place in Harlem where she and her 3 children have their own apartment and lots of support, a social worker and a variety of classes.

And about half of the women who stay at Freedom House are disabled in some way, physically or intellectually.

"Generally women with disabilities have four times the incidence of domestic violence versus the general population," said Freedom House president Paul Feuerstein.

That's exactly why he opened the facility.

"Many times the abuser presents themselves as a knight in shining armor who will take care of them, and folks choose women with disabilities because of the potential for control," said Feuerstein.

And among the 2,000 families Freedom House has served there have been victims who are quadraplegic, blind, deaf, or dealing with head injuries.

But many leave empowered to make better, safer decisions. That's the hope for Grace.

"In the future there will be a new relationship," said Freedom House director Isa Martinez. "But now she knows what to look for. She has expectations, she has standards, and that's something she's learned here from groups and from the other women who are here."

"They teach me how to see red flags," said Grace. "They teach me how to love myself more. Now I feel free."

And Grace will spend the holidays at Freedom House with her children. The research shows that deaf women and developmentally disabled women have the highest rates of abuse.

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