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Abuse Narratives Inform Recovery In Domestic Violence Shelters

A University of Kansas professor's recent research at a domestic violence shelter indicates that the way survivors must tell their stories in order to gain access to resources could be working against the emotional recovery process.

Adrianne Kunkel has worked as a volunteer and advocate at a women's shelter, collecting data on employees and survivors. She has analyzed 28 interviews with women staying at the shelters. She's found that survivors must accommodate their stories of abuse depending on who is listening and for what reason. Resources that may be on the line during these conversations include housing, protection from abuse orders and custody of children.

Kunkel has found that telling a story differently, or in parts rather than in its entirety, results in fragmentation; meanwhile, telling a story in a coherent way is a crucial part of overcoming trauma. Kunkel recommends a staff person at shelters whose role is to listen to the entire story and to continually check in with survivors throughout their bureaucratic journeys. She also recommends revisiting a 30-day stay limit currently in effect in many shelters.


People don't make cameos in news stories; the human story is the story, with characters affected by news events, not defined by them. As a columnist and podcaster, I want to acknowledge what it feels like to live through this time in Kansas City, one vantage point at a time. Together, these weekly vignettes form a collage of daily life in Kansas City as it changes in some ways, and stubbornly resists change in others. You can follow me on Twitter @GinaKCUR or email me at gina@kcur.org.
Matthew Long-Middleton has been a talk-show producer, community producer, Media Training Manager and now the Community Engagement Manager at KCUR. You can reach him at Matthew@kcur.org, or on Twitter @MLMIndustries.