All around Camille Levee’s new office at Time Out, Inc. tiny butterflies gleam. A few frame her computer screen, a butterfly magnet holds the picture of her late husband, others glitter in the earrings and necklace she wears.
The colorful insect signifies her own transformation — and the change she hopes to facilitate in others.
Time Out, Inc. recently named Levee its new executive director to replace Gerry Bailey, who retired from her long service running a women’s shelter, outpatient counseling for battered women and a thrift store.
Levee says she beat the odds and managed to transform her abusive childhood into something constructive.
As a demoralized young girl she was told would never amount to anything. Instead, she spent her life leading non-profit organizations, volunteering with countless groups and even being named Women of the Year.
The Roundup sat down with Levee last week in her new office, just two days after she started the job.
That actually marked the first time she’d spent more than a few minutes sitting in the space. A self-described high-energy, self-starter, Levee said you will rarely, if ever, find her behind a desk.
Levee’s hands-on, enterprising approach has served her well.
She says she has helped turn around and expand several organizations and hopes to do the same with Time Out, which has seen its federal and state funding diminish in recent years even as the demand for help from women and children fleeing violent relationships has increased.
“Our goal always is that we can come to a point and time where we can close our doors and not be here because there is no more violence, but that only starts with education,” she said.
First on her docket is organizing the first-ever Payson “Walk a Mile in Her Shoes” event to raise awareness about sexual and domestic violence.
On Oct. 25, the 19-year anniversary of Time Out, Levee hopes a few key male members of the community will don high heels and head the mile-long march.
“Domestic violence stops with men leading the way,” she said.
The event is part of the larger International Men’s March to Stop Rape, Sexual Assault and Gender Violence.
Time Out is also hosting a garden party fund-raiser July 21 at 11 a.m. in Round Valley.
While the events raise awareness on the critical issue of domestic violence they also help raise money.
Fund-raising is something sorely needed to keep Time Out around, Levee said.
The shelter currently gets 91 percent of its funding from state and federal grants, which are drying up.
“We need additional revenue sources,” she said. “My philosophy has always been about thirds. A third from foundations/the government, a third from individual donors and a third from fund-raising events.”
The 28-bed shelter is normally full, housing women and children escaping abusive situations from around the state.
Levee can relate.
She also grew up in an abusive home. However, it wasn’t her father that did the screaming and manipulating, it was her mother.
Levee said her mom abused both she and her father, throwing out insults and irons.
But back in those days, she said, they didn’t call it abuse, they called it discipline.
“My dad would tell friends he broke his arm up on the roof and oh, that black eye? He walked into a doorway — she was very abusive.”
Levee wasn’t allowed to have friends over, participate in sports, the school play or do virtually anything without her mother.
Isolation tactics are typical with most abusers.
When Levee joined Girl Scouts, her mother joined as well, becoming a troop leader.
“Most abusers are control freaks. It is all about power and control.”
Statistics show one out of every three women is a victim of abuse.
Many men are also victims.
When Levee was finally old enough to ask her dad why he didn’t leave, he said he was afraid he would lose her and no one would believe him.
When Levee started working at a battered women’s shelter many years later, she heard those same comments from women.
Who would believe me? Who would believe that a man that is a stockbroker and lives in a beautiful home is also an abuser? Who would believe me and then how could I provide for my child?
Every day, she hears those questions afresh.
Time Out seeks to give women the support they need to break away. The facility offers counseling for women that are thinking of leaving and for those getting back on their feet.
“What people find so hard to understand is that people who are in this situation need the strength to break out,” she said. “They may leave five or seven times before they make that final break because something will happen and they don’t have the confidence, the money or maybe they don’t want to tell people.”
Even after a woman leaves, however, the abusive cycle can continue. Some women go back to their abuser or enter a new relationship that proves just as abusive.
Levee said that cycle perpetuated in her life.
After she left home at 18, she started dating a man who grew obsessed with her, following her everywhere.
Luckily, she met her-soon-to-be husband at 19 and the abusive cycle ended.
Levee said she realizes it is not so easy for everyone.
Education, especially for teens, is key to ending domestic violence.
Education not only can help a woman escape a dangerous, abusive relationship; it can help prevent her from entering one.
Levee said she remembered a time when a high school girl job-shadowed her. Halfway through the shift, the teen asked Levee how anyone could end up in an abusive relationship like the woman at the shelter.
Levee asked the girl if she had a boyfriend, which she did.
“I asked her, “Have you ever put on a T-shirt and gone out and he sees you and says, ‘I don’t like it, it doesn’t look good on you, take it off?’”
“And she said, ‘Well yeah.’”
“And I said, ‘And did you?’”
And it finally hit her.
“I said that is how it starts — with the little things.”
For more information on Time Out, visit www.timeoutshelter.org or call (928) 472-8007.