Colleen Coble says it’s one of the greatest blessings, to know her life has prepared her to be in a position to advocate for victims of sexual and domestic violence. And as the Missouri Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence (MCADSV) celebrates its 40th anniversary, Coble has a message: They aren’t done yet.
A reporter-turned-advocate, Coble has led the MCADSV as its CEO since 1988. She’s watched the MCADSV transition from a two-person team with 13 member groups to an organization with nearly 20 people and 120 member groups, from domestic and sexual violence prevention to prosecutors to law enforcement to child counseling and more.
“It’s been a dramatic increase in the number of services available and the extent to which recognition of domestic and sexual violence and the work to prevent and end it has crossed into all areas of every community,” Coble told The Missouri Times. “It’s not just any longer a job for that program over there. It’s something that is unifying in recognition, in all aspects across the workplace, our schools, our families and extended families, through the justice system and law enforcement and health care.”
Coble began her career as a journalist, which took her from Missouri to Washington. It was there in the Pacific Northwest that she met a group of women who were starting an advocacy group. Coble volunteered at the fledgling program and was eventually hired.
Coble then moved to Florida for a brief time and tried to get back into journalism. But one of the first people she met at her new job was a sexual assault survivor.
“And I kind of realized that I wasn’t going to not know what I had learned as an advocate, and I thought maybe I could take my journalism skills and use them in a different way and continue down the road opening before me, which was being an advocate,” she recalled.
So Coble came back to Missouri, settling down with work at a domestic violence and rape shelter and crisis center in Columbia. Then in 1988, the MCADSV began looking for a new executive director — and found Coble.
Coble isn’t hesitant to note the work the MCADSV has done over years — all that it has accomplished in four decades — hasn’t always been easy. In fact, she said one constant in her line of work is the determination of those who wish to do harm to others.
“They will continue to find avenues that we have yet to address in our laws. It’s astounding,” Coble said. “We have to be very diligent each year to make sure we are providing the most complete response in our laws and policies as we can. Because if there’s an angle to be worked, a loophole to be exploited, those who wish to continue to do harm will find it.”
But she’s prideful of the success the organization has held, from successfully backing legislation adding housing protections for victims of stalking or domestic and sexual violence in 2019 to advocating for state funding for sexual assault services in 2014.
“It hasn’t always been easy, but one of the most powerful parts of working for the coalition is just that: It’s a coalition. There are so many others involved and dedicated and on the journey with us that we’re not alone in this work, and that’s parallel to the best of our work with victims of violence, to let them know that they’re not alone as they get the help they need for that important transition to being a victim of something to being a survivor,” Coble said.
Sen. Lauren Arthur worked with the MCADSV on the housing protections bill last year, calling the group “a wonderful organization that’s made meaningful contributions to preventing and addressing sexual and domestic violence.”
“Missouri is a better place thanks to MCADSV’s advocacy, as are the lives of the countless survivors that the MCADSV has supported,” Arthur said.
“I’m very grateful that we’ve been able to make the progress that we have in Missouri and that we have every good faith in making more from here on,” Coble said. “We’re not done yet.”
Find out more about the MCADSV’s 40th-anniversary celebration here.
Kaitlyn Schallhorn is the editor of The Missouri Times. She joined the newspaper in early 2019 after working as a reporter for Fox News in New York City.
Throughout her career, Kaitlyn has covered political campaigns across the U.S., including the 2016 presidential election, and humanitarian aid efforts in Africa and the Middle East.
She is a native of Missouri who studied journalism at Winthrop University in South Carolina. She is also an alumna of the National Journalism Center in Washington, D.C.
Contact Kaitlyn at firstname.lastname@example.org.