Joliet Zonta honoring Amirrah Abou-Youssef at Mardi Gras fundraiser

Pat Perrier of Joliet Zonta: ‘She has done some extraordinary work’

Amirrah Abou-Youssef, council coordinator at the 12th Judicial Family Violence Coordinating Council, is honored by the Zonta Club for her work within the arena of domestic violence prevention.

The Zonta Club of Joliet’s “Magnificent Mardi Gras” event Feb. 9 is more than a fun celebration honoring 50 years of service.

Most proceeds from the fundraiser will benefit scholarships for local women, said Pat Perrier, public relations chairman for the Zonta Club of Joliet.

Amirrah Abou-Youssef of Joliet will receive the club’s 2024 Woman of Distinction award for her work in the area of domestic violence prevention.

Abou-Youssef is the local council coordinator at the 12th Judicial Family Violence Coordinating Council in Will County. Abou-Youssef is perfect for the award since Zonta’s mission is to “make the world better for women and girls,” Perrier said.

“We choose a woman from the community who’s making an impact, who’s a trailblazer and who is committed to the goals of our club, which are to advance the status of women and girls locally and worldwide,” Perrier said in an email. “She has done some extraordinary work, and we look forward to giving her this prestigious award.”

I think every domestic violence advocate is working to put themselves out of a job. That’s the goal.”

—  Amirrah Abou-Youssef, local council coordinator at the 12 Judicial Family Violence Coordinating Council in Will County.

Abou-Youssef said she was “blown away and very overwhelmed” at learning she was receiving the award for what she calls “just doing my job,” while stressing that she doesn’t work in a vacuum either.

“To be recognized by the Zonta women is just such an honor,” Abou-Youssef said. “They are a group of accomplished women who do great things in this community. Just the fact I’m on their radar in that sort of way – I was very touched. I was really, really touched.”

Beth Colvin and Cathy Miller are co-chairs of the Magnificent Mardi Gras committee. Perrier encouraged attendees to dress in Mardis Gras attire.

Getting involved with a cause that mattered

Abou-Youssef originally thought she’d work as a sex therapist in 2012, when she earned her master’s in marriage and family therapy from the Adler School or Professional Psychology, now called Adler University, in Chicago.

But Abou-Youssef became a children’s counselor with Guardian Angel Community Services’ Groundwork Domestic Violence Program in Joliet.

Abou-Youssef fell in love with the work. She became Groundwork’s program manager in 2014 and remained at Guardian Angel through 2022, she said.

Vivian Foreman, 1 years old, waves a flag as her mother, Amirrah Abou-Youssef, listens to speakers during a rally for ZONTA Says No To Violence Against Women outside the old court house on Tuesday in Joliet.

However, after Abou-Youssef had her daughter in 2021, she reevaluated how to spend her time. Serving as the local council coordinator at the 12th Judicial Family Violence Coordinating Council in Will County was a good fit for her since it was a part-time position she could do from home, she said.

Abou-Youssef said the council is a multidisciplinary team that meets to discuss how domestic violence is being addressed through the various systems currently in place.

“A lot of people shy away from those hard conversations,” she said. “They feel uncomfortable. I don’t mind using my voice in that kind of way. It makes a big difference.”

Is she making a difference?

Abou-Youssef said she believes she’s making a difference in domestic violence prevention, which is “what keeps me going.” She said she gauges that by the changes she’s seen through the years.

For instance, local media now consistently includes Groundwork’s domestic abuse hotline, 815-729-1228, in news coverage, Abou-Youssef said.

Domestic violence also no longer is called “domestic disputes,” a term that makes domestic violence “sound very benign,” she said.

“I think social media has changed the conversation around domestic violence and helps demystify what happened,” she said.

Today’s youth also has good conversations about bullying and mental health at early ages.

“I wonder how that’s going to change things in 10 to 20 years,” Abou-Youssef said.

Will County now has more resources for survivors and abusers, so everyone can get the help that they need, and local agencies are working together to connect people to those resources, she said.

“I think that makes it a better system overall for people,” Abou-Youssef said. “People are complex. They have a lot of things going on. It’s never just one issue.”

Do people ever lie about abuse? Statistically, it’s highly unlikely, Abou-Youssef said.

According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, 1 in 4 women and 1 in 7 men experience severe physical violence.

“The risks of not believing someone far outweighs the risks of the very small chance it’s not true,” she said in an email. “And even when it is true, the person who chooses violence rarely faces life-ruining consequences, while the victim often faces severe societal consequences just by coming forward.”

Does Abou-Youssef see herself as working in a different field one day?

“I think every domestic violence advocate is working to put themselves out of a job. That’s the goal,” Abou-Youssef said. “But I think we know that in our lifetime, it’s not going to happen. I think the job is never done. So I probably will never be done.”


WHAT: Magnificent Mardi Gras

WHEN: 5:30 p.m. Feb. 9

WHERE: Jacob Henry Mansion Victorian Ballroom, 15 S. Richards St.

ETC: Cajun and American cuisine buffet and hurricanes cocktails

TICKETS: $65. Purchase on Eventbrite at