Schmidt opened her door to victims before there was a shelterBefore there was an emergency shelter for victims of sexual and domestic abuse, Liz Schmidt opened her home to them. The Superior woman has been an advocate for the Center Against Sexual and Domestic Abuse for more than 20 years. During the annual Speak Out Superior event April 16, Schmidt will be recognized with the center’s first Community Helping Hand Award.
Before there was an emergency shelter for victims of sexual and domestic abuse, Liz Schmidt opened her home to them. The Superior woman has been an advocate for the Center Against Sexual and Domestic Abuse for more than 20 years. During the annual Speak Out Superior event April 16, Schmidt will be recognized with the center’s first Community Helping Hand Award.
“Her overwhelming sense of compassion and her drive to make the world a more peaceful place makes Liz an incredible advocate in our work to end violence,” said CASDA Executive Director Kelly Burger.
The former nurse and educator has inspired countless volunteers at the center, said Walter Raschick, volunteer coordinator.
“Liz helps others every day,” he said. “That’s what she does and I don’t think she could live any other way.”
Schmidt said at the time she opened her home to CASDA victims, she had an upstairs free. Her husband, Joe, had passed away and none of her six children were living at home.
“I knew they could use the shelter,” said Schmidt, 89. “I knew nothing about CASDA, had no experience with it.” But she offered her residence as a safe house.
“I thought it was something I could do,” Schmidt said. The women and children who came to her home were fearful, but grateful. And once a shelter was built, the Superior woman continued to volunteer — answering the crises line and working at the office. A few months shy of her 90th birthday, Schmidt continues to spend a morning a week at the CASDA office.
“Once I start something I don’t know when to quit,” she said.
The service provided by CASDA is “absolutely necessary,” the Superior woman said, and working with the organization has helped open her eyes to the amount of sexual and domestic violence there is.
“It really reaches out into the community,” she said, affecting entire families.
April is Sexual Assault Awareness month. Sexual violence takes many guises — harassment, stalking, rape, trafficking and unwanted contact that uses sex or the threat of sex as a weapon. According to the Wisconsin Coalition Against Sexual Assault, it is estimated that 14.2 percent of adult women in Wisconsin have been raped in their lifetime. And 88.9 percent of all sexual assaults were perpetrated by someone known to the victim.
“Sexual assault is not an individual problem, it’s a community problem,” said Leanne Grbavcich, sexual assault program coordinator for CASDA. “We need to work together to end sexual violence.”
The focus of the month is on prevention and awareness. It’s important to know where resources are and to let perpetrators of sexual assault know the community will not tolerate it, Grbavcich said.
Along with the Speak Out event, an exhibit of art created by survivors of sexual and domestic violence is traveling throughout Superior this month. It will be at the Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College until Monday, at the Government Center from Monday through April 16, the Superior Public Library from April 16-23 and the Yellowjacket Union on the UWS campus from April 23-30. The display raises awareness of the effect of sexual violence, and what can be done to end it.
And everyone is welcome to attend Speak Out Superior on April 16. The event begins at 4 p.m. with cookout on the University of Wisconsin-Superior campus sponsored by the UWS Barbecue Club, followed by a community march to the Douglas County Courthouse at 4:30 p.m. and a ceremony at the courthouse at 5:15 p.m. featuring speakers, local representatives and a chance for members of the public to speak out against sexual assault. There, Schmidt will accept her award and say “a few words.”
Those who have worked with the Superior advocate said she deserves the award for her years of caring.
“Talking to Liz about her daily routine will teach you more about human compassion than any textbook every will,” Raschick said.
Speak Out Superior T-shirts for Speak Out Superior are available and can be ordered for $8 each or $10 each for 2X or larger. Call CASDA at (715) 392-3136 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
A donation drive for victims of sexual and domestic abuse will also be held from 1-5 p.m. April 12-14 at the Superior Wal-Mart. Donations of paper towels, cleaners, dish soap, nonperishable foods, gift cards, toilet paper, trash bags and more will be collected during those times.