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D-FW's bad weather exacerbates problems for domestic-abuse victims

Being stranded at home with an abuser who has missed work because of nasty weather can be a recipe for disaster for domestic-violence victims.

But officials say the victims likely won't seek help until after the ice and snow thaw.

"People are thinking, 'If I can't get out, then I can't get out [permanently],'" said Stephanie Storey, chief program officer for SafeHaven of Tarrant County, which operates two emergency domestic-violence shelters. "Maybe it's not safe for them to make those calls right now. We expect to see an increase in our calls as the weather gets better from people who have been holding out. We've seen that in the past when we've come off of inclement weather."

On average, Storey said SafeHaven receives about 12 calls a day from someone seeking refuge in one of their shelters in Arlington or Fort Worth. When the weather turned bad this week, that number dropped to less than three calls a day, probably because icy conditions prevented the victims from making a safe escape, she said.

Storey said four days of treacherous driving conditions have presented unprecedented challenges, partly because some staff members have not been able to make it to the shelters. Usually, she said, they send cabs to pick up staff members in bad weather, but cab companies are backlogged with Super Bowl visitors.

"We've been told there is a four-hour wait," Storey said.

Genesis Women's Shelter in Dallas also struggled to help clients amid icy conditions, said Lara Gaither, outreach director.

"It presents a lot of challenges because our staff can't get to the shelter," she said.

Despite the hardships, Storey said, the staff at SafeHaven has shown great dedication to the 72 adults and children in its Fort Worth shelter and 52 clients in its Arlington shelter. Some staff members have spent the night at the shelter; others have stayed on 48 hours straight so their co-workers wouldn't have to risk driving to work.

"Our shelter never closes, and our hotline continues to operate, but we are short-staffed," Storey said. "We might have three or four staff members in a shelter, and they might be answering the hotline call or making lunch. We've have some real troopers on our staff.

"We've dealt with our share of ice, but this many days has been a bit of a challenge. Hopefully, everything will thaw out and business will get back to normal."

Melody McDonald, 817-390-7386

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