Community awareness of the pervasiveness and severity of domestic violence in Kentucky heightened in the late 1970's. The YWCA in Louisville opened Kentucky's first spouse abuse shelter in 1977. By 1980 there were six shelter programs serving battered women and their children in Kentucky.
The Kentucky Domestic Violence Association was founded in 1981 by the staff of the six existing programs as a statewide coalition whose membership was to include all domestic violence programs in Kentucky. It's purpose was to provide mutual support, information, resource sharing and technical assistance; to coordinate services; and to collectively advocate for battered women and their children on statewide issues.
An early goal of the coalition was to work with the Department for Social Services to ensure that domestic violence services were available across the state. Kentucky is divided into fifteen, multi-county Area Development Districts (ADDs). These districts are used for planning and service provision purposes for a variety of programs It made sense to use these ADDs as targeted areas for domestic violence services. In 1985, Kentucky reached the goal of having a domestic violence program in each ADD.
Stable funding for the programs has also been a goal of the coalition. In 1982, KDVA lobbied successfully to increase the marriage license fee and to earmark the new funds for a special "Trust and Agency" account for spouse abuse programs. In addition, the state's executive budget included general fund allocations for domestic violence programs. The combination of these funds has provided a stable base for domestic violence programs in the state.
KDVA and it's members have also advocated for changes in state laws to help victims of domestic violence. The group's efforts have helped pass legislation addressing warrantless arrest, emergency protective orders, and marital rape.