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Loudoun Board of Supervisors Calls Attention to Domestic Violence Last October

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Loudoun’s Abused Women’s Shelter

LAWS Sounds the Alarm on Rise in Domestic Violence

In the first eight months of this fiscal year, Loudoun’s Abused Women’s Shelter (LAWS) provision of emergency shelter beds more than tripled over the same period in 2021. That covered 152 victims of domestic violence, a 114% increase, so, clearly, victims needed housing longer until they could find a safe place to live, or were able to return home.

But not even those dire statistics tell the whole story. In those same 8 months, LAWS’ hotline was answered 5,760 times, and fully two-thirds of the victims who had to leave emergency shelter to make room for others actually had no safe, stable place to go.

“Our community needs accessible and affordable housing, especially for survivors of domestic abuse,” said Samantha (“Sam”) Clarke, COO and interim CEO of LAWS Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Services. “This barrier is one of the leading causes of survivor vulnerability and re-victimization we encounter.”

It helps to understand the importance of the word, when Sam says “survivors” of domestic violence because in a six-month period, 114 “high danger” intakes were reported that could have been fatal to the victims. 

She adds, “LAWS is where victims receive safety, hope, empowerment, healing, and resources. There is a real and increasing demand for services. We need an increased financial investment from our community. LAWS is not just a ‘core service,’ we are a critical service.”

"LAWS is not just a ‘core service,’ we are a critical service."

Ideally, communities that know how to deal with trauma can help reduce violence and help people heal, but today’s circumstances –the rise in economic vulnerability, housing vulnerability, job insecurity – all compound stress on people and their relationships. Add to that isolation, which is where violence thrives, and you have the makings of an epidemic of violence, Sam explains.

LAWS is the designated domestic violence and sexual assault provider for Loudoun County, so it is tasked to address this crisis but it’s also a non-profit, so donations are necessary to do its job. It provides services around domestic violence, sexual assault, dating violence, and stalking for children, youth and adults. It staffs the 24-hour crisis hotline. It provides counseling for how to deal with difficulties and trauma therapy for people who have suffered violent attacks, as well as shelter for people fleeing imminent danger. 

It has court and community advocates to help survivors get protective orders or otherwise navigate the court system and make sure their voices are heard, and advocates that visit hospitals to provide support as well as information and resources to victims and survivors. It takes 33 people, 22 of them full time to provide those services, of which the vast majority are women.

Because it takes a toll on people to deal with such crises day in and day out, Sam says, “It’s important that we're connecting and communicating with one another as a team.... This team is wonderful at checking in with one another: How were you? How was that? Are you okay? Can I help you? What do you need? Is there anything I can do for you?”

To deal with "vicarious trauma," they work with a therapist internally who provides “resiliency group sessions" to process their own issues, talk about the work and then let it go. “It gives us a chance to focus on the positive, support each other, get grounded, and work on coping skills. It really does help us maintain a culture that is supportive, healthy and grounded in why we do this work and creating a safe space for each other" -- not a bad model for all corporations post-COVID.

LAWS will launch a capital campaign soon to either build a new shelter or “reimagine” the kind of housing that will meet the need for people fleeing violence. Conservatively, LAWS needs $10 million to break ground on a new shelter but will consider alternatives to a “brick and mortar” solution. By next month, it will be seeking a full-time CEO with experience in fundraising and community service.

You can help by donating money at, by giving goods to the Resourceful Woman Thrift Store at 105 East Market St. in Leesburg, or providing items on the shelter wish list. For questions about the list, call 703-771-3398 or email

Above all, “LAWS needs people to know that we are here and what we do because the number one thing that we need is for our community to be safe. We want people to call for help. We want people to know that we are here,” Sam says. The hotline number is: 703-777-6552.

  • Loudoun Board of Supervisors Calls Attention to Domestic Violence Last October
  • Raising Awareness of Domestic Violence During Lockdown
  • Samantha Clarke, Interim CEO
  • LAWS Shelter Staff