In 1970, the Community Hotline was founded by several concerned citizens because the local Sheriff’s Department reported a disturbing rise of drug and alcohol abuse in the local schools. Most of the calls received were from young people struggling with these problems. Many of the calls involved suicide and domestic violence problems, mostly associated with drug and alcohol abuse. With the assistance of Larry Margolis and Herb Oberman of the local County Public Assistance Office, the Hotline was operated at their offices 7 days a week during the hours of 6:00 p.m. and midnight. The telephones were manned by volunteers who went through 40 hours of training by licensed trainers.
As a result of the increased problems in a rapidly growing valley and the fact that there was a severe shortage of mental health, drug, alcohol and dental services for the residents of our valley, local business and school leaders contacted Larry Margolis and Herb Oberman of the County Public Assistance Office, and JoAnne Darcy, Deputy for Supervisor Michael Antonovich. Several meetings were held and steps were taken to address the concerns. Within a few months, an office of County Mental Health was established here and located on Lyons Avenue.
Many meetings were held at the local Mental Health office. Those meetings included school representatives, business people, health professionals, mental health counselors, and community volunteers. As a result of those meetings, the Santa Clarita Valley Community Health Council was established as a non-profit agency in 1973. Many of those same community leaders became a part of the Council.
One of the initial problems addressed by the Council was the rising drug use in our community. As a result, a proposal for a Drug Abuse Center was submitted to the Los Angeles County Mental Health Department and was funded in 1974. Part of the program included a 24-hour hotline. Since our valley already had an existing hotline, it was incorporated into the program. Many calls came into the hotline–not only drug abuse, alcohol abuse, and suicide—but many of them involved domestic violence. A substantial number of the domestic violence calls involved problems with drug and alcohol abuse.
The Health Council was extremely concerned with the rising number of domestic violence calls being reported to them by the Community Hotline. In late 1979, several of the Council members—Dr. Janet Nisselson, Dr. John Legler, Dr. Jayne Lipp (all mental health counselors), Barbara Cochran, Director of the Hotline—along with Supervisor Antonovich’s Deputy, JoAnne Darcy, made trips to several Domestic Violence Shelters in surrounding cities. They were able to get an idea of how the shelters were formed and how they were operated by the Domestic Violence Agencies in their particular areas.
Beginning in 1980, steps were initiated to establish a Domestic Violence Agency in the Santa Clarita Valley. Many more trips were taken to the various agencies in surrounding areas to get more information to assist us in establishing our own agency. In 1983, the
Santa Clarita Valley Battered Women’s Association was formed under the non-profit Santa Clarita Valley Community Health Council. The agency’s first home was located on San Fernando Road in Newhall. The board of the Health Council served as an interim board until a group of local business people, former battered women and several community volunteers formed a permanent board for the agency.
For several months, the new agency with its new board struggled to get established in the valley because of the stigma of the problem. The domestic violence/drug/alcohol calls continued to increase. About a year after its establishment as an agency, the first short-term shelter was opened, a 4-bedroom home in the area of Highway 126 and Interstate 5. The shelter was occupied by women referred to us from cities surrounding our valley. The local women who were in violent situations and asking for assistance were sent to shelters in the San Fernando Valley, Lancaster and surrounding areas. This was for their protection, to be further away from their abuser.
There was inner strife among some members of the Board of Directors and the organization went through some major changes. It was mutually decided that the battered women serving on the board would be more effective in other areas; i.e. being in supportive positions to other sufferers, or possibly as hotline listeners. It was during this time that the Agency established its own hotline and staffed it with community volunteers who similarly went through extensive training with licensed trainers. Calls for assistance continued to increase and in 1985, the “New to You” Thrift Shop was opened to augment the funding for operation of the shelter.
In 1987, the name of the organization was changed to Association to Aid Victims of Domestic Violence (AAVDV) and in 1990 the Bootleggers Ball fundraising event started which continued as an annual fundraiser until 1998.
By 1996, a permanent shelter location was established to support the growing demand for women in need of a safe place to stay. In 2002, the name of the organization was changed from AAVDV to Domestic Violence Center of Santa Clarita Valley (DVC of SCV).
There have been several locations for the administrative offices of the Domestic Violence Center of SCV, as well as several locations for the shelters. As of this date, the administrative offices are located at the Savia Center on Newhall Avenue in Santa Clarita.
Many positive changes have occurred within the agency and the shelters since inception–with the various boards of directors, running of the administrative offices as well as the shelters. Community members (volunteers, business men and women, school personnel, counselors, probation and law enforcement) have been involved and all contributed in various ways. All the changes have contributed to the improvement in all the programs the center currently runs. With the continued involvement of the community, the Domestic Violence Center of the Santa Clarita Valley will thrive and grow, thus being able to assist the members of our valley to become healthy women and men.