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History...or rather...Herstory

The Battered Women's Movement in Alabama

Alabama joined the national movement in domestic violence in 1978 as a network of shelters for battered women and their children and of organizations and individuals concerned about domestic violence in Alabama and the nation.

The first two shelters that opened in Alabama were Penelope House in Mobile, followed by Turning Point in Tuscaloosa. Other programs throughout the state began raising support to

open shelters. The ACADV was officially incorporated in 1980.

Throughout its history, ACADV has worked on public policy issues to help protect victims of domestic violence and their children. During this time, the state has passed several laws that create greater legal protection for battered women and provide for funding for safety and services for victims and their children.

In 1981, the state legislature passed the Protection from Abuse Act, which established a protection order for victims of domestic violence. The protection order, issued by the courts, was designed to provide more protection and legal remedies for victims.

Funding for services for battered women was improved in 1983, when the legislature passed a bill providing a state marriage license fee to fund shelter programs. The bill also codified and defined a domestic violence shelter. At an ACADV meeting in Montgomery that year, the service areas for each shelter were divided by county so that all counties had a shelter program to serve them.

In 1985, the ACADV member shelters first received money from the state budget. A budget of $119,733 was granted to ACADV from the Special Education Trust Fund for all shelters to share. ACADV was also formally incorporated the same year.

Funds from the U.S. Victims of Crime Administration were available for victims in the state of Alabama for the first time in 1986. That same year, the Warrantless Arrest Act was written, but did not pass the legislature.

Attorney General Don Siegelman in 1987 established a hearing to receive the testimony of victims of crime. ACADV members successfully worked to get domestic violence victims included in the hearing. One moving testimony came from Rhonda Hutto, who told of the abuse she suffered at home from her violent husband. Two months after her testimony, her husband killed her. Siegelman over the years has cited Hutto's story as having had a major impact on his work on and support of domestic violence issues.

The first ACADV awards banquet was held in 1987, noting the outstanding work of legislators, journalists, individuals, and others in the support of domestic violence issues.

Changes in the state budget moved ACADV funding from the Special Education Trust Fund to the state's general fund.

In 1988, ACADV Board of Directors wrote and approved minimum standards for member shelter programs, and implemented a peer review of standards.

In 1989, the Warrantless Arrest Act was passed by the state legislature. Warrantless Arrest allows a police officer to arrest an offender in a domestic violence case without a warrant if the officer has "probable cause" to believe a crime was committed. The officer does not need to "see" the crime being committed in order to make an arrest. The act applied to felony or misdemeanor offenses.

Carol Gundlach was appointed as the first executive director of the ACADV in 1990. A training conference was held for law enforcement officers on the issue of the Warrantless Arrest law.

The legislature passed a bill in 1993, revising the provisions for a Protection From Abuse order. The revisions provide more options and protection for victims by allowing the judge to grant a PFA while other legal actions, such as a divorce are pending, and allowing the victim to apply for the PFA "pro se," or, without an attorney. The Family Violence Protection Order Enforcement Act passed Congress a year later making it a criminal offense to violate a temporary restraining order, including the protection order.

The Americorps VISTA program, which puts volunteers in service positions around the country, began working with ACADV in 1995. As a result, VISTA workers have been placed in the ACADV general office and a number of member shelter programs around the state each year, providing additional outreach to victims, and training a new generation of volunteers on issues of domestic violence.

In 1995, a Revision of the Warrantless Arrest Act passed, along with the Custody and Domestic or Family Abuse Act. The ACADV held statewide judicial training for circuit, district and municipal court judges on the issue of domestic violence and the state laws impacting those cases.

The ACADV published the Child Advocate training manual, for staff in local shelter programs working with the children exposed to domestic violence. The Americorps VISTA program expanded to 45 volunteers working with Coalition member programs throughout the state.

In 1996, the ACADV board of directors initiated Staff Development Training, requiring every fulltime worker in member programs throughout the state to be trained in a special three-day training. A statewide task force headed by ACADV was formed to develop protocols for the prosecution of domestic violence and sexual assault cases.

Training for prosecutors on domestic violence and sexual assault issues was held statewide by the ACADV in 1997. The ACADV also initiated the first multi-agency conference on domestic violence in conjunction with its annual board meeting. ACADV Standards Reviews changed this year from a peer review process to reviews by outside evaluators. The ACADV also participated in the Governor's Advisory Council on Domestic Violence.

In 1998, the ACADV joined the information "superhighway" with a WebPage, access to Violence Against Women network, and its own computer based networking system with shelters, called Safepassage.

To build community cooperation around the issue of domestic violence, the ACADV through an ADECA grant, hired four new staff to help local shelter programs develop and coordinate community councils throughout the state in 1998. With the Family Violence Prevention Fund, the Coalition developed and trained 15 teams of medical professionals statewide to develop medical protocols on domestic violence.

Recognizing the importance of providing responsive social services for victims of domestic violence, the ACADV trained 800 JOBS and Temporary Aid for Needy Families (TANF) workers from the Department of Human Resources. Working with the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges, the ACADV in 1998 developed a model code legislative package for Alabama.

In 1999, the ACADV continued to develop Coordinated Community Councils throughout the state, to develop local expertise and initiatives. In response to legislation requiring standards for programs that work with abusers, the ACADV developed program standards and training for perpetrator intervention programs throughout the state. ACADV continued its training efforts with the Department of Human Resources by providing a five-day training for DHR workers for a consecutive five-month period.

In 2000 the Governor signed a bill into law making domestic violence a separate crime in the criminal code as of July 1. The bill defines misdemeanor and felony domestic violence crimes, creates stiffer mandatory minimum sentences for those arrested repeatedly, and directs police officers to look for a primary aggressor in assessing domestic violence complaints. It also doubles the sentences for offenders who repeatedly violate a Protection From Abuse order.

Recognizing the potential lethality of domestic violence, the Legislature passed a bill requiring an arrested abuser to be denied bail until a hearing is held before a judge or magistrate. The Holding Period Bill, which went into effect August 1, provides a "cooling off period" in jail for offenders arrested for domestic violence crimes. If the hearing is not held in 12 hours, a bail can be set. During the hearing, the judge or magistrate can make findings on the record about whether the arrested is a threat to the victim, and ordering the accused to stay away from the victim.

New legislation prohibiting insurance discrimination against victims of domestic violence was signed into law on May 17. The Domestic Abuse Insurance Protection Act, which went into effect August 1, makes Alabama one of 32 states to prohibit the insurance industry from discriminating against victims of domestic violence. The law, which was developed by the ACADV prohibits an insurance provider from using a person’s status as a domestic violence victim or an association with a victim as a reason for denying coverage, increasing premiums, or canceling a policy. It also makes provisions for a victim to continue an insurance policy after separating from the abuser.

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Shelters for battered women and children founded in Alabama
1979 Penelope House & Turning Point
1980 Family Violence Center
1981 Family Sunshine Center, Safeplace, East Alabama Task Force for Battered Women
1982 House of Ruth
1983 Hope Place
1985 Rose Haven
1986 Daybreak
1988 Second Chance
1989 Safehouse
1990 Crisis Center of Russell County
1991 Harbor House
1992 The Lighthouse and SABRA Sanctuary
1993 Opportunity House
1996 Harriet's House
1997 Hope Place of Marshall County (satellite)

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