Last Saturday night, October 22, I had the honor and pleasure to attend LACASA's Black and White Masquerade Gala at Whispering Pines in Pinckney, Michigan. LACASA Center is our local domestic violence shelter. Along with seven others, I was given the Mission Possible award.
In 1975 I started work in the Livingston County Prosecutor's Office as a legal secretary. One of the first cases that came in to the office was a woman that had been killed by her husband. When I had worked in a private law firm, I used to deal with a lady that worked in an office that had to do with title work. I used to talk with her regularly. One day, we were sharing our life stories and I told her how I had been physically and mentally abused in my first marriage. She shared that her husband was a bad alcoholic and wanted to know if I knew where she could go to get help as he was being very abusive when he drank. I informed her of Alanon and discussed the purpose of an intervention, as it is now called. We never really talked after that as I changed jobs and went to work in the prosecutor's office.
The woman in the picture I saw at the Prosecutor's Office, was the woman that had been killed by her husband. The picture was of her laying in a pool of blood and I could not believe it was her. I felt so bad that I had not done more to help. I remembered the feeling of not being believed when I would tell my parents about the abuse I was going through in my first marriage. My parents liked my husband and could not believe he would hurt me. I felt alone and worthless and powerless. My daughter was one when I divorced him. The marriage had last only two years, but it was a lifetime for me. I learned about things I thought only happened in movies. Those feelings began to surface every time I talked with a victim of domestic assault or rape. I felt that helplessness again mainly because there was nowhere in this county that an abused spouse (male or female) could go. Many had children that were living through seeing one parent abuse the other. They had to be up rooted from their school and friends to go to a shelter in another county to be safe. So, I decided to take some action. In 1979 two other ladies, Attorney Nancy Ashley and Child Protective Services worker, Alice Greenwald began to talk about bringing a shelter to Livingston County.
There were several other shelters in nearby counties that we could use as a template. So, we gave many presentations to varying groups in the County to determine the need for a shelter. Finally, we put together Articles of Incorporation, signed them in 1981, and the Livingston Area Counsel Against Spouse Abuse, Inc. (LACASA, INC. )was formed. Then Prosecutor Frank Delvero, whom I was working for and his wife Jo supported all of us and believed in this movement. I thank him for being so forward thinking.
Robert Detweiler was an Assistant Prosecutor and his wife Bonnie worked at the Health Department. They were the first individuals to house an abused spouse. After that we scrapped enough money together, about $50 a month, to pay for a phone line and we rented a small office in Brighton, next to the Methodist Church. That building no longer stands. We had volunteers answer the phone either at the office or forwarded to someone's home; we acquired a volunteer counselor to work with the few victims we were able to help. About a year or so later, we moved into a house in Howell owned by Gene and Carol Chandlier. We had raised enough money to pay the rent and to have a director and we began training volunteers. The rest is history. The operation kept growing. Joyce Ewing was the director at that time. After we out grew the Chandlier home, the operation moved to a large Colonial home on Grand River in Howell. We remodeled the garage to make office space without changing any of the historic house and until a large amount of money was raised, we operated there. Once the organization was able to raise over 2 million dollars, thanks to generous benefactors, the present shelter was built and today, it is a highly successful organization, serving victims of assault and rape. There are children's programs, domestic violence counseling for men and women, and a large amount of love and caring given by the staff every day.
I stayed on the Board of Directors and acted as the Chairperson for several years, until I went to law school. I was working as a law clerk and found it to be a conflict of interest because my Judge handled domestic violence cases. Then I became a public defender and later a Judge, so the conflict has continued. I may have gotten off the board, but I have always considered LACASA my baby. I have watched it grow and mature. So, I was especially surprised and honored to be recognized by the agency for my efforts 35 years ago. H'm'm, now I know why I am so old.
Thank you again LACASA for providing, sadly, a much needed service. You have, over the years, affected many people's lives and you have helped educate thousands about the circle of abuse. I am very proud of my ability to start the humble beginnings and am so proud of all you continue to do. Thank you for the honor you bestowed on me, last Saturday.