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[Pacific Lutheran Scene]

-- Alumni --
Lisa Bakke '96 finds her passion in domestic abuse prevention

By Greg Brewis, Executive Director of University Communications

Lisa Bakke
Lisa Bakke. Photo: Andrea J. Wright, The Seattle Times, reprinted with permission.
When she first arrived on campus, Lisa Bakke '96 knew she would major in psychology and then use her degree in service to others.

But she didn't know that a discovered interest in women's studies would lead her to a vocation as an advocate for domestic violence victims.

She didn't know that she would spend the year following graduation in a battle with lymphatic cancer that would bring new focus to her lifework.

"Hodgkin's disease didn't change the course of my life," Bakke said. "At the time I was already determined to work in the domestic violence field.

"Instead, it enhanced who I am. It caused me to reflect on life and what is most important. It made me a better listener and better able to understand suffering."

After her initial cancer diagnosis, Bakke spent a year recovering from surgery and treatment. To ease the return to her chosen career track, she volunteered for a year as an AmeriCorps volunteer with the Seattle Police Department crime survivors services unit.

Bakke spent weekdays in the office administering work with victims, police, prosecutors and the courts. On weekends she responded to domestic violence crime scenes. After patrol officers made sure of the safety of a site, Bakke and her partner would step in to offer their assistance in helping the victim deal with feelings, including fear, guilt, pain, powerlessness, embarrassment and isolation.

"We were there to help support and reassure the victims and to bridge the gap between the police intervention and a referral to social service agencies for long-term assistance," Bakke said.

Bakke was first drawn to work in domestic violence in her junior year at PLU when she began taking courses in women's studies and volunteered at a Pierce County crisis line in Tacoma. "I was privileged to have taken an integrated studies curriculum at PLU that allowed me to focus both on psychology and women's studies. That led to a growing interest in women's issues and to some very powerful experiences as a crisis line volunteer providing assistance to women in abusive situations. In many ways, domestic violence cases can be even more difficult than a potential suicide," Bakke said.

"I've learned that domestic violence springs from some of the most complicated interpersonal relationships in society. It's not just a husband who hits a wife. We need to educate even 13- and 14-year-olds about what is manipulation and what is power and what is control.

"We all need to learn to recognize the indicators of potential physical, emotional and economic violence. That is at the core of my interest in serving as an advocate for domestic violence victims and survivors," she said.

"Those of us who have not experienced domestic violence personally - all of us who have lived safe lives in loving families - must remember that we are blessed."

In late October Bakke began working for Eastside Domestic Violence in Bellevue as an advocate working in shelter and community-based programs. She is planning an eventual return to school and a master's degree program.

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