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.
- Adrianne Kunkel, Professor of Communication Studies, University of Kansas