Mission and History
The mission of the East Los Angeles Women’s Center is to ensure that all women, girls and their families live in a place of safety, health, and personal well-being, free from violence and abuse, with equal access to necessary health services and social support, with an emphasis on Latino communities.
Respect, Dignity, Personal Connection, Spirituality, Resiliency, Empowerment, Leadership
The East Los Angeles Rape and Battering Hotline officially opened its telephones lines to serve the community of the Greater East Los Angeles area on February 13, 1976. It became the first Spanish language, a 24-hour crisis hotline for survivors of sexual assault in Southern California.
In the months preceding this date, a group of tireless volunteers spent countless hours formulating an operation plan for this important community service. It all began with Irene Mendez- Banales and Connie Destito, women independently providing crisis counseling for Latina victims of sexual assault. Realizing that community and counseling services for Latina victims and their families were virtually non-existent, they resolved to recruit and train other women to become volunteer hotline counselors and advocates.
On October 11, 1975, the first eighteen women began training. This committed and enthusiastic group completed the training only to find skills and motivation aren’t enough - they also needed equipment and office space. They organized the group, formed a board of directors, filed for nonprofit status, and founded the East Los Angeles Rape and Battery Hotline as a non-profit organization. The East Los Angeles Rape & Battering Hotline was successfully launched and incorporated on March 6, 1976. In 1988, The East Los Angeles Rape & Battering Hotline gave rise to AVANCE Human Services, Inc., which provided many of the services available today including, Certified Volunteer Training, Sexual Assault Hospital Accompaniment & Advocacy, Domestic Violence Community Awareness Presentations, Promotora AIDS Training, and HIV/AIDS Prevention Education Outreach and Hotline Services. All community-based program services were administered by certified professional staff and trained volunteers. In 2000, AVANCE became the East Los Angeles Women’s Center (ELAWC).
Our 24-hour crisis hotline has provided nearly 40 years of continuous assistance to survivors of rape and sexual assault, domestic violence, and HIV/AIDS throughout Greater Los Angeles. The East Los Angeles Women’s Center is proud of its long-standing commitment to providing culturally competent services tailored to meet the unique needs of Latino families and build safer healthy communities.