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October 2017 - Articles

LARIANA FORSYTHE: THIS IS MY STORY (Part 1)

Taken from a speech given at USFSP's Kate Tiedemann College of Business on July 26, 2017

Good morning!  Thank you for being here to welcome me into the Tampa Bay community.  I have relocated here from Arizona, and while I admit it is warm here, you all really have nothing on 122 degrees!

I have spent my entire career working in nonprofits, first the Special Olympics, then the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, and for the last 17 years, the Boys & Girls Clubs. So in other words, it’s been a really long time since I had applied for a job! 

I’ll tell you, things were going really great with my CASA job interview.  Skype calls, interviews across the country, seemingly endless questions of philosophy or strategic planning, written dissertations and reports-- everything was perfect until I saw the job application. It was the first time I wondered, “can I really do this?”

The first question on the application was of course my name.  Got it, that was ok! The second question was my home address— and that’s what stumped me.  You see, I have a protected [confidential] address. I thought, oh my gosh, what do I do?

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Getting a protected address was not an easy process in the state of Arizona. I didn’t have an advocate to help me and had no idea where to even start. I literally spent days calling around Phoenix city government offices to no avail, and then literally walking the streets of downtown Phoenix, going from office to office, trying to figure out how to apply to the Address Confidentiality Program.   And even more difficult, once I purchased a new home, figuring out how to redact my new home address.

So here was the question: do I potentially put myself and my family at risk by actually writing down my real residential address? Do I instead use my legal address of record that is listed as a PO Box – which of course no one actually accepts as a residential address? Or do I use an entirely different address? 

Not one to normally shy away from making any sort of decision, it took me a full 6 hours to resolve how to fill out that application...

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I found myself in a situation many years ago that changed my life.  I woke up in the hospital labeled as a "domestic violence victim."

I had been divorced for many years, so at the time it had simply never occurred to me that what I was experiencing had a name, or that there might be help available. As I laid in my hospital bed after surgery, unable to move and with this label for all to see, something profound happened. 

The police officer who arrested my ex-husband came and spent several hours with me. She brought me all these gifts and flowers.  It turns out she wanted to comfort me by sharing her own story of overcoming domestic violence.  I think it was cathartic for her too.

During my extended time in recovery the hospital chaplain kept coming to see me.  Why me? I promise I’m good!

Well, she was currently in a relationship with an abusive husband and I could tell that this was the first time she had ever talked about it. I was a receptive audience, a safe person to share the unspeakable with.

In their own time, a couple of nurses and a doctor also shared with me their own history with domestic violence, some past and some current.  So did a young technician, who said he would never have children of his own, for fear of becoming an abuser like his own father.

I made a commitment then that, somehow, I would honor these and so many more silent survivors by helping to remove the stigma of domestic violence. Now with CASA, my personal and professional experiences have collided in a way that I can truly make a difference.

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Hopefully you are still wondering, "what mailing address did she use on her job application...?"



CLICK HERE FOR PART 2!

Do you have a personal story to share? Email us and it might be featured in a future newsletter!

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LARIANA FORSYTHE-- THIS IS MY STORY (Part 2)

Taken from a speech given at USFSP's Kate Tiedemann College of Business on July 26, 2017

[Continued from last month… click here for Part 1]


Thank you for being here to welcome me to the Tampa Bay community. I relocated here from Arizona, and while I admit it is warm here, you all really have nothing on 122 degrees!

I’ve spent my entire career working in nonprofits, first with the Special Olympics, then the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, and for the last 17 years with the Boys & Girls Clubs. So, in other words, it had been a really long time since I applied for a job! 

I’ll tell you, things were going really great with my CASA job interview. Skype calls, interviews across the country, seemingly endless questions of philosophy or strategic planning, written dissertations and reports-- everything was perfect until I saw the formal job application. It was the first time I wondered, “can I really do this?”

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The first question on the application was of course my name. Got it, that was ok! The second question was my home address— and that’s what stumped me.  You see, I have a protected [confidential] address. I thought, oh my gosh, what do I do?

 

I opened my envelope and took a breath. I used my redacted address-- a confidential address I obtained after being put into the emergency room by my violent ex-husband. I made a note about the confidentiality issue on my application and submitted it in good faith. After all, if the note wasn’t good enough for them, then CASA certainly wouldn’t be the organization for me! But of course CASA’s board of directors came back with welcoming, open arms. They learned my story and were supportive throughout the entire interview process.

Now working as CASA’s Interim CEO, I feel that I have come home. My board of directors and staff are truly a tremendous group of people. They have gone through so much to ensure the quality and level of service at CASA, while serving an amazing amount of people in the process.

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You may know that longtime Executive Director Linda Osmundson passed soon after we opened our new domestic violence shelter two years ago. I didn’t have the pleasure of knowing her, but I’ve heard so many wonderful things about her impact on our community. I hope to continue her legacy as a voice for change and support for victims in this community.

The new 133-bed shelter quadrupled our capacity to provide safe emergency housing. That required quite a big transition and CASA has certainly not been silent in the community through those two years! We have such a strong foundation, and CASA is truly ready to sit at the table with the community. 

I’m here to make significant changes and will need your assistance. Help us bring a voice to the many neighbors, friends, co-workers and loved ones that have had their voice silenced by abusers. 

Domestic violence is pervasive. It is silently there, effecting between a quarter and a third of our population. There are so many people out there like me, not even recognizing there is a name for the abuse they are experiencing. They don’t know that there is an organization entirely dedicated to helping them. They don’t yet feel it is possible to break free from the cycle of violence.

Because of this, I ask you to support my arrival to Tampa Bay, and to support CASA. I hope that you join us on October 12th at the CASA Peace Breakfast, our most important and inspirational event of the year! Please visit www.casa-stpete.org/PeaceBreakfast for tickets.

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I feel incredibly fortunate to lead a vital organization like CASA. How many people will have such an opportunity? I promise to work as hard as I can to eliminate the conditions perpetuating domestic violence. From all the big, prominent services we provide, down to advice on the concerns people don’t think about until it effects them-- like what address to put on a job application—we will continue to serve as the needed resource so many people depend on.

As you know, I’m brand new to the community.  My sons and I already love Tampa Bay. The other day I took my oldest son to apply to a local school. As we left the meeting, I’ve never seen a child so excited about school.  He looked up at me and said, “Mom, we’re living the dream.”   That’s what I’m here to do-- to see that every child who has witnessed violence, can soon feel that they are living the dream.

I’m taking the time to meet with community leaders and activists, to better understand how CASA can most effectively support the community. Please reach out and join me in a conversation!  Let’s go have coffee and please help me get acclimated to this community!

 

CASA's new Interim CEO, Lariana Forsythe shared her story of triumph over violence. Do you also have a personal story to share? Email Mo Venouziou at info@casa-stpete.org and it might be featured in CASA’s newsletter!

Want to hear more stories of hope and triumph? Join us at the CASA Peace Breakfast on October 12th! Ticket available: www.casa-stpete.org/PeaceBreakfast.

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