Women’s solidarity centers are places where women find the support they need for their empowerment, to be able to escape or cope with violence. In these centers they are offered counseling, information and – if need be – referrals. The existence of solidarity centers where women seeking to escape violence are able to express themselves without being judged or discriminated against and receive the support they need in line with their own decisions as proper individuals deserving respect, with attention to each one’s own unique circumstances, is of critical importance. Since 1990, Mor Çatı volunteers have been engaging in solidarity with women and their children at the solidarity center. To date, over 38,000 women and children have received support at Mor Çatı. An average of 10 women are assisted every day on the phone, via email and in person. The center bases its work on the premise of building women’s solidarity against violence and sharing in a common struggle, not ‘helping’ women ‘in need’. Women most often come to Mor Çatı in order to talk about what they have been through and find out what their social and legal rights are. While every woman who calls is provided social support, they may also obtain legal, psychological and shelter services if they so require. Women may call Mor Çatı only once as well as multiple times and be in need of different kinds of support simultaneously.
Social support: The first contact with women seeking counseling from Mor Çatı is generally on the phone. Then, we set up a one-on-one in-person meeting, reviewing their options together, and reiterating that women are not responsible for any violence committed against them. It is women who will make the best decisions for themselves. Mor Çatı volunteers providing social support are not, by any means, “liberated” women. It is for this reason that while taking applications we also question our own prejudices and value systems. Those wishing to volunteer at Mor Çatı are required to attend our workshops.
Psychological support: To overcome the despair, guilt, shame and fear brought by being subjected to violence and thus be able to envisage new life options, Mor Çatı also provides psychological counseling. Mental health work is vital in order for women and children to feel recognized, seen and heard and to provide a safe space for them. Those working in this field are first and foremost expected to have internalized that no woman provokes or deserves violence. In short, psychologists that are to give support to survivors of violence must work from a gender perspective.
Legal support: A great majority of women subjected to violence are unaware of their legal rights and how to exercise them. This is provided for through legal counseling offered by our volunteer lawyers. Women are informed on what legislation is available to them in cases of violence, what kind of legal path or process they must follow, and how to access free legal aid (including representation) if they are unable to afford a lawyer. A common theme in the legal area is that even though there are positive provisions in the law, those in charge of enforcing these are so heavily biased against women that they are often not implemented. For this reason, it is immensely important that legal counselors also carry a gender perspective.