Don’t hesitate to seek help: Germany-wide women’s refuge search

Since 31 May 2021, the admission capacity of women’s shelters in Germany can be viewed publicly and daily at The publication of this page represents a milestone in the protection of women affected by violence and their children. Since then, women affected by violence have been able to find out for themselves where they can currently get protection and support in a women’s shelter. Likewise, supporting institutions and other people are enabled to find a place in a women’s shelter directly and without detours. The development and technical implementation of the site was realised by the Central Information Center for Autonomous Women’s Shelters with donations.

In order to make the site more inclusive and barrier-free, the website has been translated into six other languages: English, Arabic, French, Russian, Turkish and in easy language (German).

In Germany, there are various offers (e.g. nationwide helpline) that support women affected by violence and their children in accessing women’s shelters – but they usually lack one essential piece of information: the current availability of places in women’s shelters. In the period from 1 June 2021 to 30 April 2022, the page was accessed around 122,500 times. Out of this data, the search mask below the map was used around 40,000 times to enter filter criteria. Search queries that were particularly frequent were, for example, those for a specific location or postal code, for admissions with older sons and admissions for women without children. When searching for specific accessibility criteria, the most common search was for admission options for women with a walking disability.

According to the Istanbul Convention, around 15,000 beds are missing in women’s shelters nationwide. For years this has led to a chronic lack of space in women’s shelters. Many women with their children cannot find shelter in the place of their choice. It is therefore important to be able to search for shelters nationwide, also with the help of certain filter criteria such as accessibility and the number of children. The standards set out by the Istanbul Convention of 2.59 beds per 10,000 inhabitants offers an orientation for Germany; however, it says nothing about an effective distribution of women’s shelter places in the country. The need for shelter places, which differs in cities, urban centres and rural areas, must be taken into account.

The aim of the website is to focus on the woman affected by violence and to make it easier for her to find a place in a women’s shelter. The website does not record how many beds each women’s shelter has in total or how many free beds are offered nationwide. The data is provided independently by the women’s shelters.

Among other things, the federal government has stipulated in the current coalition agreement: We will develop a cross-departmental political strategy against violence that focuses on the prevention of violence and the rights of those affected. (…) We will secure the right to protection from violence for every woman and her children and ensure a nationwide legal framework for reliable financing of women’s shelters. We are expanding the help system according to needs.[1]

The Central Information Center for Autonomous Women’s Shelters will accompany this project with their expertise and expect that the declarations of intent will be followed by action in this legislative period. Germany will only meet its international obligations to protect women and children from violence, if the number of places is increased massively and without barriers and if, at the same time, uniform nationwide financing of the women’s shelters is implemented that is independent of the individual case. Only then the website can unfold its full effect and be the start of a life free of violence for all women and their children, regardless of their residence status, their livelihood, possible language barriers and any physical impairments.

Written by

WAVE member from Germany: ZIF – Central Information Center for Autonomous Women’s Shelters | Zentrale Informationsstelle Autonomer Frauenhäuser:

[1] p.91

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or opinion/position of Women Against Violence Europe (WAVE).