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 Multidisciplinary Sexual Abuse Investigation Teams in the country. This team, which still exists today and continues to meet weekly, allows for a coordinated comprehensive trauma informed approach to sexual abuse investigations which has been shown to reduce trauma for the victim and lead to more successful prosecutions of offenders. The Advocacy Center is now a NYS approved Child Advocacy Center (CAC), which is a best practice model that brings together child protective services investigators, law enforcement, prosecutors, advocates, medical and mental health professionals to provide a coordinated, comprehensive response to victims and their caregivers. At our CAC site, children can speak to a forensic interviewer who is trained to understand child development, how to manage bias, and is knowledgeable in addressing secondary trauma and other best practices for interviewing children. This multidisciplinary team approach results in better outcomes for child abuse investigations

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 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.

And most recently, we have expanded our staffing to include an Adult Trauma Therapist, a Youth Therapist, and a Staff Attorney.

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 staff who provide direct support, advocacy and resources to adults, teens and children impacted by domestic and sexual violence. All team members have extensive 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. Our team has Domestic Violence Advocates, Youth Services Advocates, Residential Services Advocates, a Hotline Advocate and a Sexual Assault Advocate. Our Clinical Therapist and Staff Attorney along with the direct supervisors of these staff, round out our Client Services Team. Our team is passionate, dedicated and strives to meet the self-determined needs of those we provide services to.

Education Team

The Advocacy Center provides high quality, survivor informed educational programs to adults, youth and professionals throughout Tompkins County. Each member of our Education Team has a specific expertise and provides education along with building partnerships with schools, campuses, youth serving organizations and community groups. 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. Our Finance Manager, Bookkeeper, Data and Quality Assurance Manager and Development Associate 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. 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.