OUR HISTORY At the time of Women Against Abuse’s founding in 1976, services for women suffering from domestic violence were unheard of. Before the 1984 Family Violence Prevention Services Act, organizations working to end domestic violence could scarcely come by government funding. Learn more about the time period of Women Against Abuse’s founding and the organization’s development over the years. Before Shelter The Early Years Beyond Shelter Today BEFORE SHELTER In the 1970s, women like Renee had few options for safety. They listened, and like good listeners, they obeyed through turmoil and injury. If the public acknowledged them at all, hushed words singled them out as battered women between snickers and ironic cracks. They were reminded “till death do us part” as they scrambled to disguise black eyes and broken ribs, and at night when they locked their front doors to keep safe from intruders, they cast their pleas into residual silence. Friends and relatives who might offer a couch or bed instead counseled them to tough it out: “That’s what marriage is.” Without social support, they had little recourse to become immediately independent as domestic violence necessitates. Abusers most often severely injure or kill just before victims decide to leave. Victims must safety plan in meticulous detail to ensure that abusers do not know their plans. Many need to find a new home and a new job in a new neighborhood so that their abusers cannot find them once they’ve left. Many leave with barely any belongings because packing a proper suitcase could tip their abusers off. Domestic violence emergency shelters that could afford them much-needed time and support were extremely new and radical. Often victims only chanced upon them through word-of-mouth exchanges. In shelter, Renee finally found meaningful support. Shelter staff helped her formulate an action plan to help her achieve her goals, from managing finances to figuring out how to take a specific bus to get to a job interview. Every day, she knew WAA staff would help provide “some direction and a shoulder if I needed one.” It would take many years before Renee became successfully independent from her abuser, who not only isolated her from friends and family, but followed her halfway across the country. Today, she is safe and financially secure. She keeps sharing her story because she knows that talking about domestic violence makes a real difference in encouraging victims to seek help and not feel marginalized by stigma.