The Center began at a “speak out” in Brooklyn in 1976 where more than a hundred women told how their lives had been turned upside down by domestic violence. One thing became clear: There was no place where mothers could flee to safety with their children. In fact, it was against regulations to bring a child to the “unfit” environment of a shelter. A group of trailblazing women—domestic violence victims, survivors and advocates—set out to change all that and the Center was born.

The Center’s Women’s Survival Space, a place where abused women and their children could find safety, was the first of its kind in the State and is now the longest operating domestic violence emergency shelter in New York. Today the Center houses up to 1,000 women and children each year in three emergency shelters.

In the 1990s, the Center saw an opportunity to prevent domestic abuse by reaching out to high school students and developed the groundbreaking PEER curriculum (Pride – Education – Equality – Respect). The Center was the first to offer lifesaving teen relationship prevention programs to high school and middle school students in New York City. More recently, the Center was the first to reach out to elementary school students with valuable tools for building healthy relationships. The Center is now the largest provider of teen relationship abuse prevention programs in New York and reaches over 30,000 students each year.

Throughout its history and beyond, the Center Against Domestic Violence has continued to break new ground in its efforts to not only aid victims of abuse, but end the cycle of violence altogether.

Download the PEER Curriculum (PDF)
Download the Middle School Curriculum (PDF)
Download the Elementary school Curriculum (PDF)

Timeline

“I remember the first evening the shelter opened. When the women and children came in, it was such a thrill to see how they responded to a place of safety and escape.” —Joan Ohlson, Founder

1976 – Brave survivors and activists speak out against domestic violence.
1976 – The Center’s founders win landmark legislation to start publicly funded domestic violence shelters.
1977 –The Center Against Domestic Violence, incorporated as Center for the Elimination of Violence in the Family, Inc., is New York State’s first organization founded to end domestic violence.
1977 – The Center wins the right to shelter women and children together in the same place. Women’s Survival Space, the State’s first publicly funded domestic violence shelter, opens that year, offering safety and support to forty-five women and children at a time. The Center purchases the building that is home to Women’s Survival Space.
1980 – Women Make Movies chooses the Center’s Women’s Survival Space to film Why Women Stay, a ground breaking documentary about domestic violence told in the voices of its survivors.
1989 – Children’s Growing Place, the first Agency for Child Development day care and afterschool program in a domestic violence shelter, opens with specialized programming for children from violent families.
1990 – Center Board members develop and advocate for New York City Housing Authority priority transfer policy for battered women and their children in public housing. This becomes a national policy.
1995 – CEO Judith Kahan co-founds New York City Coalition of Domestic Violence Residential Providers, of which she is co-chair.
1996 – As New York State’s first Violence Against Women Act recipient, the Center publishes and distributes curricula for Moms’ Survival Skills and The Empowerment Workshop.
1997 – Women’s Safe Start opens. Eighty-two more women and children at a time can find safety and support.
1997 – The Center establishes its Education & Community Service Division with the West Brooklyn Outreach Project and the Central Brooklyn Outreach Project.
1998 – The Center is invited to present as a “Best Practice” at the United Nations Safer Cities for Women Conference.
1999 – Through PEER (Pride – Education – Equality – Respect), a pilot program in eight alternative high schools, social workers teach and counsel high-risk students about date violence and teen relationship abuse. Young participants work with staff to develop this teen-centered curriculum.
1999 – The Center opens a new Central Office as a base for community- and school-based programming, including the Center’s new Crime Victims Program.
2000 – The New York City Adopt-a-School Teen Relationship Abuse Prevention Program (RAPP) gives the Center the opportunity to administer the PEER program in two large high schools. Within six years, the Center will be administering RAPP in fifteen schools.
2002 – Building on its experience, the Center begins relationship abuse prevention work with intermediate school students and the Speak Your Peace curriculum is launched. Three years later intermediate schools will be added to the City’s Relationship Abuse Prevention Program.
2003 – The Center Against Domestic Violence begins a partnership with the Department for the Aged and the Mayor’s Office to Combat Domestic Violence to train court personnel and police about elder abuse.
2004 – Women’s Second Start opens. Eighty-three more women and children at a time can find shelter. Two years later, the Center will purchase the building that houses Women’s Second Start.
2005 – The Center Against Domestic Violence begins working with the Bank Street College of Education to draft a program of healthy relationship education for elementary school children, the first program for young students to prevent relationship abuse.
2007 – Relationships are Elementary begins as a pilot program at one elementary school. It is now in two schools.
2009 – More than three decades of Transforming Lives!