In January 1977, the National Congress of Neighborhood Women and the Brooklyn YWCA opened the first battered women shelter in NY, The Center for Elimination of Violence in the Family. The problem of battered women had just started to gain attention. Evidence showed it was a widespread issue in the borough of Brooklyn. In 1974-75, out of 700 hundred women filing for divorce in Kings County represented by Brooklyn Legal Services, Corporation B, 41.5% complained of physical assaults by their husbands. In Park Slope, the 72nd Police Precinct informally reported in 1976 that 50% of their night calls were from battered women.
The center would not only serve the women who had been physically injured by their male partner, but also their children who can often be also victims of violence. The support provided for women of all ethnic and minority communities was available through a series of components: shelter, counseling, welfare advocacy, medical services, legal advocacy, information and referral, education and outreach, and research and training institute. The women would be able to stay on a daily basis or as residents. Those who decided to stay in the house would put in practice their gained skills by having an active role in management, daily upkeep and maintenance of the house such as cooking, menu preparation, shopping, child care and cleaning. Volunteers from YWCA and the NCNW were trained in welfare advocacy by the South Brooklyn Legal Services to be able to assist the women.
“When I came there I felt scared and at the end of my rope. As soon as I came in I felt so safe and comforted that I broke down and cried. As I said, the people at the Shelter really gave me support and really helped me to calm down, get my feet on the ground and look ahead with hope. You made me believe in myself and other people again.”
“At our place in New York, we saw almost everyone on the staff almost everyday, we got invited to the Board meetings so we felt not only as if we were living there but also as if we were part of the whole.”
Former resident of CEVF
The Center for Elimination of Violence in the Family is now the Center Against Domestic Violence. For more information visit http://www.cadvny.org.
Center for Elimination of Violence in the Family. ca. 1977, Box 141, Folder 11, National Congress of Neighborhood Women Records, 1974-1999, Sophia Smith Collection, Smith College, Northampton, Massachusetts. 3 pp.