Tuesday, January 7, 2014

January 2014 Y's Words

Gratitude. The end of each year is often a time for reflecting on what we have to be grateful for and to lay plans for the year to come. In this month’s newsletter you’ll find inspiring stories regarding our volunteers, community members, and donors and their efforts to support our organization and ultimately our mission.

Upon reflection, YWCA has much to be grateful for. This year, we learned that singer songwriter Belinda Carlisle is a strong activist for ending domestic violence. She created the Looking Out Foundation specifically to assist the work of organizations like YWCA’s SafeChoice Domestic Violence Program and we are grateful for their grant funding.

We’re grateful to the 60+ employees and more than 600 volunteers who work tirelessly to support community members in need – whether that be through direct service, prevention programming, or community awareness. This month, learn about Val Anderson who has graced us with her service to the CASA Program for over 20 years! And, don’t miss an exceptionally informative article on stalking awareness from volunteer Emily Ostrowski.

If you are a current YWCA volunteer, thank you for your service this past year! Don’t forget to visit our volunteer venue–a special section of our newsletter dedicated specifically to Y volunteers. If you’re interested in joining this incredible team, join us for a volunteer open house on February 6th at 6:00pm.

Speaking of involvement, YWCA especially thanks Clark County Commissioners for visiting our facility to see firsthand how Clark County funding is used to support residents in need.

As you look forward to 2014, may you do so with joy, abundance and peace. We are grateful to be a part of this community and supported by so many.

Strong Alone. Fearless Together.

Sherri Bennett
Executive Director

PS – This year marks the 20th anniversary of our benefit luncheon and we are giving it a facelift!  Watch for a name change and a new focus, plus other elements that will appeal to our attendees in our March newsletter. And, remember to save the date of Wednesday, September 10th for the next luncheon!

Stalking is a Crime

By: Emily Ostrowski

Roughly 6.6 million Americans are stalked every year with an estimation of 1 in 6 women and 1 in 19 men being victimized by stalking at some point in their lives. The vast majority of stalking victims are stalked by someone they know, frequently a current or past romantic partner, with 66% of female victims and 41% of male victims indicating their stalker was someone they had a past or present intimate relationship with.

January is National Stalking Awareness Month (NSAM). Started by the National Center for Victims of Crime in 2004, NSAM was created “to increase the public’s understanding of the crime of stalking.”

It began in 2003 in response to murdered stalking victim, Peggy Klinke. Klinke’s sister, Debbie Riddle, was motivated by the tragedy to improve the way law enforcement handled and responded to stalking. She contacted the Stalking Resource Center to see what she can do, and from there was able to get her sister’s story out to everyone she could. That July, having been moved by Klinke’s story, Representative Heather Wilson (R-NM) introduced a Congressional resolution to support National Stalking Awareness Month. The following January, the first observance of National Stalking Awareness Month was held, with the National Center for Victims of Crime helping to plan events to raise awareness throughout the country.

Currently, there are laws against stalking in all 50 states as well as the District of Columbia, however not all states and jurisdictions define “stalking” in the same manner, nor is the crime prosecuted the same. The National Center for Victims of Crime suggest that a good working definition of stalking is “a course of conduct directed at a specific person that would cause a reasonable person to feel fear.” This conduct can include but is not limited to, following a person, frequently emailing, texting or calling, sending unwanted gifts, and stealing personal possessions.

To some, stalking might seem like a less serious offense when compared to any sort of physical assault, but not only do victims of stalking experience intense fear and uncertainty that lead to increased levels of anxiety and depression, but stalking can often times be a precursor to physical violence. According to the Stalking Resource Center, weapons are used to harm or threaten victims in 1 out of every 5 cases of stalking. Even scarier, 76% of all women killed by an intimate partner were stalked by that partner before their murder, and 54% had reported the stalking to the police before they were killed.

Young people may be at a particularly high risk. A report by the US Department of Justice in 2009 indicated that people aged 18-24 experience the highest rate of stalking. Teens are especially susceptible to cyber-stalking (harassment via computers, cellphones etc.) often because of their heavy presence on social media, which makes it easier for stalkers to obtain personal information about their victim, as well as give them more options for making contact.

One of the most important things we can do to help stalking victims and prevent stalking from continuing is to be informed. To find out what you can do to protect yourselves and the ones you love, check out this important list of tips and resources from the Stalking Resource Center.

Meet Val Anderson

By Emily Ostrowski

 One of the things we here at YWCA Clark County always love to do is acknowledge the incredible work and dedication of our employees and volunteers. Val Anderson is someone who is absolutely deserving of such acknowledgement. She has been with YWCA for 21 years and currently serves as the administrative specialist for our CASA Program. Val previously served as a clerk-stenographer, as well as an office manager for a federal government agency in downtown Portland. After the birth of her daughter, she took several years off work before deciding to look into getting a part-time job. She found an ad in the newspaper for an office assistant for the CASA Program and hasn’t looked back since.
From L to R: Heidi, Val, and Kathy
Val takes a great deal of pride in her work, and knows the importance of the CASA program. She understands that the work the staff and advocates of CASA do is unique and necessary to improve the lives of so many children in the community.

CASA Program Communication & Training Specialist Heidi Hiatt has worked with Val for several years, and can speak firsthand to her work ethic and passion. “Val is an amazing person. I had the pleasure of sharing an office with her for about a year. While “living together” I was able to witness directly how passionate she is about serving our program, the advocates, and the children and families we work with.”

 A large part of Val’s job is reading through countless abuse and neglect cases, a task which can be disheartening, but she makes sure to find ways to cope with the stress whether it be talking with a co-worker, taking a walk, or going across the street to Safeway for a maple bar! Val also has an excellent sense of humor. “Val and I are fairly close to the same age and we both find we have the same complaints about growing older; but we can laugh about it all so hard that we have tears running down our cheeks,” says co-worker Kathy Shirilla , “I love her sense of humor!”

 Beyond her sense of humor, Kathy also recognizes Val’s dedication to her work. “She always works hard and puts in all that extra effort needed to complete the job giving full attention to detail. She respects everyone and is always there to help.”

 Without a doubt, Val recognizes that the work done by CASA is a group effort, and has nothing but encouragement for any potential CASA volunteers, “You DO make a difference. You make it better, even when you think the “system” is slow or sometimes even broken. All you do adds up for the child.”

 However, CASA wouldn’t be the same today without the work of Val Anderson, says Hiatt, “She is really the backbone of our program, and I don’t think she realizes how valuable she is to the advocates and staff she works with.”