Carlaise DeVeaux wants to prevent young girls from becoming victims.
A victim advocate with the Charleston Police Department, she starts every day by sifting through a batch of incident reports, looking for violent crimes so she can reach out.
When she's not helping victims, she can often be found in classrooms, talking to young girls and boys about unseemly topics such as rape and domestic violence.
"Kids in middle school and high school are at an impressionable age," DeVeaux said. "Dating is where you learn about relationships and these kids are just beginning to date. I think that's exactly the time to talk with them about abusive relationships."
DeVeaux, who is 28, grew up in Edisto as Carlaise Gadsden. In January, she married Marine Cpl. William DeVeaux, who is serving in Afghanistan. The couple have no children.
The Baptist Hill High School graduate started working for the police department in 2002 and, while continuing to hold down a full-time job, earned an associate degree in the paralegal program at Trident Technical College in 2003, a bachelor's degree in organizational management from Voorhees College in 2005 and a master's in business administration from Charleston Southern University in 2006.
For her first five years with the police department, she was a dispatcher. In 2007, she applied for the victim
"I heard a lot of domestic violence calls come in through dispatch," she said. "As a dispatcher, you don't know what happens after the report is taken."
The department has two victim advocates, DeVeaux and Catrice Smalls. Both are equally responsible for making sure victims know that someone from the department is on their side, DeVeaux said.
"We assist victims of domestic violence and sexual assault in the city of Charleston," DeVeaux said. "We offer counseling and referrals and we teach police officers about sexual assault, about the laws on sexual assault and how the officers can assist the victims."
For a victim advocate, a case may stay open for quite a while, from the time of the initial incident to the time it finally goes to trial. Often, the relationship between the victim and advocate lasts beyond the trial, she said.
"Sometimes people just want to talk. A case for us is never really closed."
Into the schools
In April, People Against Rape, a local organization that provides counseling and other services to rape victims, honored DeVeaux with the Dr. Sid Katz Award for Outstanding Service Provider.
"Once a year, we give this award to a victim advocate in the community," said Melonea Locklair Marek, PAR's executive director. "Carlaise has been wonderful working with our victims. She's also been instrumental in getting some of our programs into the schools."
Working with PAR, DeVeaux has helped introduce a gender- violence prevention program in the city's middle and high schools. Presented to both boys and girls, the program is called "Mentors in Violence Prevention," or MVP.
The idea is to talk with student leaders and athletes not as potential perpetrators or victims, but as bystanders who can confront abusive peers and prevent violence, DeVeaux said.
The program's MVP Playbook consists of a series of real-life scenarios that range from sexual harassment to a potential rape involving alcohol, DeVeaux said. During interactive sessions, the staff uses the MVP Playbook to spark discussions that demonstrate options for young men and women to interrupt, confront, and prevent violence by their friends, peers, or teammates.
Another program, this one aimed at adolescent girls, is called "Fresh Youth Initiative." The goal is to help young girls set positive goals, she said.
"It's a five-week character building program," DeVeaux said. "We have a group of 10 girls, in seventh and eighth grade."
One less victim
At Charleston Development Academy, a public charter school on Line Street, girls seem eager to learn when DeVeaux stops by. Her goal is to help them develop self-esteem and avoid being future victims, she said.
After each presentation, DeVeaux takes comfort in knowing there might be one less victim for the next advocate to call, one less abuser going to jail.
"Hopefully, I got through to at least one person," she said. "I hope that something I said will be remembered by one person and that person will be able to avoid being battered or victimized."
Q&A with DeVeaux
Q: Does domestic violence lead to sexual assault?
A: I believe they are related. They are both crimes of power and control. A sexual assault isn't about the person wanting to have intercourse. It's about power and control, as is domestic violence.
Q: What makes girls and women stay in abusive relationships?
A: Until you develop a relationship with them, you don't always understand why people stay. A lot of it is fear. And the hope, the love, is still there. Lastly, they often don't have the financial means to leave.
Q: What are the hallmarks of an unhealthy relationship, one that might become abusive?
A: Isolation, if he wants to isolate you from family and friends. And keeping tabs on you, wanting to know what you're doing 24 hours a day. A healthy relationship involves trust.
Q: What do you say to groups of young men when you speak to them?
A: Walk away. It's never OK to hit a woman. I also tell them, "Most of the guys that I've seen in court every Friday look just like you."