KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The need for domestic violence services in Kansas City is growing.
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Newhouse, KC's first domestic violence shelter, served approximately 450 survivors last year.
But growing need means less available bed space, something one survivor, Kimberly, experienced firsthand.
When Kimberly first started dating her ex, she said he was sweet and showered her with gifts.
"There’s so much over-the-top charm that you don’t realize it. I was like, 'Man! I’ve never had anyone dote on me like this,'" she recalled.
He soon encouraged her to quit her job and go back to school, which left her financially dependent on him.
"It’s very hard to leave a situation like that one, unfortunately," Kimberly said. "In life, in general, you're reliant upon finances to do anything, whether it be providing, your house, gas, a vehicle, food ..."
Eventually, the controlling and emotionally manipulative behavior escalated, turning physical, during an argument over repairs to their garage door.
"In the middle of having this conversation, I was backhanded, and it caught me off guard because that had not happened before," she said.
She shared he immediately apologized, promising to never do it again.
"You think because this is someone you love, you think that this will never happen again; it was a one-time thing," she said.
But it did happen again. And again.
She admitted it continued until one night when she hit her breaking point when her young daughter walked in during an argument.
"As we were talking, she was playing on the floor. She was 3 at the time, playing on the floor with our dog, and pulled an AR-15 out from underneath the bed that was unsecured," Kimberly said. "And I had no idea it was even in our house. So, as any mama bear would, I lost it on him and grabbed her, went back to her bedroom and locked the door. And as I was sitting there, thinking, just running through 100 thoughts that were going through my mind, the thought that I stopped on was, 'What if that gun was for me?'"
Kimberly waited until the next morning when he left to call a close friend, who sent several men to help her escape safely.
"I got a knock on the door, and there were five neighborhood men who were there asking, 'How long is he going to be gone? What can we grab? You know, we just want to make sure that you get out of here safe,'" she recalled.
Unfortunately, at first, there was nowhere to go.
Need for bed space
Kimberly called multiple shelters, but all available rooms were full.
Lack of beds is a problem experts have said is even more pressing since the onset of the pandemic.
"There are not enough beds for survivors in our community, and this has become abundantly clear as we see trends over the last several years continue to grow around the number of people who are turned away," explained Newhouse President and CEO Courtney Thomas.
In 2022, Newhouse provided 20,531 safe days and nights for victims.
On the flip side, due to capacity limitations, Newhouse had 1,862 unmet requests for shelter.
Other shelters in the KC area have experienced similar issues, too.
On average, KC Survivor Hotline receives 45 calls a day. Last year, the hotline received 21,422 calls, and 20,996 requests went unmet.
Stories like Kimberly's prompted Newhouse to fundraise to support additional bed space.
With $3.3 million set aside for a project, Newhouse was set to add 40 beds. However, the pandemic threw a wrench in the plan.
The cost of supplies soared, and suddenly, the project was put on pause due to the shelter coming up $800,000 short.
"We were really fortunate to raise the funds necessary for this addition in a very short period of time," Thomas said. "But, as so many people have experienced, construction costs have skyrocketed. So, we thought we were done with our fundraising, and we are realizing we’re not quite there yet."
Now, the shelter and survivors like Kimberly hope the community and generous donors will step up to help cover the difference.
To learn how you can help support Newhouse and raise money to build more beds, click here.
Kimberly considers herself lucky.
While there was no space when she left her situation, Newhouse was able to cover her stay in a hotel until a bed opened up at another shelter.
During that time, Kimberly saved up enough money to afford her own place.
Although she had nothing, the same friend who helped her escape surprised her by furnishing her new apartment with donated furniture.
"She had gathered things, from beds for my kids and I, a couch, a kitchen table, even a TV," Kimberly exclaimed.
Fast forward to today, she said the future is much brighter.
Not only is she happier and healthier, she's sharing her story to raise awareness.
Kimberly also found a way to repay the kindness others once showed her by rounding up donated furniture to fill the homes of other women starting anew.
We want to note we have not named Kimberly's alleged abuser because he was never charged.
In retrospect, Kimberly said she wished she had documented the alleged abuse and filed police reports sooner.
At the time, she was worried no one would believe her, which is something she said can be common among survivors.
If you or someone you know needs help, you can call the Newhouse hotline at 816-471-5800.
You can also call the national hotline at 1-800-799-7233.
In an emergency, call 911.
Additional community resources
- (816) HOTLINE | KC Metro Hotline
- (816) 531-0233 | MOCSA (Metropolitan Organization to Counter Sexual Assault)
- (816) 561-0550 | Kansas City Anti-Violence Project
- 1-800-392-3738 | Child Abuse Hotline
- 1-800-392-0210 | Elder Abuse Hotline
- 1-800-799-7233 or 1-800-787-3224 (TTY) | National Domestic Violence Hotline
- 1-866-331-9474 or 1-866-331-8453 (TTY) | National Teen Dating Abuse Helpline