SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — In December, we asked you to nominate the remarkable women in your life for some special recognition. We received dozens of incredible nominations from all over KELOLAND. We selected four finalists and will be sharing their stories with you over the next few weeks.
Our second nominee is Shari Kastein of Sioux Center. “My passion in life has always been victim services, it really was a break or tragedy in my life, when I myself was a victim of domestic violence,” Kastein said.
Nearly 35 years ago, Shari Kastein took her 15-month-old daughter and fled from her abusive husband.
“We were living on the streets, just no place to go, didn’t know where to go, we lived in the streets at night when it wasn’t safe to go home,” she said.
Without a safe place to go, she escaped one monster, only to be victimized by another.
“My daughter when she was only 15-months-old, was abducted, brutally raped and beaten and left in an abandoned car,” Kastein said.
Her daughter fought to survive for days. After months of recovery and legal battles, Shari and her daughter started over.
“After the trial of the offender who hurt my daughter was done, then I moved back to my hometown of Frankfurt, South Dakota, and really just spent some time healing and trying to think of what was next,” Kastein said.
As people around her learned of how she’d escaped her abuser, the answer for her future came on its own.
“People started coming to my home, we started doing protection orders around my kitchen table,” she said.
It was her first sign of just how many people were quietly searching for help to escape from violence.
“35 years ago, there weren’t victim services, there weren’t victims rights, it was all through the criminal justice system,” Kastein said.
Since then, Kastein has worked to change that, creating domestic violence shelters all over the region, starting with the Family Crisis Center in Redfield. It’s a project that quickly gained the attention of South Dakota’s leaders.
“I went out to Pierre and worked with governor Mickelson and was really active on the govern’s first crime bill,” Kastein said. “I chaired that for the state of South Dakota and I remember thinking, I don’t have any formal education, what do you want me to do? The governor was like, Shari, I want you to do exactly what you’ve been doing the whole time you’ve been testifying for this bill, to give victims a voice and you’ve got a voice that needs to be heard.”
“Every time a survivor shares their story, they’re essentially reliving that past pain, so that takes a lot of courage and resilience and strength for her to do that day in and day out,” Tara Raman said.
Tara Raman works at the Family Crisis Center in Sioux Center, Iowa, a program Sheri has spent the past two decades building up.
“We went back every year in all of our stats to count how many children she had served in her 20 years, and that was over 2,000,” Raman said.
“Our new call center answers more than 35,000 calls each year,” Kastein said.
Over the last five years, Kastein initiated a new statewide call center for victims of violence that is helping her reach even more people.
“The number of people that she has helped, the number of lives that she has saved and changes is just thousands upon thousands,” Raman said.
But Shari says she’s never satisfied and her work to help end violence will never be over.
“Not when I know there are more mothers and daughters laying in their car at night in a parking lot, not knowing there are services,” Kastein said. “My passion in life is how do I reach those folks, what more can I do?”
You can watch our remarkable women nominees every Tuesday at five. We’ll announce the local winner on March 6 and will air a Remarkable Women special on March 3.