Directed by: Anne Lewis
Running Time: 56:40
In 1974, three women opened the first shelter for battered women, in St. Paul, Minnesota. From this courageous act emerged a grassroots movement that has not only saved lives, it has changed the way Americans think about domestic violence. A mere decade later, in 1985, there were 700 shelters and safe houses, growing to approximately 1,200 today. Shelter traces this remarkable evolution and gives voice to five women seeking protection in a rural West Virginia shelter. Working with advice and guidance from the shelter’s counselors and staff, the women struggle to find safety, freedom, and justice for themselves and their children. Two founders of the shelter movement discuss its history while Tillie Black Bear from the Rosebud Reservation in South Dakota describes establishing the first shelter for women of color. Shelter challenges our national ambivalence towards issues of domestic violence and common institutional responses from police, the court system, and social service agencies, while highlighting a model program that offers a holistic and healing approach to the problem.
Running throughout the video is the cautionary note that the initial grassroots power of the movement has been co-opted, and the shelter network is in danger of becoming just another de-personalized institution. Shelter avoids the traditional television approach to domestic violence. Rather than examining why violence occurs, Shelter explores the lives of women affected by violence and follows them through the long process of navigating through the system towards lives of safety and dignity.
“The film probes an enormously critical topic…All students preparing for careers in law, social services, health care, or education should consider the compelling issues raised by this film.” ~ Lucius Ellsworth, President, Appalachian School of Law
“I think it was an eye-opening video that everyone should see.” – Male student, University of Utah
“Useful in getting students to think about how the policy towards domestic violence has changed, but not always for the better. The film had an emotional impact that will prove useful in getting students to think critically about the issues raised.” ~ Dr. Elizabeth Clement, U.S. Women’s History, University of Utah
Screenings & Festivals
New Jersey International Film Festival
Philadelphia International Film Festival
West Virginia Filmmakers’ Festival
Appalachian Studies Conference