CASA may be unknown to many in St. Petersburg, but some know this institution as a literal lifesaver. CASA (Community Action Stops Abuse) is best known as a domestic violence shelter for women and their families who are seeking a way out of a dangerous situation. Women fleeing an abusive relationship can spend up to 45 days at the shelter while starting their new lives. If relocation can be made possible through other means, such as staying with friends or family, CASA assists in providing outreach services to help keep the family united outside of the shelter setting.
As for the shelter itself, this transition space is about to expand to include the whole family—even the four-legged members. Often, domestic violence survivors are reluctant to leave if there is a pet left behind that the abuser might use as leverage. To help eliminate that obstacle, CASA is expanding their facilities to provide an onsite kennel.
CASA’s advocacy doesn’t stop at its shelter. When a woman leaves her abuser, she is often thrown into a difficult financial situation. Her abuser may not have allowed her to work or manage her own finances, so something as simple as purchasing clothing for job interviews and day-to-day life can prove difficult, or even financially impossible. CASA helps address that challenge through their thrift shop, located off of 1st Ave. N., which provides affordable clothing for women from both the shelter and the community.
The organization also works to break the cycle of domestic violence by equipping the community with new ideas and attitudes, starting with children. CASA’s Peacemakers program collaborates with The Haven of RCS to bring in advocates to discuss everything from dating violence to diversity to bullying. Peacemakers aim to teach children how to recognize signs of domestic violence, and most importantly, how to break the silence and ask for help (for themselves or others). To undercut the culture of violence, the curriculum also teaches healthy communication and coping skills so children see an alternative to physical aggression and misplaced anger. In addition to their in-school programs, CASA offers outreach and training programs for adult organizations such as churches, women’s clubs and other community organizations.
Though many of CASA’s efforts go towards emergency resources for families, additional efforts are helping change the way our community thinks and talks about control-based relationships. By empowering children and community groups to facilitate their own conversations about domestic violence, CASA is reframing toxic mindsets that keep abuse victims in danger. Interim Executive Director Suzanne Horn stresses the importance of this outreach and its positive impact on the children it serves. A child who recognizes abuse and speaks up may help save an entire family. Through a combination of emergency assistance and widespread community education, CASA is helping to slowly break down the thick walls silence that have left many in our community feeling powerless and alone.
For more information on CASA and their services, visit www.casa-stpete.org. If you are currently living in an abusive atmosphere and you fear a family member’s actions, the website has a “Close Site Now” button in the top right-hand corner that will send you directly to Google for your protection.
If you would like to volunteer for CASA, please visit www.casa-stpete.org/volunteer and fill out an online application. You can also assist by donating any of the following, much-needed items: kitchen tools, canned goods and other non-perishables, single beds, bedding, towels, toiletries and laundry detergent.
If you or anyone you know is living in a domestic violence situation, please call the 24-Hour CASA Help Line at 727-895- 4912, or call Florida’s Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-500-1119.