YWCA's Woman of Impact spent decades advocating victims' rights

Elizabeth "Itty" Scholz described the inspiration for her decades of work advocating for victims as, "being a product of the 60s."

"When I first started we had no victims' services and now we have wonderful victims' service," Scholz, this year's winner of the YWCA's Woman of Impact Award, said.

It was at a National convention in the early 70s that Scholz first heard a woman speak about a domestic violence shelter. She decided to build on that idea, despite the fact that there were very few shelter, or even programs, for victims of domestic violence at that time.

"25 years later it was looking back on a wonderful ride. I've seen so much work done throughout the state and so much work done in Quincy," Scholz said.

She began her work operating a hotline for victims of domestic violence and was later offered a job working directly with victims of violent crime in the Adam's County States Attorney office. Some of her best work was done when she was with the Illinois Attorney General office and working on a task force to help pass legislation in support of victims' rights.

"The legislation that we passed, created a mechanism where the criminals were fined to pay for the services. And that was one of the greatest things in the whole world," Scholz said.

Changing the way people perceived victims, especially those of domestic violence was a challenge. Scholz said she used education to combat the problem.

"People wanted to believe that there were easy solutions. I remember that I would go to women's groups and different organizations and they would say 'well, if something is wrong ... leave.' And I would just say to them, how much money do you have in your pocket? And could you take your children and leave?" Scholz explained.

She has helped pass Illinois constitutional amendments, expand services to victims and increase funding to the cause. For her accomplishments Scholz was named the YWCA Woman of Impact.

"It's strange to be honored and rewarded for something that I've loved," Scholz said.