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‘Advocate at heart’: Cheryl Robb-Welch has a passion for helping survivors

Cheryl Robb-Welch has long been an advocate for domestic and sexual violence survivors — even before she joined the Missouri Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence. 

Robb-Welch, who is originally from House Springs, took over as the new CEO of the coalition (MOCADSV) earlier this year upon the retirement of Colleen Coble. But she’s not new to MOCADSV or the cause; Robb-Welch served as the coalition’s chief operating officer since 2002. 

But before MOCADSV, Robb-Welch started her career in law enforcement. She worked as a dispatcher in Cape Girardeau before attending the law enforcement academy and moving to the patrol division. 

But as Robb-Welch made that crossover between being on the phone with someone in crisis and responding to their homes, she began to realize she’s “more an advocate at heart.” 

“It really started becoming this awareness-raising for me that so much needs to happen for victims and services and how those things are provided to them and not just solely a sort of stereotypical law enforcement response,” Robb-Welch said. 

So Robb-Welch applied for an opening at a local domestic violence shelter and began her advocacy work. It was there that she first began to work with MOCADSV which provided her with resources and education to help her be an advocate. 

“In law enforcement, when you respond to a residence to a call, your chances of ever seeing that person and what happens next is very, very small,” Robb-Welch said. “So being able to see folks who are coming to you in crisis and seeing how through just having a small moment of respite and whatever services they sought from you could have such a dramatic effect on people.” 

“Especially working in dispatch because you’re dealing with so much of their fear and their anxiety when they call, and when the phone is hung up, your job is supposed to be done,” she added. “But that’s a lot as a dispatcher to have to take on and deal with and have to move on to the next call. I think it forces you to compartmentalize in some ways. Moving to advocacy work reframed what compartmentalization looks like and allows for a fuller picture of what goes on and what needs are in the community.” 

After five years working with the domestic violence shelter in Cape Girardeau, Robb-Welch joined MOCADSV as its chief operating officer in 2002. 

“The first time I met Cheryl, I knew she was an extraordinary advocate and a woman to be reckoned with. Two decades on, I’m even more impressed and grateful to her,” Coble said when Robb-Welch was named the new CEO. “Cheryl’s leadership will continue to advance MOCADSV through her brilliant clarity, her vision, her determination, and her compassion.”

As the new CEO of the coalition, Robb-Welch said she hopes there won’t be too much of a noticeable change in leadership. But she is hoping to help the coalition bolster its work to help people even when they’re not in crisis. 

“We’re wanting to expand and do initiatives with employers so that folks can recognize that not everybody is living in a shelter, not everybody is out of work. You have survivors in your workplace, and how you respond to them can make such a huge impact on the ways that they can seek safety,” Robb-Welch said. 

“While public policy for us has been more broadly defined than just legislative work, and I think that’s another aspect of the organization that folks don’t quite realize. Making the law doesn’t stop there. Making sure it’s implemented in the way it was intended and making sure the communities are getting the most out of these changes is also the work,” Robb-Welch said. 

Robb-Welch now lives in Jefferson City where she enjoys Sweet Smoke BBQ, painting, and cooking.