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Through the vision of Mrs. Doris Ward, Bethany House of Northern Virginia, Inc. was founded in 1979 in response to the unmet needs of victims of domestic violence. While working with homeless women in the District of Columbia and surrounding metro communities, Mrs. Ward became acutely aware of the crisis of domestic violence in the metropolitan area and was struck by the absence of independent agencies equipped to handle this problem.

Many communities demonstrated a lack of understanding about domestic violence, providing few resources and often treating the victims as responsible for the abuse. An absence of confidential shelters, a lack of low-cost housing, and a long waiting period for assistance added to the suffering experienced by many victims. Mrs. Ward recognized the urgent need for safe housing and supportive services for women and children facing violence at home, and with vision, perseverance and creativity, she brought Bethany House of Northern Virginia into existence. Mrs. Ward capably led Bethany House for 26 years until her retirement. The Bethany House Board of Directors elected Mrs. Ward a Board Member Emeritus in recognition of her work in support of victims of domestic violence.


Bethany House was founded in 1979 as a ministry to victims of domestic violence through the vision of Doris Ward. Ms. Ward was motivated to act by the absence of independent agencies to handle the problem of domestic violence. Working in Washington, DC, and the surrounding metro area, she observed firsthand the failure on the part of the government at that time to respond to victims of abuse. There was a lack of legislation providing a framework for the courts to effectively address the issue of domestic violence, and minimal policies to offer support through government social service departments. Compounding the problem was a public perception of abuse as a private matter, and an apparent lack of sympathy toward its victims. These factors together added to the frustration and suffering of victims of domestic violence.

The long wait through the courts, limited resources, lack of shelters or other low-cost housing for victims, and the overwhelming number of abuse cases created the urgent need for the development of an independent agency to deal with the issue of domestic violence. Bethany House was organized to address these crisis conditions. With vision and creativity, a plan was conceived to meet the myriad challenges facing those in abusive situations.

Bethany House is unique for several reasons. It provides temporary housing for four months with a two-year Aftercare program, helping to prevent “revolving door” admissions and enabling more cost-effective rehabilitation. It implements individualized client support, resulting in client-written service plans. And, it supports intervention for both parents and children in order to break inter-generational cycles of abuse. Bethany House has an established track record of successfully addressing the needs of victims of domestic violence and their children since 1979.

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