Let’s Talk About Items Survivors Might Need

This week I heard someone comment “I don’t think anyone living in a domestic violence shelter will be caring about what they have to wear” and I thought:  It must be time to bring out my list of ideas!

Survivors DO care about personal items in the shelter. I know from experience it is humiliating to wear something too big or small, not our style, or just plain ugly. Survivors want to have access to our own wardrobe. They miss their brand and color of makeup, their favorite shampoo, and their own fuzzy slippers.

Clothes are one of the ways humans claim who they are in the world. Think about your own wardrobe. Do you wear things that reveal your taste in music, movies, and style? Would you want to wear another person’s style in your worst moments? Probably not.

Just because someone is in a crises situation does not mean they stopped being themselves.

Or human.

If there is ever a time when a person needs to be themselves and feel good in their own body, it is after a violent experience.

Certain items can empower victims to be reminded of their own humanity and value.

It might also help relieve the ache for home.

Awhile ago I compiled a list of practical items that can really help survivors of domestic violence. It first appeared on my ‘old’ website and was announced on the morning radio show I visited to talk about domestic violence. It’s now updated & improved for this article.

These are things I either I remember wishing I had or items I observed other women needing. They are ideas for the things we use everyday that we can give to women in order to help make the shelter-stay more comfortable and a bit more like home.

1)    A good pillow.  Sometimes the ones provided are too flat and uncomfortable. It’s not like sleeping comes easy during crises anyway.

2)    A robe. Something cozy and soft.

3)    Slippers.  Comfy and warm ones.

4)    Pajamas.  Chances are you could not imagine how many of us sleep in our jeans because it’s all we have in the shelter the first couple of days.

5)    Socks.  These are always required in the shelter to walk around and sometimes they do not have the right sizes for us or our kids.

6)    A laundry basket.  Something to carry her laundry to the shared facility in the shelter. I see too many ladies taking multiple trips to the washer/dryer because they can’t carry it all at once.

7)    A clothes gift card (even to Goodwill) so she can pick out clothes she actually feels like herself in things she would choose to wear.

8)    If they have a car, a gas gift card.  So she can get to work, take the kids to the park, and so forth.

9)    Bath items.  Like from Bath and Body Works.  The good stuff.

10)    Soft toilet paper.  Even one roll could change her world.

11)    Tissues.  We cry a lot. Preferably the softer ones.

12)    A CD player with comforting music to sleep. Perhaps a CD gift card to pick out music that would be comforting to her.

13)    Room decorations—to make it more like home.  Baskets, Wall art, etc.

14)    No food (since it probably is not allowed in the rooms of a shelter).

15)    Small cash gifts.

16)    A fast food gift card.  In case they want to grab a bit of food outside the shelter every so often.

17)    A paid ahead cell phone. I can’t tell you how many girls lost their phone because he smashed it.

18)    Make-up.  For all skin tones.

19)    Comfortable shoes.

20)    Offer to watch her kids and let her go process and grieve.

21)    On the radio show, a lady called in and reminded me that black women’s hair products need to be on this list! Brilliant!  It’s now on my list for her.

22) Court appropriate clothes and shoes.  Often women have to go to court in order to get access to their own clothes so they need something nice to wear before the judge.

23) Nice blankets and sheets.

24) If they are leaving the shelter, things to start life like a microwave, can openers, spatulas, plates, bowls, and so forth.

25) A letter/card that reminds them of how you see their beauty and strength.

26) Scarves. Imagine how humiliating it is to be seen in public with bruises. Sometimes a scarf can be the difference between if a woman returns to work or keeps hiding.

The important thing to remember is that your gift might help her regain a sense of who she is and remember her value. So perhaps you can ask yourself: What could I give to help her feel human again? What can I do to help her feel comfortable and safe?

I hope this gets us thinking! We can make a difference together.

Original version posted on my website:

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