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Women's Freedom Center marks 50 years working with domestic violence survivors

The Women’s Freedom Center is the local domestic and sexual violence organization serving both Windham and Southern Windsor Counties.
The Women’s Freedom Center is the local domestic and sexual violence organization serving both Windham and Southern Windsor Counties.

In the late 1960s, a group of women gathered at a restaurant in Brattleboro. A number of sexual assaults had been reported in the area, and they wondered if the survivors were receiving enough support.

They also asked themselves, why do these types of crimes keep occurring, and how do we bring about lasting change?

The women went on to found the Women’s Crisis Center in 1974, now the Women's Freedom Center. This year the organization marks its 50th anniversary supporting survivors of domestic and sexual violence in Windham and south Windsor counties.

"Even naming the problem — back in 1974 — was still a revolutionary act," said community outreach advocate Shari May. She joined Vermont Edition to discuss the past, present and future of the Women's Freedom Center.

"This year we turned 50. And it's a poignant reminder to ask the question, 'What did half a century teach us about what survivors are actually still up against, and what we're all still up against, to try to end domestic and sexual violence and help create a better world?'"

The organization operates three shelters, does community outreach and education in schools, and advocates for survivors in courts, hospitals and social services agencies.

To mark their fiftieth year, the Women's Freedom Center is offering a number of special events and programs, from a social justice-themed training this summer to a community art project called a "freedom banner."

Through the National Domestic Violence Hotline, trained advocates are available 24/7 to talk confidentially with anyone experiencing domestic violence or questioning unhealthy aspects of their relationship. If you or someone you know needs help, call 1-800-799-SAFE [7233] or visit

Broadcast at noon on Monday, Jan. 8, 2024; rebroadcast at 7 p.m.

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Mikaela Lefrak is the host and senior producer of Vermont Edition. Her stories have aired nationally on Morning Edition, All Things Considered, Weekend Edition, Marketplace, The World and Here & Now. A seasoned local reporter, Mikaela has won two regional Edward R. Murrow awards and a Public Media Journalists Association award for her work.
Andrea Laurion joined Vermont Public as a news producer for Vermont Edition in December 2022. She is a native of Pittsburgh, Pa., and a graduate of the Salt Institute for Documentary Studies in Portland, Maine. Before getting into audio, Andrea worked as an obituary writer, a lunch lady, a wedding photographer assistant, a children’s birthday party hostess, a haunted house actor, and an admin assistant many times over.