The Advocacy Center is the local provider of Domestic and Sexual Violence services in Tompkins County, NY. While the agency has grown, expanded services and adapted to the ever changing needs of survivors and our community over the years, we remain committed to the core philosophy of providing compassionate, trauma informed, survivor focused services and education with roots in feminism and the grassroots battered women’s movement of the 1970’s. Today our agency has expanded to provide not only domestic violence services but also services to youth and adult survivors of child sexual abuse, adult sexual assault and rape. This is a long and proud history and we owe so much to the dedication of our volunteers, staff, and local community and also to the inspiration provided by the survivors who honored us with their stories and strength. The Advocacy Center will continue to work towards a community where all are free from violence in their homes, relationships and life.

The Advocacy Center is a United Way Funded Partner.


The Advocacy Center, originally known as the Task Force for Battered Women, was formed in January 1977 in the living rooms of  a group of women who were concerned about the unmet need of temporary safe shelter and support for victims of domestic violence and their children. At first, the agency was entirely operated by volunteers including safe home volunteers who welcomed victims and their children into their homes, with their own families, as they fled their abusive partners.

Over time, we secured grants and local funding to hire staff and in 1982, after extensive negotiations, the City of Ithaca agreed to use federal funds (HUD) to renovate a house for use by the Advocacy Center as a shelter for abused women and their children. This growth enabled the agency to stabilize and improve coordination of services to abused women in the community through the agency’s shelter, advocacy and education programs.

Agency growth continued in 1982 when we responded to community concern about the incidence and impact of child sexual abuse in Tompkins County and established the Child Sexual Abuse Project. The specialized support and advocacy services developed for child and adolescent victims of child sexual abuse, their non-offending family members, and adult survivors of child sexual abuse was unique at the time. In 1987 we created one of the first Multi-Disciplinary Sexual Abuse Investigation Teams in the country. This team, which still exists today and continues to meet weekly, allows for a coordinated comprehensive approach to sexual violence investigations which has been shown to reduce trauma for the victim and lead to more successful prosecutions of offenders.

The agency continued to expand, build strong community relationships and provide critically needed services to community members over the next 20 years. We began to serve youth who had been exposed to domestic violence or were victims of teen dating violence, were leaders in providing services to victims within the LGBTQ community and made a pointed commitment to educating the community and systems impacting victims as a means of developing an informed and responsive community to the issues of domestic violence and child sexual abuse.

In 2003, a final significant change occurred when we began providing services for adult victims of sexual assault and rape, following the closure of the Center for Crime Victims and Sexual Assault, originally known as Ithaca Rape Crisis. This also prompted the agency to formally change its name to the Advocacy Center of Tompkins County as a means to best reflect the range of services and diversity of survivors we serve.

Board of Directors

As a 501c (3) non-profit agency the Advocacy Center is overseen by a diverse and dedicated board of directors. The board provides critical support, oversight and guidance to assistance the agency is achieving its mission and at any given time is comprised of a maximum of 21 individuals. To learn more about supporting the agency through the board of directors please visit our volunteer page.

Meet our staff

Jennifer Brownell

Executive Director

Louise Miller

Director of Programming

Client Services Team

Our agency has a dedicated team of Counselor-Advocates, led by our Advocacy Services Director, who provide direct support, advocacy and resources to adults, teens and children impacted by domestic and sexual violence. All team members have special training in the emotional, legal and medical needs of survivors and have successfully completed the training required to become NYS Certified Rape Crisis Counselors through the NYS Department of Health. In addition to general training related to trauma and basic counseling services, our advocates are also specialized specific types of trauma. Currently, our team has four Domestic Violence staff including one who works collaboratively with our local Department of Social Services to meet the unique needs of victims involved with the Child Protective system, four Youth Services staff who meet the needs of those impacted by child sexual abuse, one Adult Sexual Assault Advocate, two Shelter Staff who support our safe house programming and client housing needs, and a Hotline Coordinator and On-Call Counselor-advocate who provide crisis support through our hotline during the day. Our team is passionate, dedicated and strives to meet the self-determined needs of those we provide services to.

Education Team

The Advocacy Center has a highly skilled team, led by our Education Director, who provide high quality, survivor informed educational programs to adults, youth and professionals throughout Tompkins County. Each team member has a specific expertise and provides education as well as build partnerships within particular communities. Currently the team is comprised of two Youth Community Educators, an Adult Community Educator, a Campus Educator, and our Community Engagement Specialist. Our team is passionate about education and working towards a community that is equipped to prevent, recognize and respond to domestic and sexual violence.

Administrative Support Team

A critical aspect of our agency is our Administrative Support members. We are fortunate to have a highly skilled Finance Director and Administrative Assistant. These agency members provide the important support needed to continue offering high quality services to those in need.


The Advocacy Center is a private, 501c(3) non-profit agency that is funded through a variety sources including Federal, State and local governmental grants. In addition to these grants we are also proud to be supported by many local funders including the United Way of Tompkins County. While governmental grants provide a significant portion of our funding, it can also leave us vulnerable to changes in administrative priorities so we also rely on the generosity of local businesses and individuals to support the work we do. Personal donations can take many forms.  For more information on how to support survivors in our community visit our support page.