The first shelter in Ohio opened in 1974. Programs were just getting started in the late 70s/early 80s and none of us had a blueprint. In the late 80s several rural programs came together to build a coalition that addressed the unique issues they were seeing; many more programs – including the one I co‐directed at the time ‐ joined the bandwagon and ODVN was formed. ODVN’s founders were formerly battered women and programs who kept survivors at the center of our work. And we have never lost our conviction that domestic violence survivors are the experts in their own lives and on what will help keep them and their children safer.
What a difference has been made in 25 years. Today, 70 domestic violence programs help more than 2,000 survivors and their children every single day in Ohio. They handle an estimated 285,000 crisis calls every year.
It’s hard to explain what the work of a state domestic violence coalition looks like from day to day. Our work is often behind the scenes and it changes every day. Our member programs have to address the broadest range of topics and challenges you can imagine, meaning we are always trying to stay ahead of the curve with them. For example, programs were getting subpoenas from abusers and others trying to see confidential victim records. So ODVN, with help from OSLSA created a model Motion to Quash that any program could file to protect client information. DV program directors have to know it all – and what that is, is always changing. So ODVN convenes 5 quarterly regional meetings on a broad range of topics: from bedbugs to confidentiality and personnel issues – the list never stops evolving. Legal advocates also need to master a broad range of information in their jobs. So ODVN convenes quarterly Legal Advocacy Caucuses offering trainings on housing rights, probation, changes in statutes – that list also never stops changing. On any given day ODVN may get calls like this: A survivor calls with questions on how to file a civil protection order or to find her local shelter. An advocate calls in desperation – a woman has lost custody of her child and has a hearing tomorrow. Can we help find an attorney? Or a legislator calls asking for testimony on a bill we know can make huge changes in the lives of survivors – she needs us there this afternoon. ODVN responds to approximately 2,400 requests for technical assistance every year and from one day to another, our work changes.
Over the last 25 years ODVN has made great strides in partnership with its member programs and other statewide partners. Legislation has been passed to help victims of stalking, to make protection orders longer, to allow victims of teen abusers to get protection orders, and to require prevention education programs in Ohio’s schools. We’ve participated on numerous state level work groups to address domestic violence, for example, on the Supreme Court’s Task Force that created standardized family law forms for low income victims who cannot afford an attorney and the Barbara Warner Workplace Violence Committee that created state policy for employees of the State of Ohio who are battered. ODVN continues to develop publications to support community responses to battering, such as our manuals on Trauma Informed Care, Teen Relationship Violence, our Self Help Legal Manuals for Survivors. ODVN convenes task forces – such as our Immigrant Task Force and LGBTQ Task Force ‐ to ensure that survivors in marginalized and underserved communities get the help they need. And ODVN keeps securing more resources – there are never enough – to support prevention and intervention in Ohio, such as our Avon Grant to create a national website for workplaces to respond to domestic violence and sexual assault, our Allstate Foundation grant to support economic empowerment programs for survivors, our CDC funding to support prevention efforts around Ohio, and our Department of Justice grant to provide legal assistance to survivors.
Today, ODVN coordinates a CDC‐funded Prevention Initiative including new work to engage men in ending domestic violence, our training and technical assistance program which trains almost 4,000 professionals every year, our legal assistance program, our program to enhance community readiness and build collaborations to respond to child maltreatment and domestic violence throughout Ohio, a batterers intervention committee to promote strong batterer intervention in Ohio, and on‐going public policy work to forge ahead on the many changes families still need to be safe.
The reality is, every day ODVN still receives calls from survivors who don’t know where to turn, who have had their rights violated, who don’t know they have options. Today, in 2014, there are still women, men and children who are not safe, who are terrorized by someone who says they love them. These survivors need communities working in collaboration to help them get safe, and hold perpetrators accountable in meaningful ways that actually stop the violence. And there are some major policy fixes long overdue in Ohio – working survivors still need workplace protections when they need time off related to domestic violence. Survivors need tenant protections so that they do not lose their housing because they are battered. And we are still losing too many victims to homicide in Ohio. There is so much work that lies ahead for the next 25 years.
Mother Jones said “pray for the dead and fight like hell for the living.” That’s exactly what we intend to do for another 25 years.