30 August, 2009

Seeking domestic violence advocates to honor

The Holland Sentinel
Posted Aug 22, 2009 @ 04:30 AM

Holland, MI —

Officer Gwen DeGraaf showed female college students how to defend themselves against attackers.

Advocate Sally Ashley worked night shifts at an Allegan women’s shelter, giving domestic assault victims a safe place to stay and listening to their stories for more than 10 years.

They were just two of the people honored at last year’s “Together We Can” appreciation dinner for their efforts to protect Ottawa and Allegan county women from violence.

The Lakeshore Alliance Against Domestic and Sexual Violence and the Allegan County Coordinating Council on Domestic Violence are seeking nominations for this year’s round of awards, to be presented on Oct. 27 at the 2009 “Together We Can” dinner.

“When you’re doing the work, there’s not a lot of celebration,” Jo Ann Wassanaar of LAADSV, said. “It’s hard work. This gives us opportunity to celebrate what these individuals have done, going over and above their job descriptions.”

The annual awards program has honored more than 30 law enforcement and court officials, agency workers and volunteers since it began in 2002.

Last year’s winners included DeGraaf, a Grand Valley State University police officer who conducted a RAD — or Rape Aggression Defense training —  class on campus for female students. Other winners in law enforcement included detectives Jeff Steigenga of the Ottawa County Sheriff’s Office and Bruce Beckman of the Otsego Police Department.

They also included Ashley, a shelter worker at Sylvia’s Place in Allegan who clocked hundreds of hours of service.

David Schock, filmmaker for the documentary “Who Killed Janet Chandler?” about the Hope College student whose rape and murder remained a mystery for almost 30 years, was also honored.

Awards are broken into three categories: Volunteers and community members, court and law enforcement officials and agency employees. Agencies could include churches, nonprofits or shelters, as well as schools or government.

“We love to get nominations from individuals who have experienced firsthand the work someone else has done,” she said. “But it could also come from a co-worker or a supervisor who knows the kinds of work the person does.”

Recognizing community members for their achievements also highlights what’s being done about domestic violence, Wassenaar said.

“It’s unfortunate that during times of economic stress that it puts even more pressure on families and relationships,” Wassenaar said. “This is a way to share with the community who is doing that work on the front lines of domestic violence.”

To nominate someone for any of the awards, download a nomination form at delta.aplaceforwomen.org/upcoming-events. Nominations will be accepted through Oct. 2.

Those who wish to attend the dinner may also register at that Web site.



  1. This article was very encouraging. I appreciate hearing good things regarding Domestic Violence. I am a Domestic Violence Survivor. Please check out my blog:


    I'm now a volunteer at the Domestic Violence Center in Cleveland. I'm glad to be able to give back.
    Take care and keep in touch. Let's Stop the Violence!!!

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