Domestic Violence & Disabilities

Barrier Free Living is an expert working with survivors of domestic violence with disabilities.

The BFL team works with survivors of domestic violence with disabilities at our fully accessible Freedom House domestic violence shelter, our award winning Secret Garden domestic violence counseling program, and our latest BFL Apartments offering permanent homes with support services to survivors with disabilities and their families.

“Domestic violence is the number one issue of women with disabilities”

Paul Feuerstein, President/CEO

Our Latest DV Initiatives

The BFL team shares nearly 40 years of experience, knowledge and growth in the domestic violence and disabilities field.

BFL Apartments’ Tenant Miss Flo Teams With Social Worker For Success

Miss Flo, one of the original tenants of Barrier Free Living Apartments in the Bronx, was an active part of the community from the start. She  was a founding member of the garden club, and was a regular attendee of Occupational Therapy groups and workshops.In 2017, however, two strokes that came only ten days apart, landed her in the hospital.

“I was very close to death,” says Flo.

Flo recovered and returned home to BFL Apartments, hoping to pick up where she left off. But there was one big thing missing: a motorized scooter.

“I knew the scooter would give me freedom and mobility. I couldn’t move independently in the manual chair,” says Flo. “I am so thankful for my (Barrier Free Living apartments) social worker Claudine (in photo above). It was her determination and her stern voice (advocating) that got the insurance to finally approve the scooter.”

Flo is back in the garden this May, and happy to be doing things like grocery shopping again.

“There are so many things I am happy to do for myself.”

Read about Miss Flo and the garden club here. 



Debt & Domestic Violence  

April was recognized as Financial Literacy Month in the U.S.  and there were a roster of events shining a spotlight on the importance of economic and financial education.

Barrier Free Living’s programs (Secret Garden, Freedom House, BFL Apartments) offer a variety of financial literacy workshops and educational forums throughout the year for our tenants, residents and participants who are survivors of domestic violence with disabilities.

Our Freedom House domestic violence shelter works with The Shine Foundation, which holds regular financial literacy workshops for residents through the year (view a virtual tour of Freedom Househere.)

The agency also launched a Financial Literacy Scholarship workshop in 2018 (funded by the Assurant Foundation) where tenants of our Barrier Free Living Apartment programs were able to pursue education and career scholarship funds after completing an 8-week intensive course (read more here).

This month’s special contributor Tina Tran (photo at bottom) shares her insights around domestic violence and debt below. Tina is the managing bankruptcy attorney at Upsolve. Upsolve is a legal aid non-profit that helps low income individuals and families file for bankruptcy free of cost.

Debt and domestic violence frequently go hand in hand. In an abusive or violent relationship, victims are coerced into incurring debt on the abuser’s behalf. Victims are put at risk for having credit card accounts opened in their name, and for being tricked into signing loan documents without their knowledge or consent.
What is Financial Abuse?

One common characteristic of a financially abusive partner is their desire to control the finances in a relationship. This is evidenced by the power they exert in efforts to coerce the other to quit their job, forcing them to make purchases without their consent, or deciding when and how the other can access ATM cards, credit cards, checkbooks, etc.

Read the full story here.


Calendar of Events, Outreach & More 

Barrier Free Living’s Secret Garden community based domestic violence program celebrated its new space, with a grand opening event for staff and supporters.

“This is a great new home where we can focus on our comprehensive services. We welcome all agency staff to attend our regular workshops and trainings, or to just stop by through the year and find some quiet time.” says Jules, Secret Garden Program Director.

The Secret Garden will unveil a new historical timeline poster, documenting the program’s decades of working with survivors of domestic violence with disabilities.

Meditative Treatments For Freedom House Residents


Research indicates a strong connection between mental and physical health for trauma survivors.
This May, residents of Barrier Free Living’s Freedom House domestic violence shelter received free massages at the Reciprocity Foundation (view a virtual tour of Freedom House here).
The organization provides free and low-cost wellness services to vulnerable New Yorkers. Reciprocity recently opened a new Wellspace in downtown Manhattan.
Located in a nondescript office building, Reciprocity Wellspace features peaceful white walls and a stunning view of lower Manhattan. There is a meditation room, small library of spiritual and inspirational books, massage room, and open kitchen space.
Freedom House residents were offered water and lemonade as well as fresh fruit during their visit. The four residents who participated each received 30-minute chair massages.
The director of Reciprocity, Taz Tagore, explained that as shelter residents they were entitled to free weekly treatments, which could include meditation, yoga, massages or Reiki.
Freedom House has long taken a holistic approach to the healing journey for its residents. In addition to group and individual Domestic Violence counseling, residents can participate in biweekly yoga classes, movement workshops and a new art therapy group (read about the art therapy here)  In the past, transcendental meditation was offered on site.
Freedom House sources a variety of resources and studies in developing groups and healing work.
The Adverse Childhood Experiences survey demonstrates much higher rates of health problems for people who survived childhood trauma.
Bessel van der Kolk’s The Body Keeps the Score explains in detail the nonverbal ways in which trauma is communicated, such as chronic pain or creative expression.
The Freedom House residents who chose to attend the Reciprocity spa day all experience chronic pain that negatively impacts their daily life and can make it difficult to engage in activities of daily living.
Participants reported that the massages reduced their pain and tension, increased their flexibility, and gave them more energy.
For survivors of domestic violence with disabilities, many of whom became disabled or saw their symptoms worsen as a result of the abuse, receiving massages and other wellness treatments is an especially useful tool to help with their physical and emotional healing.

Freedom House DV Shelter Virtual Tour 

Take a virtual tour of Barrier Free Living’s Freedom House domestic violence shelter for survivors with disabilities. Get an up close and inside look at what makes our shelter absolutely unique and vital.

Link to film here .

Breaking Barriers In DV Newsletter

Each month BFL team members share their expertise and experience around our work with survivors of domestic violence with disabilities. Email us to sign up: [email protected]

Domestic Violence Resources

Search our extensive resource of information on the issues surrounding of domestic violence and disabilities.

Examples: Shelter, Children, Advocacy, Fleeing

Stories of Survival

The great benefit of our work at Barrier Free Living is the opportunity to see the results of our programs and hear the stories of inspiration, persistance and survival that our programs have helped to create.

“My family feels safe. We are learning to be strong and to love ourselves. I am so glad we are here” More about  Olga’s Journey of Hope

“I wanted to volunteer here because I wanted to be part of the great mission that Freedom House has for women and children.” More about  Bethelihem’s Journey of Hope


The BFL team shares its expertise at conferences and attends events locally and nationwide throughout the year.

Check back for future outreach events.