History of Domestic Violence Services in Great New Haven

  • In 1976, community activists organized a conference at the New Haven YWCA to discuss the plight of battered women and to create a safety net for them. The result was the New Haven Project for Battered Women (NHPBW), formed in 1977 by volunteers who hid women and children in their homes, ran support groups, and staffed a hotline.
  • In 1978, NHPBW rented two buildings from Yale University for its shelter.

  • In 1985, NHPBW purchased and renovated a house for its shelter.
  • Also in 1985, the case of Torrington resident Tracey Thurman galvanized the nation into changing how the police and courts handle violent partners. Thurman successfully sued the police department for failing to protect her from her estranged husband who nearly killed her.
  • The suit led to the creation of the Family Violence Prevention and Response Act of 1986 - the cornerstone of which was an aggressive approach to the arrest of abusers and support for victims in court. NHPBW established the state's first multidisciplinary domestic violence task force, which is still in existence, called the Greater New Haven Domestic Violence Task Force. It was created to clarify roles in enforcing the new laws; today its mission "is to create a community of zero tolerance of domestic violence using a planned response of all available resources designed to help." The laws also led to the creation of the Family Violence Victim Advocate position. Although they are employees of local domestic violence programs, they are stationed at the courts to provide support, information, and advocacy for victims whose partners are arrested.

  • In 1989, NHPBW's name was changed to Domestic Violence Services of Greater New Haven (DVS) to better reflect the focus and scope of services.
  • In the 1990s, DVS added support groups in two suburbs and another for female substance abusers who are in recovery. In-person individual counseling was introduced for adults and older teens and a new position in the civil court was created to assist individuals with temporary restraining order applications.
  • DVS celebrated its 25th anniversary in 2002.
  • In 2006, the Transitional Housing Program was established; it offers affordable apartment living for up to two years for families ready to leave the DVS emergency shelter. Families are provided support so they can build on the skills they worked on at the shelter, with the goal of achieving a level of self-sufficiency and independence necessary to move to permanent housing.
  • In 2007, DVS celebrated its 30th anniversary.


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