(Updated April 2011)

Illustration by Deron Cohen

I’ve gone by the red brick townhouse just about every Saturday for two years without ever suspecting it’s a top-secret women’s shelter. It looks like every other sleepy Lancaster, Pa., residence, but crack open those colonial-shuttered windows and inside you’ll find a hive of women and children teaching each other how to live a violence-free life.

When I requested a tour, I was directed to the parking lot in back. “You’ll see the no trespassing signs, and park as close to the building as you can,” I was told. Abusers have a habit of smashing car windows. The door off the parking lot’s ramp is barely wide enough for most motorized wheelchair users and the security camera locks on my face. I barely touch the d