The domestic violence movement (also known as the battered women’s movement) has developed over the past several decades, and the way we think about violence in the home has been changed.
Women who were being abused began to say “No more” and started organizing to create hotlines and shelters for abused women and their children. The domestic violence movement has, since its beginning, understood that abuse is not an individual woman’s problem, but a social problem. The movement understands that the institutions of our culture reinforce the idea that violence within intimate relationships is acceptable and, at the same time, blame women for being victims of domestic violence
Civil rights and anti-war movements in the 1950s and 1960s challenged the country and laid the foundation for the feminist movement. As women gained more ground in the 1970’s, spousal abuse became a public issue. The battered women’s movement was put in to the public arena because of three social movements that were all ready under way: women’s liberation, women’s health, and anti-rape movements. The already existing movements had resources and networks that the battered women’s movement could draw from and gain its own strength. As a result, many battered women’s shelters opened in the United States, the first being the Women’s Advocates shelter in St. Paul, Minnesota, which opened in 1973.
It wasn’t until 1984 that a similar bill passed through Congress, entitled The Family Violence Prevention Services Act. This act authorizes the Secretary of Health and Human Services to make grants to States to assist in supporting the establishment, maintenance, and expansion of programs and projects prevent incidents of family violence and provide shelter and related assistance for victims and their dependents.
Based on the experiences and demands of battered women, considerable changes in institutional policies and procedures were made. Public awareness campaigns were initiated on the local, State, and national levels. Foundations and government agencies funded research efforts and large projects were undertaken to identify model intervention programs. In the 1990s, system reforms that began in the 1980s expanded significantly and now included a focus on a broader set of systems, including welfare systems and policy issues, such as housing, mental health, substance abuse, and childcare.
With the remarkable success of this anti-violence against women movement began over 30 years ago, a network of services is now present where there were none. Currently, there are approximately 1,900 local domestic violence programs and State domestic violence coalitions in every State, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico. In addition, there is significant policy reform, funding for violence against women research, and increased public awareness of a once hidden part of daily life for countless women and their children.