U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

Shari Kastein

2019 Special Courage Award | National Crime Victims’ Service Awards
Watch the tribute video

Shari Kastein | Special Courage Award
Family Crisis Centers
Sioux Center, Iowa

In 1984, Shari Kastein became a victim of domestic violence. Isolated, with nowhere to go, Ms. Kastein spent nights sleeping in her car with her 15-month-old daughter. 

Just weeks after gaining a sense of safety, Ms. Kastein’s daughter was taken. She was raped, tortured, and beaten. During the course of the investigation, Ms. Kastein and her daughter moved to a battered women’s shelter, but she often felt lost and voiceless. After the trial and sentencing of the attacker, she was able to empathize with other victims and Ms. Kastein began inviting battered women into her apartment for safe shelter. 

A local prosecutor helped her incorporate as a nonprofit so her work could grow through the Family Crisis Center in Redfield, South Dakota. After learning of her work, then-Governor George S. Mickelson appointed Ms. Kastein to serve on South Dakota’s first Victim Compensation Board of Directors, and her leadership was instrumental in getting state legislation passed. 

Over the last 34 years, Ms. Kastein’s extraordinary work has helped countless women, men, and children. She has been a key part of the growth and change for victim services. In 1998, Ms. Kastein worked for a small, four-county domestic violence and sexual assault program in Northwest Iowa, educating the public and growing it to what it is today. Now, domestic violence services span 17 counties assisting almost 1,140 clients annually. 

In 2013, Ms. Kastein joined the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation to develop the Western Iowa Survivors of Homicide Unit. This specialized team continues to provide compassionate care and services to family and friends whose loved ones have been murdered or seriously injured by crime, and covers 29 counties with approximately 175 clients each year. 

In October 2015, Ms. Kastein collaborated with organizations around Iowa to create a statewide domestic violence helpline. Now known as the Iowa Victim Service Call Center, the helpline fields calls from sexual assault and human trafficking victims and homicide survivors from around the state. Today, nearly 31,000 calls are received annually. 

Then in 2016, determined to eliminate barriers for victims, Ms. Kastein developed and implemented Community Health Partners, which places victim advocates in medical clinics to serve the 17 county domestic violence regions. This initiative offers a discrete way for victims to seek assistance without alerting their abuser. Currently serving about 75 victims annually, the program is expected to expand.

2019 National Crime Victims' Service Awards Tribute Video

Watch this video to learn more about Shari Kastein, 2019 recipient of the Special Courage Award.