Her mission is to make life safer for victims of domestic violence

By AFSCME Staff ·

Kirsha Haverlah is the director in charge of curbing family violence for Travis County Counseling and Education Services and chairs the county’s Family Violence Task Force.

Although her workdays can take many shapes, her mission is one and one only – and she is laser-focused on it, according to colleagues.

“Our mission is to prevent domestic violence and to hold offenders accountable,” Haverlah says. “My work is complex and it changes from day to day. I might be going to Commissioners Court for a proclamation on Sexual Assault Awareness Month or for Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month, and another day I might be holding the hand of someone whose daughter was killed by their abusive boyfriend.”

The task force is a multidisciplinary group that brings together domestic violence advocates, law enforcement and other government agencies to improve the criminal justice system’s response to family violence. One of the projects Haverlah is working on right now is the creation of a family justice center that would make it unnecessary for victims of domestic violence to visit various agencies to get the help they need.

“A family justice center is a one-stop shop for victims, so they don’t have to drive all over town or take buses to multiple locations,” she says. “When you tell a victim that they have just one more thing to do, they can lose hope. And sometimes it’s just easier to go back to the abuser. We want them to be safe as quickly as possible.”

The family justice center project “pretty much describes Kirsha,” says Lisa Rush, director of the Travis County Law Library and Self-Help Center. “She’s someone who has a holistic view, a deep expertise and a compassion and drive to put all those things together, to make the situation better for Travis County residents. Part of that comes from her innate warmth and empathy.”

“She’s never off,” says Elizabeth Whited, who serves as director of family violence for the Travis County Attorney’s Office. “She is always available. She’s always thinking about what we’re doing now, but also growth for the future and bringing ideas to Travis County. She’s always pushing us for progression.”

For her service to her community, Haverlah, a member of AFSCME Local 1624, is a winner of our union’s Never Quit Service Award, which recognizes public service workers who go above and beyond the call of duty to make their communities better.

“I’m passionate about what I do because anybody can be in an abusive relationship,” Haverlah says. “I think that everybody deserves to be loved. I think that they deserve to love themselves and not be questioned about that, and until we can have healthy relationships everywhere I will continue to have that passion for what I do.”