Nonprofit's services fill safety niche
When working with victims of sexual and domestic assault, success can be defined in a variety of ways. "For example, the client learns techniques that enhance their safety, and clients learn of other available community resources. Those are two o...
When working with victims of sexual and domestic assault, success can be defined in a variety of ways.
"For example, the client learns techniques that enhance their safety, and clients learn of other available community resources. Those are two overall goals that we measure through all of our programs," said Erika Leif, assistant director of the Center Against Sexual & Domestic Assault in Superior. "We can also define success as someone that comes in for an appointment and they end up coming back for a second appointment. That person is continuing to reach out for help and obviously felt comfortable with our staff or the services provided. Or maybe they called the crisis line and set up a follow up appointment."
CASDA has been providing crisis intervention services and community outreach for more than two decades. Specifically, CASDA offers a 24-hour help line, (715) 392-3136 or (800) 649-2921, emergency shelter, advocacy and legal services, counseling for adults and children, support groups, community education and training, a volunteer program, and rural outreach.
It is a holistic approach, providing assistance for the complex needs victims often have.
CASDA's 24-hour help line is often its first point of contact with a victim, though some people will walk in the doors of its Catlin Avenue office seeking help. Others are referred to CASDA by law enforcement or other service providers.
Beyond immediate emergency services, it is often legal representation that clients need most. For those who meet income qualifications, CASDA has an attorney on staff to assist with divorce, child custody and placement, and other family law matters.
In recent years, the help line has averaged between 1,800 and 2,100 calls annually. CASDA also served 488 individuals in person last year. While impressive, the statistics are equally sobering.
"Domestic violence and sexual assault affects all socio-economic classes," said Leif. "The majority of our clients are low income, but we do have clients that come in seeking services that have pretty high incomes."
Clients come from all over. The majority is from Superior and Douglas County, but CASDA also gets calls from Duluth and St. Louis County, as well as other states, indicating the reputation CASDA has established over the years, as well as the gravity of the situation facing some of the people seeking its services.
"Sometimes it's just not physically safe for a person to remain in that community, especially if their abuser or perpetrator is someone who is well known or well respected ...," said Leif. "Sometimes it's really hard to reach out for help in that community for fear of not being believed or not getting the services they need. So we do unfortunately see people that have to just literally pick up and leave the state and move to another state in order to escape that cycle."
Despite the poor economy of the last few years, CASDA hasn't seen a dramatic increase in the number of people served, despite the fact that money issues often contribute to relationship problems.
"Some people (who come to CASDA for help) are still with their abusive partner," said Leif. "Some people haven't left yet, but are preparing to leave so they're getting safety planning assistance or they're getting the support they need to gear up for that leave because leaving is very difficult and complex. With the economy, it can go both ways. We have seen people who have decided because of the economy, it's sometimes a little bit scarier to leave with so many unknowns, so they kind of hunker down and stick it out because of the difficulties financially. Some do reach out for services, but some decide to stay."
The economy has affected CASDA's own pocket book, making it harder to raise much-needed operating revenue. While the majority of CASDA's budget comes from grants, fundraising events are key; and in recent years, attendance at fundraisers has been down. Still, CASDA continues to receive strong community support in terms of volunteers and donations of supplies.
"We wouldn't be able to do this work without the community participation, so we really do appreciate that support," said Leif.
CASDA is gearing up for its annual Shelter Donation Drive, March 31-April 2, at the Walmart in Superior. From noon to 5 p.m. each of those days, people are encouraged to drop off supplies that can be used at the shelter such as personal hygiene products, laundry detergent and other cleaning supplies, toilet paper and paper towels, and new socks and underwear.
Anyone wishing to donate or who would like more information about CASDA can call (715) 392-3136 for more information or visit www.casda.org .