Program Spotlight: CASA, Inc.

Mar 23rd, 2021

Written by Lisa Dougherty, Executive Director for 5 months

1.     What makes the Washington County community special?  I have been in the area for a very short period of time but in my short time it seems that the community is extremely giving and service-oriented.  In the light of the pandemic this community has risen to the challenge and has exceeded expectations when considering helping and assisting community agencies such as ours.  Beginning my tenure here at this time has been difficult since I am not able to go out and meet people like I would like but people here have sought me out and welcomed me.  This has allowed me to achieve more goals than I originally thought possible because of the wonderful people in this community.  I have also noticed that businesses within the community are really stepping up and helping even though their businesses may have struggled during this time.  Overall, as an outsider I feel privileged to be a part of this community and look forward to continuing to serve CASA and the community here.


2.     Tell us about CASA, Inc.'s current community sexual assault prevention efforts.  I bring with me a background in supervising two sexual assault response teams (SART) in Pennsylvania and worked closely in training and education with PCAR (Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape).  I served on their board and was very involved with sexual assault prevention efforts.  As I began my work here in this community we have established a stronger relationship with our SART Team (the coordinator is one of my nurses from Pennsylvania) and have expanded the knowledge of the staff at CASA about the efforts of a SART Team.  We offer 24 hour accompaniment to the hospital to work with a SAFE nurse to offer support and resources for an individual who is a victim of sexual assault.  We also offer therapy for both victims (adult and children) as well as counseling for significant others who may be supporting those who have experienced sexual assault.  As Sexual Assault Awareness Month is upon us we are looking at a few options to honor victims of sexual violence and bring awareness to this community.  We will placing a display (we are not permitted to man the table) at the library here in Hagerstown for the month of April to bring awareness to this community issue and to offer information, resources and pamphlets that provide education and resources for those who may have been victimized or know someone who would benefit from hearing about our services.  We are also working with our local police departments to do a photo op to highlight the commitment of law enforcement to our community and those who have experienced sexual assault.  We will be handing out magnetic ribbons for sexual assault awareness month and encouraging them to place these on their cars to show their support.  Currently, I am working with the local SART Team to offer a proclamation reading and moment of silence with both the SAFE nurses and the CASA Team to illustrate the prevalence of sexual assault and to keep awareness at the forefront of all of our minds in Washington County.


3.     Why are you a member of MCASA?  I believe strongly in the membership knowing all the support and knowledge that a statewide coalition can bring to a small non-profit center.  In Pennsylvania, it not only allowed me to lean on the coalition for information, funding support and how to keep pace with technology, it offered me a way to stretch and extend my talents of teaching and education across the state.  I was able to teach at local, state and international conferences with the support of PCAR.  A statewide coalition supports collaborations and with that I was able to take my expertise in community based SART Teams and help other small centers start this amazing concept in their area for victims of sexual assault.  With a  statewide coalition you are able to push the limits of outreach and awareness so that you can optimize services, technology and resources available to those who have experienced sexual assault.  Healing can be arduous and take many years so the stronger the bond between a state coalition and local center the stronger the support for a victim and their community.  CASA is a member here in Washington County because I believe in this support and networking in all that we do!


4.     What called you to your work?  I grew up in an alcoholic home in a very small town with one red light.  Resources and information were limited no matter what issue may arise so this made it difficult to reach out for help.  I was very young and as I got older I began to realize that my family dynamic was not normal.  While my mother tried to reach out for help and knowledge related to alcoholism it was limited.  When I was in my early teens I told my mom I wanted to leave and go somewhere else (as I felt we had no options).  She looked at me at age 11 and said “Lisa, we don’t have anywhere to go.  What do you want me to do?”  At that moment I remember feeling alone and couldn’t get a grasp on why no one could help my mom (and even worse, why my mom didn’t know how to get help).  My family didn’t understand the disease and weren’t able to offer the support my mom needed so we all felt stuck.  Looking back, as I entered college and was looking at what I wanted to study I realized that I could probably do something to help people.  My mission in my own personal journey is to strive to have no child ever have to ask their mother these questions and; furthermore, if they should need to ask this, for a mother to NEVER have to say what my mom had to say that day.  My goal is to continue to have this door open so that all who need or want these services have access to a place to find peace and tranquility.  I was a lucky one and my father got the help he needed and we were able to move forward and be able to tell this story on the other side.  My voice is for those who don’t have the strength or the support to be able to do that, and my passion is for the hope that one day they stand in my shoes sharing their story and helping someone else. 


5.     MCASA prioritizes advocating funding for rape crisis centers. With the rise of the #MeToo movement why is funding for rape crisis centers important? How has the COVID crisis affected CASA, Inc.? Funding is essential now because of the #metoo moment and the rise in needs for these victims.  All stories are equally important and heartbreaking but those that rise from the bright lights of the rich and famous bring along with them additional spotlight to an already heinous crime.  With the uprising within the industry we are faced with the reality of what most people knew but were afraid to put a name to or address.  Society is often jaded in many aspects of topics that are difficult to find words for and we often choose to pretend that it isn’t happening all the while knowing people are hurting.  Having advocates at the state level and monies allotted to address sexual assault put a name to an unspeakable crime, allow silence to be replaced with voices who speak the truth and provide a joint effort to be able to offer support to those who otherwise may never share these stories.  Without funding, we risk continuing the dangerous hamster wheel of money, power, fame and self-gratification at the cost of a human life. 

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