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Carole Crist Puts Together Fundraiser for CASA

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The former first lady of Florida, Carole Crist, is taking a lead role in planning a major fundraising event for Community Action Stops Abuse (CASA) on September 27. The event will take place at the Vinoy Renaissance Resort and Golf Club in St. Petersburg. Proceeds from the fundraiser will support CASA, an organization dedicated to making the world a safer place by bringing an end to domestic violence.

Carole Crist is thrilled to be able to take a lead planning role with the fundraiser, as CASA's mission and vision is one that she fully supports and believes in.

"CASA is a nonprofit organization that’s close to my heart. I believe in their mission and understand its importance. My role as organizer for this event is an exciting one, and is a role that I am taking very seriously,” Crist says. “I want this event to be a success so that CASA will be poised for continued success in the coming months and years.”

The mission of CASA is "to raise our voices against violence through advocacy, empowerment, and social change." It envisions "a community without domestic violence so that home is a safe place."

The organization got its start in 1977 as the Free Clinic Spouse Abuse Shelter, opened by Sister Margaret Freeman of the St. Petersburg Free Clinic. At first, the shelter had just eight beds, a very small budget, and a staff of part-time workers and volunteers. As the years went on, support for the shelter increased and it was able to add full-time staff members year by year.

In the early 1980s, the shelter changed its name to the Center Against Spouse Abuse. It added a children's program and expanded the number of available beds to 22. The organization was able to raise the needed funding to construct its own building, which eventually had space for 30 beds.

As Carole Crist notes, "This amazing organization is already is changing the lives of so many people in Florida." The organization continued to grow through the 1990s and into the 21st century, creating transitional housing units, opening a thrift store to support the organization, and creating a Peacemakers program for school-aged children. The Tampa Bay Business Journal named CASA Non-Profit of the Year in 2008.

In 2013, the organization received a grant to create an emergency shelter with 100 beds. That same year, it received the "Be More Encouraged Judges' Choice Award" at the WEDU 8th Annual Awards. Ongoing support of CASA is vital to the organization’s ability to continue meeting the needs of domestic violence victims in the state.

The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV) defines domestic violence as "willful intimidation, physical assault, battery, sexual assault, and/or other abusive behavior perpetrated by an intimate partner against another. It is an epidemic that affects individuals in every community, regardless of age, economic status, race, religion, nationality or educational background. Violence against women is often accompanied by emotionally abusive and controlling behavior, and thus is part of a systematic pattern of dominance and control. Domestic violence results in physical injury, psychological trauma, and sometimes death."

Domestic violence can affect anyone, male or female, although more than three quarters of victims are female. According to the NCADV, one out of every four women will be a victim of domestic violence at some point in her life. Every year, about 1.3 million women are physically assaulted by a partner.

The problem goes beyond the direct victim of the abuse and the abuser. Children who witness domestic violence are more likely to be violent themselves. According to the NCADV, when a young male witnesses domestic violence, he is twice as likely to abuse his own partner and children later in life.

Outside the home, domestic violence has a significant impact. Victims of violence missed a collected 8 million days of work in 2003. The cost of helping people who are victims of violence at home is more than $5.8 billion every year, according to the NCADV. The majority of victims of violence don't seek medical treatment after they are injured by a partner.

The state of Florida has felt the impact of domestic violence first hand, which is why the work CASA does is so important. A survey from the Florida Department of Corrections found that more than 90 percent of respondents felt that domestic violence was a widespread issue in society. Nearly 16 percent of respondents estimated that domestic violence affected between 41 and 50 percent of the population, and nearly 50 percent of respondents believed that incidences of domestic violence had increased substantially over the past decade.

Carole Crist sees hope for victims of domestic violence in Florida. "I know that CASA can, and will create real social change in Florida’s communities," she says.

The fundraiser on September 27 offers people an opportunity to stand with and support an organization that does great things in the state of Florida. Commenting on her role in organizing the event, Carole Crist states, "The opportunity to contribute to this organization in such a direct manner is the opportunity of a lifetime.”

Amy Freeman contributed to this article.

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