Founding and Early Years
Five women from four different human service organizations, all focused on battered women and their children, started The Chicago Metropolitan Battered Women’s Network (The Network) in 1980. Their goal was to organize a system that would utilize community resources in order to provide connections for women impacted by domestic violence. They soon realized the advantages of creating a network that could facilitate communication and serve as an effective agent in bringing pressure to bear on the city and state on behalf of abused women. The partnership was intended to comprise a wide variety of domestic violence service providers including shelters, direct services, legal services, and those who worked at the advocacy and policy levels. After several meetings, The Network structure was formalized to include two co-chairs, four agencies belonging as official members, and 41 agencies joining as participating organizations.
Over the next few years, The Network continued to grow and develop. A committee-oriented structure was created that targeted specific domestic violence issues and political areas. Committees have evolved over the decades to effectively engage members and the domestic violence community. It is important to note that this early work done by Network members was, and remains today, un-compensated and volunteer orientated. Committee effort was and is performed in addition to work done as service providers and advocates. The Network experienced some political success in its support for House Bill 366, the Illinois Domestic Violence Act. The Network has continued to work in the political realm, supporting the 1984-86 Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) and initiating several liaison relationships with local bodies and agencies such as the police, the courts, and the States Attorney’s Office.
The commitment shown by early leaders and members of The Network laid a strong foundation for the organization to grow. In 1995, we acquired our first full-time, paid Executive Director and office space. A part-time staff support position and the first intern position were added in the spring of 1996.
In late 1997, The Network began to offer essential training for domestic violence advocates and social service providers throughout Metropolitan Chicago. A combined Board of Directors and member program committee, comprised of domestic violence professionals, originated the idea and designed the first training delivered in 1997. Soon after, staff members were added to the program to help with the research, coordination, and attention to logistics required to successfully hold many trainings per year.
In 1998, the City of Chicago began the process of creating a 24-hour, toll-free hotline available for domestic violence victims to call in order to be connected to services. After a whirlwind of discussion, The Network emerged as the best choice to contract with the City and began providing staff and leadership for the new venture. During early 2008, the Help Line expanded its service area and now provides resources to survivors all over the state of Illinois as the Illinois Statewide Domestic Violence Hotline. Over the course of its history, trained Victim and Information Referral Advocates have answered over 300,000 calls with confidence and care.
The Network continues to work diligently to improve the lives of those impacted by domestic violence using education, policy & advocacy, and through connecting community members with domestic violence service providers – each step taking us closer to ending society’s tolerance of domestic violence.
Keep Our Work Going
The Network has provided essential domestic violence resources, training, and systems advocacy for decades, and we cannot continue our work without you.