Founded in 1983 on the premise that no one should live with violence or the fear of violence, The Laurel Center, formerly The Shelter for Abused Women, empowers and supports victims of domestic violence by providing emergency housing, advocacy, support services, and education. We reach out to our community through education and awareness programs. Services for victims of sexual assault were added to the program in 1989. Today, over 200 women and children stay in the shelter each year and often as many as 3,000 people receive help and support.
During the past 25 years, The Shelter for Abused Women continuously initiated programs to protect victims of abuse:
- In 1991, we were the first program in Virginia to change the identities of two families whose situations were so dangerous that they required new identities and relocation outside Virginia.
- In 1996, we instituted a program for victims of stalking that received state and national acclaim.
- In 1998, we introduced a fast response team for victims of sexual assault in partnership with forensic nurses at Winchester Medical Center.
- In 2001, we began a collaborative effort to reach victims of domestic violence who were involved with local departments of Social Service through the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families program (TANF).
- In 2002, we initiated the Family Advocacy Program, a strategic partnership with Winchester Medical Center and the local Child Advocacy Center to support families of children who are victims of sexual assault.
- In 2004, we began a joint project (DELTA) with the statewide domestic violence coalition and the local Council Against Domestic & Sexual Violence to identify primary prevention strategies to stop domestic violence in the family before it starts.
- In 2006, The Shelter for Abused Women was named recipient of the United Way's William M. Battaile Community Impact Award for outstanding service and collaboration in our community.
We are a member of the Virginia Sexual & Domestic Violence Action Alliance, a statewide coalition of domestic violence and sexual assault crisis centers. The program meets all the standards for a Sexual Assault Crisis Center and is a Certified Domestic Violence Program.
Throughout its history, The Shelter for Abused Women, recently renamed The Laurel Center has developed effective partnerships with local law enforcement agencies, the Commonwealth Attorneys' Office, Victim Witness, Winchester City Schools, Frederick County Schools, Winchester Medical Center, Council Against Domestic Violence & Sexual Assault, the Homeless Advocacy Network and the Virginia Sexual and Domestic Violence Action Alliance.
The Shelter for Abused Women's work was recognized as the Human Service Agency of the year by the Community Service Council (representing 50 local agencies) in 1997 and 2002, and twice Shelter staff members have been selected as the Human Service Provider of the Year twice. Statewide, The Shelter for Abused Women has received state awards and recognition for volunteer management, criminal justice advocacy and for victim advocacy.