Battered women in Rutland found their first safe haven from abuse in 1979 when the shelter doors opened at the old jail on Center Street. Thirty four years later, domestic abuse hasn’t ended and neither has the need for The Rutland County Women’s Network and Shelter (RCWN&S), which has helped thousands of women– and their children– start rebuilding their lives. Before the shelter opened, women attempting to leave abusive relationships had to search out one of a few “safe houses” in the community where residents were willing to take them in on a temporary basis-sometimes sheltering women for only a few days. It took a group of women who had been abused, uniting and finding a way to help themselves and other women in similar circumstances, to make the idea of a shelter a reality. When the doors finally opened at the shelter in Rutland, it was apparent how overdue the facility was; immediate residents included three or four women in their 70s, some of whom had been in abusive relationships for 50 years, never had anywhere to flee. Soon the RCWN&S was filled with women – and their children – who finally had a place they could be safe and begin planning for the future. The year after the shelter was established it moved into a house with the capacity of 24 beds.
Yet even after the shelter opened there were challenges. One of the biggest obstacles then, and in some cases today, was overcoming misconceptions about how the shelter operates. Many women delay visiting the shelter, or working with our advocates, because they fear they will be reported to the police or forced to stay. That’s not the case!!! Our mission is to listen and provide information on the range of possible options and actions available. Our goal is to provide a chance for our clients to be safe while exploring options, and help them make choices based on their knowledge of what will work for them. Some women have thought they could not call on us for assistance unless they were black and blue, but that is not at all the case. Often, abuse is psychological; abusers seek to control their partner’s every action by isolating her from friends and family and making her dependent. Providing an abuse victim with choices is the first step toward empowering her and helping her end an abusive relationship. That philosophy has remained true over the years and is what the RCWN&S is all about: empowerment.
Over the years, thousands of women and their children have found safety at the shelter, with an average stay of forty five days. The organization’s staff members and volunteers work with the courts, community service agencies, and the police to protect survivors from their abusers. The group also networks with human service agencies around the county to help battered women with everything from finding safe, permanent housing to day care while looking for work. As a 501(c)3 non-profit organization, we rely on grants from federal and state agencies, and especially on donations from organizations and individuals. You can make an online donation to support our work through PayPal: