This spring, Domestic Violence Intervention Services (DVIS) celebrated 40 years of assisting women and children in Tulsa. At their third-annual Monarch Ball in April, DVIS honored 40 individuals and organizations who have made an important impact in assisting victims of domestic violence. The Junior League of Tulsa (JLT) was honored to be recognized as one of the 40 Faces of DVIS. Sheryl Stice Smith—JLT Past President, Sustainer, and long-time DVIS volunteer and advocate—and last year’s JLT President Carissa Cooper represented JLT at the event.
DVIS began in 1976 as the Tulsa Task Force for Battered Women, a grassroots effort started by Cynthia Louy Descher that implemented a telephone crisis hotline for abuse victims. Just three years later, it had grown into an agency that provided advocacy, education, and counseling for victims of family violence. In 1981, it opened its first shelter.
That same year, Stice Smith became Chairman of JLT’s Task Force on Domestic Violence. Her involvement with DVIS continued for the next 20 years as she represented JLT on the DVIS Board of Directors, served as a trustee for DVIS funds, and worked to help pass HB1832—legislation that would provide protective orders for victims.
JLT’s partnership with DVIS continued throughout the 1980s with the League’s Domestic Violence Project, which aimed to “increase public awareness regarding domestic violence and to offer assistance to those affected by domestic violence.” The project had multiple areas of focus, many requiring specialized training for JLT volunteers. For example, members assisted with DVIS’s teen education curriculum and worked as advocates for women and children. JLT also implemented a “Skills for Life” training program for DVIS clients, and currently JLT’s IMPACT Committee provides volunteers to DVIS for short-term service projects.
Over the years, DVIS has continued to evolve and adapt to provide for the needs of women and children in Tulsa. In 2005, the organization merged with the Call Rape Hotline and now provides help for victims of sexual assault and human trafficking. DVIS’s shelter services also have expanded; now, families can live in transitional apartments for up to two years, allowing them to secure their financial situations and pursue educational opportunities.
Stice Smith commented on her decades of service by invoking the power of perseverance. “For 35 years, I have watched committed members of our community fight for the rights and safety of victims of domestic violence,” she stated. “They never gave up in the early years when they constantly were rebuffed with the ‘a-man’s-home-is-his-castle’ mantra. They endured in their efforts. Because of them, so many victims have been helped. Their determination was an inspiration to all of us who had the privilege of being a part of DVIS’s history.”