Women and children from all over the country who have fled domestic violence come to Ersta Fristad. The sheltered housing is located at a secret address and has the highest security class. While being there, it is important that the children who come with their mothers get to continue to be “just” children as well as continue their education.
Through the support of H.M. Queen Silvia’s Foundation, Ersta Fristad can run a high-quality service for the children with activities with experienced staff to strengthen and help them. It is unusual to have special activities for children in sheltered housing and therefore the children’s activity at Ersta Fristad plays an important role in the work to help the children to find safety again.
The experiences that the children carry with them are often deeply traumatic. Sometimes the fathers, or the men with whom the mother lived, abused them directly, sometimes they saw when their mother was abused, sometimes they were in the room next door when the abuse took place. The children are often traumatized, limited in their development and in great need of a safe and structured life. Most often, they have taken on a great deal of responsibility for what happened in the family and been forced to take on adult responsibilities because the mother has been in such a deep crisis. They may not have gone to preschool or even played outside with other children and have a pent-up need to just be children. By participating in the children’s activities, the children get a structure in everyday life and get to meet other children in the same situation.
To help the children to process their experiences and their fears, special conversations are conducted, either together with the mother or in private. If needed, the children can have their own representative who can describe what the child is feeling and what he/she needs at the meetings with the social services.
An important part of the work is also to help and support the mother in taking back her parental role, which has often been taken away from her as a result of the violence. Often, the women have lived under so much pressure for so long that they have lost their self-confidence, even as mothers. The goal is for their stay at Ersta Fristad to be the beginning of a new change in life, a step on the way to a life without violence.