In the early 1970s, domestic violence didn’t even have a name, let alone a legal identity.
Rape within a marriage was legal—not considered a crime until the mid-1990s. Abusive men were allowed to terrorize their wives and girlfriends—with no legal remedy to force them to stop. Law enforcement had no legal grounds to remove an abusive man from the home of his children and wife. Women who wanted to leave were forced to choose between their own safety and life with their children. Domestic violence was viewed by many as a “family matter” and as something that should be sorted out between a husband and his wife. There were no shelters for battered women in Missouri, no rape crisis centers, no hotlines, no task forces, no Coalition.
In the span of that decade, however, a small but dedicated group of women and men from throughout Missouri began working together to help keep domestic violence victims safe. In 1976, the first domestic violence shelter opened its doors in Missouri. In 1979, the Missouri Adult Abuse Remedies Law was passed, which created the first legal protections for domestic violence victims and required that law enforcement officers respond to domestic violence crimes the same as crimes between other persons. It was in the wake of this major legal victory that the Missouri Coalition Against Domestic Violence was created.
In the 30 years since MCADSV began its work, the number of domestic and sexual violence programs in the state has grown from 11 to more than 120. MCADSV has assisted almost all of these programs from their initial stage of beginning operations through their program growth and development. And, in April 2006, the once single-issue Coalition, with a focus on domestic violence, officially expanded its work, included sexual violence and stalking and fully met the mission of the organization—becoming the Missouri Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence.
Since its beginning, MCADSV has worked to ensure advocates and allied professionals have the information and resources they need to support survivors in Missouri. MCADSV’s members rely on the Coalition to provide them with the resources, training and expertise to further social justice in their own communities. The Coalition provides a unified voice at the state and national level to improve public policy, systems and responses to violence against women. To further these aims, MCADSV provides the following cores services to its members and the communities they serve:
- Education: MCADSV educates the general public about domestic violence, sexual violence, dating violence and stalking; trains professionals; and advocates public policy to prevent and alleviate violence against women.
- Assistance: MCADSV provides technical assistance, training and support to members and related communities of service providers.
- Alliance: MCADSV provides opportunities for communication among those working in the movement to end violence against women.
- Research: MCADSV researches the extent of domestic violence, sexual violence, dating violence and stalking to more effectively reduce its impact and occurrence in the lives of Missouri’s women.