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WASHINGTON -- The director of a Sioux Center, Iowa-based domestic violence advocacy organization was honored Friday with the U.S. Department of Justice's Special Courage Award.

Shari Kastein received the honor during the annual National Crime Victims' Service Awards ceremony in Washington, D.C.

"After Mrs. Kastein suffered the horror of domestic violence, she was able to salvage hope from that painful experience and has used it to assist thousands of survivors," Attorney General William Barr said. "We honor her today for her extraordinary courage, her exceptional resilience and the more than three decades of compassionate service she has provided to domestic violence victims across Iowa and South Dakota."

The Special Courage Award is given to victims or survivors who exhibit exceptional perseverance and determination in dealing with their own victimization or who acted bravely to prevent victimization.

Kastein, CEO of the Family Crisis Centers, left an abusive relationship in 1984 and wound up in a battered women's shelter after her daughter had been sexually assaulted and beaten. She helped create the Family Crisis Centers in Redfield, South Dakota, and was appointed by then-South Dakota Gov. George Mickelson to South Dakota's first Victim Compensation Board of Directors.

Kastein later created a four-county domestic violence and sexual assault program in Northwest Iowa and the Iowa Victim Service Call Center. She also created the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation Western Iowa Survivors of Homicide Unit, which provides services to the family and friends of murder victims and those seriously injured by crime.

"Through her own powerful example, Ms. Kastein has inspired us to work harder to meet the needs and respect the rights of all crime victims," said Office of Justice Programs Principal Deputy Attorney General Matt Dummermuth.

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