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Act. Honor. Hope.

Please join the Action Alliance as we HONOR three leaders who have taken extraordinary ACTION to bring about the change necessary to end sexual and domestic violence. Their leadership offers HOPE for a better tomorrow.

Our Emcee for the event this year is:  Amanda Malkowski, co-anchor of Good Morning Richmond and 8News at 9.

This year we honor:

Delegate Christopher K. Peace and Senator Janet D. Howell

Delegate Peace, who has served in the House of Delegates since 2006 and Senator Howell, who has served in the senate since 1991 have together demonstrated bipartisan leadership and perseverance to secure an historic increase in sexual and domestic violence funding. Together they model an unwavering commitment to secure much needed funding to stabilize services, restore hope and build trust for survivors across the Commonwealth.

Fran Ecker, Director of Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services 

Ms. Ecker has been an exemplary steward in the development of the Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence Grant Program that included the first-ever formula funding for sexual and domestic violence agencies. This funding was significant to stabilize sexual and domestic violence victim services throughout Virginia. Her active commitment to improving services for victims is evidenced by her accessibility and collaboration with those closest to the work and efforts to institute an efficient and responsive administration of funding so programs can focus on service delivery and program development rather than be buried in administrative burdens.

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We also honor and celebrate the commitment of these Action Alliance supports and welcome them as new Lifetime Members in 2016:

Dee Berry   –   Angela Blount   –   Liz Cascone   –   Richard (Tony) Cesaroni   –   Marva Dunn   –   Abigail Eisley   –   Aly Haynes-Traver   –   Sherre Hedrick   –   Kate McCord   –   Nancy Olgesby   –   Katherine Rodgers   –   Carla Ryan   –   Anna Claire Schellenberg   –   Karl Schellenberg   –   Rebecca Schellenberg   –   Richard Schellenberg   –   John Shinholser   –   Jennifer Underwood   –   Betsy Williams

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To purchase tickets to the event; please click on here

To see the silent auction items please go to  www.givetoactionalliance.org

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Joining the Action Alliance adds your voice to making change in Virginia. Start your membership today or call 804.377.0335. 

To inquire about submissions for blog, please check the submissions page for requirements or email colson@vsdvalliance.org

For The Last Child

On the first day of October Artemis House Staff began their celebration of Domestic Violence Awareness Month at Northern Virginia PRIDE Festival (NOVA PRIDE). We tabled and mingled, networked and shared cards, and felt the energy and joy of safe spaces. Near the end of my shift at our resource table a blended family stopped to learn more about Artemis House services, and as we began to converse I felt hopeful that I was speaking with “The Last Child.”

 

picture2In September, at a membership meeting for Virginia Sexual and Domestic Violence Action Alliance (Action Alliance) a group of advocates invested in the anti-violence movement were tasked with identifying a “North Star”, a potential guiding statement for Action Alliance work. Though the process was difficult, this gathering of diverse people agreed that what gave us hope when the work makes us weary is the shared idea that we have committed ourselves to creating safe spaces until “the last child” is able to live free of violence and oppression.

Since leaving Richmond I have carried the hope that I am working towards the day of “the last child” with me everywhere. The last child has been to all of the Artemis House staff, Domestic Violence task force, and budget meetings this month. I see them take shape in our monthly review of data and program reports. I look for “the last child” in daily interactions with community partners, friends, loved ones, and strangers. This child reveals their self in the gaps of our data, the conflict and resolution in each meeting, and fellowship with others to remind me that there will be an end to our work.

On that day at NOVA PRIDE I was relieved to find hope in these children while discussing their experiences with violence and their love of Artemis, goddess of fertility and the wilderness. Unknowingly they shared a few truths of what the last child needs from those of us invested in this work: a seat at the table (inclusion); a voice in the dialogue (representation); a safe place for disclosure (accessibility); and unshakable support during post-traumatic growth (advocacy).

“Success is not one more woman in shelter, one more man in jail, one more child in foster care.”  

–Sandra Comacho

Most importantly I was reminded that the last child needs our investment in the anti-violence movement to be extended outside of our typical 9-5 work day. They require that we challenge our privilege in safe places so that they too may be included while maintaining awareness of our differences to increase representation. Though Domestic Violence Awareness Month has ended for this year, Artemis House staff will continue our investment in increasing the awareness and reach of the anti-violence movement until we meet “the last child.”

Raven Dickerson is the Director of Artemis House, a program of Shelter House Inc. Artemis House is Fairfax County’s only 24 hour emergency shelter for victims of domestic and sexual violence, human trafficking, and stalking. For more information on Artemis House services and opportunities to volunteer or donate contact us at (703) 435-4940.

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Joining the Action Alliance adds your voice to making change in Virginia. Start your membership today or call 804.377.0335. 

To inquire about submissions for blog, please check the submissions page for requirements or email colson@vsdvalliance.org

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The Power of Advocacy

In Virginia, sexual and domestic violence agencies (SDVAs) utilize a system called VAdata to capture information about the services they provide and the needs of people who access those services. For folks less familiar with VAdata, it is an incredibly useful data collection system that leads many an advocate to groan (show of hands if you love filling out data forms…anyone?) Although data collection can feel burdensome to advocates busily providing crisis intervention, counseling, and support to survivors of sexual and intimate partner violence, it is an often under-rated tool for advocacy.

Advocacy Works-FINAL11x22-2.jpgSo, what does VAdata have to do with advocacy? Since 2009, VAdata has included a data collection component, called Documenting Our Work, that tracks information on the range of services provided by SDVAs and the impact these services have on survivors and communities statewide. Documenting Our Work is unique in that survivors have the opportunity to tell us in their own words how their lives have been affected by the advocacy they have received from Virginia’s SDVAs.

This summer, the Action Alliance looked at the Documenting Our Work data from the past 5 years and the results resoundingly affirmed what we already knew to be true: ADVOCACY WORKS. Survivors consistently report that SDVAs help them build trust and restore hope. The overwhelming majority of survivors tell us they receive the help they need, whether that be help finding safe and affordable housing, help with immigration concerns, or help addressing emotional needs in the wake of traumatic life events.

Advocates are on the ground each and every day providing vital services to survivors and may not always get to hear about how powerful and life-changing is their work. We want advocates to know that, through Documenting Our Work, survivors consistently report that these services are making a huge impact in their lives. Don’t take my word for it – here are just a few examples of what survivors have said:

  • “The staff has shown me unending kindness and helped me better accept myself in this situation.”
  • “I know I am not alone.”
  • “They left me feeling empowered.”
  • “They are very positive and helpful people here. I wouldn’t be where I am today without their help.”

Want to see the data? We created this cool infographic to illustrate the power of advocacy in Virginia.

Kristen Pritchard is Prevention and Evaluation Coordinator at the Virginia Sexual and Domestic Violence Action Alliance, Virginia’s leading voice on sexual and domestic violence. She received her B.S. in Psychology and Human Services from Old Dominion University in 2012 and her Master of Social Work from Virginia Commonwealth University in 2015. Kristen travels across the state of Virginia to provide training and technical assistance to organizations on various issues such as reproductive coercion, healthy sexuality, and trauma-informed advocacy.

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Joining the Action Alliance adds your voice to making change in Virginia. Start your membership today or call 804.377.0335. 

To inquire about submissions for blog, please check the submissions page for requirements or email colson@vsdvalliance.org

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Governing Body Members Take Action! to Raise Funds

During the month of October, the Governing Body of the Virginia Sexual and Domestic Violence Action Alliance decided to raise $4,000 for the cause to end sexual and domestic violence. As they are spread around the state, they decided to hold neighborhood parties or go viral with an online giving circle.

And they succeeded, by raising just over the goal of $4,000. Kudos and many thanks to our awesome governing body members:

Kathleen Demro, Gena Boyle, Sanu Dieng, Michelle Hensley, Becky Lee, Jennifer Bourne, Judy Casteele, Frank Charbonneau, Joni Coleman, Marva Dunn, Janett Forte, Ted Heck, Sheree Hedrick, Claudia Muniz, Claire Sheppard, and Tabitha Smith.

 

 

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Joining the Action Alliance adds your voice to making change in Virginia. Start your membership today or call 804.377.0335. 

To inquire about submissions for blog, please check the submissions page for requirements or email colson@vsdvalliance.org

 

 

Image credit: heavy.com/news

Standing With Standing Rock

 

They say history repeats itself. Unfortunately, the blatant disregard for Native American life and culture is part of our nation’s history. With Thanksgiving quickly approaching, we are reminded of the brutal history behind the holiday through a present-day battle for Native land.

Around this time one year ago the Dakota Access Pipeline or DAPL was approved. It was to be a 1,134 mile-long pipeline to carry oil across multiple states. Originally set to cross through Bismarck, North Dakota, its initial path was rejected after an environmental assessment pointed out that it might endanger the water supply. Citizens of Bismarck, whose population is listed as 92% White on the U.S. census, rejected the pipeline and it was rerouted.

Fast forward to the DAPL’s new route, and a similar concern has been brought forth. This time, the pipeline could threaten the Missouri River, the sole water supply of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. In addition, the construction of the pipeline disrupts and has even destroyed lands sacred to the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. However, the rerouting of the pipeline is an option that has not been offered to the tribe. Activist Rev. Jesse Jackson calls the situation “the ripest case of environmental racism I’ve seen in a long time.”

Since the pipeline does not technically run through the reservation, the Sioux Tribe has been shut out of decision-making about the DAPL route. This act, however, is illegal. According to The Atlantic, “Regulations require Federal agencies to consult with Native American tribes when they attach religious and cultural significance to a historic property regardless of the location of that property.” Because Army Corps did not consult the tribe, they are also in danger of violating the Clean Water Act as well as the Environmental Policy Act if the water supply were to ever be contaminated by a break or leak in the pipeline.

Still, the Army Corps fails to hear out the concerns of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. They insist the pipeline is what is best, as it will create construction jobs that will benefit the economy. Just the same as their forefathers did centuries ago, they are attempting to silence indigenous people by projecting their own ideas of what is best for them.

Once again, non-Natives have decided how they will occupy land that remains sacred to Native Americans. Once again this is being done with no regard to the needs or wants of indigenous people. Once again, non-Natives have defended their actions with the assertion that they are doing what is right for the Native community, while neglecting input from the people, themselves, stating otherwise. Unquestionably, water is essential to life. A boost in the economy will mean nothing to a community without a reliable water source. With the tribe’s sole source of water being compromised, Native American tribes and non-Native advocates from all over the United States have gathered at the Standing Rock Indian Reservation to protest the pipeline.

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Image credit: heavy.com/news

The peaceful protests began around April of this year and the number of protesters continues to grow. However, over the course of seven months, the peaceful protesters have become targets of militarized counter forces. Shortly after peaceful demonstrations began, the National Guard was sent out to Standing Rock in riot gear in massive numbers. Protestors tell the Huffington Post  “law enforcement is using pepper spray, tear gas and beanbag rounds on [us] and responding to peaceful demonstrations, pipe ceremonies and prayer circles with militarized force.”

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Image credit: cldc.org

Mass numbers of arrests have been made. Some of the protestors who have been arrested report being kept in chained, netted enclosures similar to dog kennels, and having numbers drawn on their body parts by law enforcement officers.

The chairman of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, Dave Archambault Jr., spoke out on the damage being done by both the construction of the pipeline and the law enforcement protecting it, saying, “The oil companies and the government of the United States have failed to respect our sovereign rights. …[They have] knowingly destroyed sacred sites and our ancestral graves with bulldozers. [They have] also used attack dogs to harm individuals who tried to protect our water and sacred sites.”

Some media outlets are choosing to defend the dehumanizing actions of these officers. The New York Times recently published an article that attempted to evoke sympathy for the officers out in Standing Rock. It focused on one officer in particular, Jon Moll. The Times gave details completely unrelated to the pipeline or the protests. It mentioned how Moll grew up as the only White child in his classes and, as the son of farmers, “worked hard for everything [he has].” The irony lies in the fact that after growing up in a diverse environment and seemingly understanding the work that goes into building and keeping up with a community, he is now infringing  on that right of others as he takes away what they too worked hard for. Moll goes on to vilify activists, who he says, in their protesting, have trespassed on federal property. He omits law enforcement’s recent vehicular destruction of sacred Native American burial sites out of his trespassing rant.

Instead of publishing this article defending the initiators of this battle, the Times could have focused on alternatives to the current route of the DAPL.  One such alternative is an oil railway. Railways are already used for the majority of North Dakota’s oil shipment and one was used in the past as an alternative to the Keystone XL Pipeline.

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Image credit: elitedaily.com/news/politics

 

Though a slightly different method than that used in the past, the construction of this pipeline endangers a mass population of indigenous people. The seriousness of its threats must be understood, and it is time to listen to the people most affected by its construction.

#NoDAPL  #StandwithStandingRock

Dominique is a Hotline Crisis Services Specialist at the Action Alliance as well as an Intern for the Real Story journalism internship. She graduated from Virginia Commonwealth University with a B.S. in Mass Communications and a B.A. in African American Studies. She is an aspiring filmmaker and loves to create as well as watch others’ creations on the big screen.

The Real Story Internship analyzes and rewrites news stories to reflect a trauma-informed, survivor-centered and racial justice lens.

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Joining the Action Alliance adds your voice to making change in Virginia. Start your membership today or call 804.377.0335. 

To inquire about submissions for blog, please check the submissions page for requirements or email colson@vsdvalliance.org

 

 

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Deck the Halls: A Holiday Tradition benefiting Project Horizon

Call me crazy, but I love this time of year. While most directors probably have visions of purple ribbons and calendars full of candlelight vigils and lunchtime lectures, my office looks like Santa himself has stopped by for an early visit. That is because in the midst of Domestic Violence Awareness Month we are also planning our annual black-tie gala, Deck the Halls, to be held on November 19, 2016 at VMI in Lexington, VA.

This year marks the 16th year for Deck the Halls which began as a Festival of Trees. Voted the #1 Charity Event in the Shenandoah Valley by Virginia Living Magazine for the past three years, Deck the Halls is more than a fundraiser, it is a community event. It is always held the Saturday before Thanksgiving, Deck the Halls marks the beginning of the holiday season for the Rockbridge community. Over 300 guests gather in their finest attire for dinner, dancing, live and silent auctions. Our featured auction item this year is a 16’ x 24’ English Style Cottage Frame created by the Timber Framers Guild and VMI Cadets. It is truly a magical evening.

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While the twinkling lights and holiday décor set the stage for the magic, that is really not what makes Deck the Halls so special. Each year when I look over the crowd, I pause to give thanks for the many people who have come together to make the event such a great success. The 15-member DTH committee, the decorators, the caterers, the auction donors, the auctioneer, the table hosts, and every person in attendance is there because they believe in and support the work of Project Horizon. We cannot do this work alone. We will never fulfill our mission of working to end domestic, dating and sexual violence in the Rockbridge community if we do it in a vacuum. Amidst the glitter and glam of the holiday season, our community comes together to make a difference in the lives of survivors. That is what makes the evening so magical.

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If you would like to join us and experience the magic yourself, call 540-463-7861 for reservations. Tickets are $85 each or $640 for a reserved table of 8.

Judy Casteele is the Executive Director of Project Horizon, serving the Rockbridge Area of Virginia. She is also on the Governing Body of the Virginia Sexual and Domestic Violence Action Alliance. She has worked in and supported anti-violence work across various agencies and communities for over 20 years. 

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Joining the Action Alliance adds your voice to making change in Virginia. Start your membership today or call 804.377.0335. 

To inquire about submissions for blog, please check the submissions page for requirements or email colson@vsdvalliance.org

 

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Hybrid Courses, Micro-modules, Video-streams, and Retreats…Oh My!

Training Institute 2.0: We’re Mixing Up Our Learning Strategies in 2017

The Action Alliance Training Institute has been responsive to the needs of our field for 20 years and was developed through thoughtful leadership and deep listening to our members and allies. That listening has found us traveling all over Virginia to provide practical information and build advocacy skills; to host critical conversations about changes in our field and how social justice and anti-oppression approaches impact our work; to strengthen relationships between local partners in regional and community-based learning environments; and to respond to emerging trends in survivor advocacy while addressing growing diversity in size and scope of staff at the local and state level. The Action Alliance’s commitment to experimentation has brought us to Training Institute 2.0 which will launch in 2017 and will include more opportunities for engagement using various methods and technologies.

In 2016, we utilized webinar technology to provide opportunities for experts from across the country to join advocates in their offices and for advocates to engage directly without having to travel to a conference or session in another state or county for that matter. We hosted Lunch ‘n’ Learns to give SDVA staff a chance to dig into specific concepts and have conversations over lunch whether they were in Richmond or Radford. We began the development of online courses that will become the backbone of our hybrid class model which includes in-person and online learning opportunities. These courses will include synchronous classes (real-time virtual or in-person classes that occur at a specific time and are led by Action Alliance faculty/staff) and asynchronous classes (self-paced work moderated by Action Alliance staff).

We are excited about being able to provide critical information to advocates and staff across Virginia in ways that meet the needs of our members and help to ensure survivors are able to access competent, consistent services regardless of their location. We will be launching online courses throughout 2017 and we will also be launching several online communities of practice for individuals who are interested in learning more from peers in similar roles at other agencies. We envision space for SDVA staff to share tools, problem-solve together, learn from each other, and build relationships across geographic barriers. Directors will have a space, prevention staff will have a space, legal advocates will have a space, and more! If you are interested in seeing an online community of practice around a particular role you have, please let us know. Email us at training@vsdvalliance.org; we’d be happy to discuss the variety of cohorts we can create together!

Staff have been hard at work testing our live-stream options for meetings and trainings this year. We look forward to being able to offer more opportunities for live-stream and to increase the ability for individuals to actively participate in training activities from their desk. The Action Alliance launched its Training Institute Micro-Site this year and will continue to use this platform for all training registrations, materials and resources from trainings, and as a portal to various communities of practice. You can view the site by clicking here. We aren’t the only ones who continue to experiment with how we deliver training and information to the field and anyone interested in this work. We learned a lot by watching how the School of Social Work at SUNY Buffalo developed and launched its MSW Online Program. We’ve seen the explosion of online learning in recent years related to everything from first grade mathematics to graduate level physics.

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Action Alliance Training Institute Microsite

We also recognize that for a lot of our work and critical conversations you just need face to face time. That’s why we remain committed to offering a robust calendar of basic and continuing advocacy trainings, advanced topic summits and conferences, and of course our Biennial Retreat which is on deck for June 2017. Our staff and faculty are also available to provide customized trainings on request across Virginia. We encourage our members to work regionally to identify needs and submit training requests together for maximum impact. Interested in learning how to bring a training on request to your organization or community, visit our microsite here for details.

The Action Alliance Training Institute consistently seeks to experiment with new ways to offer invigorating and exciting learning opportunities in person and online in order to deliver forward-thinking and accessible education, training, and resources to SDVA staff, allied professionals, and members of the community who work on the front lines to address and prevent sexual and domestic violence. Our offerings, whether virtual or IRL (in real life), are based on 3 “lenses” – Racial-justice; Trauma-informed; and Asset-building and focus on enhancing the experience of training participants regardless of the topic or modality. We are excited to learn and grow with you and hope to be in community with you either in person or while you’re at your desk next year!

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Staff from Project Horizon, Safehome Systems, and New Directions discussing trauma-informed advocacy at a recent on-site Training on Request

 

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Joining the Action Alliance adds your voice to making change in Virginia. Start your membership today or call 804.377.0335. 

To inquire about submissions for blog, please check the submissions page for requirements or email colson@vsdvalliance.org

 

 

 

 

 

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Meet Nina Aristy

Why do you do this Anti-Violence work?
There are endless reasons why I choose to do this form of work, and honestly the list gets progressively longer as I continue to do this work. I guess if we get to the core of it all I find comfort in the idea that nobody is alone and everyone is heard, therefore by doing this work I am working into that thought.

What would you like to learn your first year on your new job? 
That is a tough one. I think I have hit the backspace button too many times trying to get the wording right, because in all honesty I want to learn everything. I want to learn from the ground up on assisting individuals on a personal level (like all the folks in the hotline do so gracefully and empathetically). I would like to learn how we use that hotline data and then compound that into policy that will ultimately create safer spaces for victims. I want to learn how we communicate that to public in a matter that makes them impassioned and part of the movement. Basically I want to learn how to help. How I can make that chain of events that creates change, happen. I know it is a lot and most likely will not fit into my first year at this job, but I at least want those building blocks.

oscar-waoWhat is the latest book you have read and would you recommend it?
The latest book I have read is The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao and I would absolutely recommend this book. I am a very proud Dominican, and I think if you want to get to know more about Dominican culture and history this is a nice introduction. Also, it is a very quick read, so if you are up for some laughs and a few tears and a genuine tale of a Dominican life both for natives and immigrants- this pretty much has that.

If you were a vegetable what would you be? Why?
I would probably be garlic. During the Winter I have to be far and away from the cold because I am easily frozen. I blossom in the Spring and always seem to show up in a group (I come from a big family so being alone is never an option). I am involved in a lot of things, just like garlic is involved in almost every meal.  I am not the biggest vegetable, but I do pack a punch in flavor (so I am notably unforgettable).

What are the 3 things you love about Virginia?

  1. The lifetime full of memories I have made here with the people that became my family.
  2. The food. Honestly, I have gained about 10 pounds since I got here and I do not regret a single bite that has lead me to gaining it.
  3. The advisers and mentors I have had that have supported and guided me.

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If you had one box for all your stuff, what would you put in it?
I would put my boyfriend, my whole family (especially my beautiful nephew), all my friends, and my doggies

What is the most incredible view you have ever seen?
I guess this is sort of cheating, but at the same time it does answer the question. The most incredible view I have ever seen is always changing because it is moment, not particularly a fixed place or person. These moments happen very rarely and spontaneously, for me it has happened only a handful of times. It is this moment where you feel like everything is just right. You are with the right people and the right mindset and everything just comes into focus. For me this has happened while singing in cartoon voices with my partner during a 6 hour drive at midnight. It has happened while surrounded by my friends in my college living room just telling past stories of our lives. Those moments where I do not need a picture or a journal entry to remind me of what I felt, who was there, or what was said in order for me to picture that exact moment in its entirety. Those for me are the most incredible views I have ever seen.

Lastly, what excites you most about your new job at the Action Alliance? 
I am excited to get to know everyone and help in different tasks and projects. I am just very excited to get to learn from everyone here.

Nina recently graduated from the University of Richmond with a BA in Political Science. She minored in Women’s Studies and Latin American studies. Currently, she is studying for her LSATs and aspires to do legal assistance and advocacy for sexual and domestic violence victims. 

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Joining the Action Alliance adds your voice to making change in Virginia. Start your membership today or call 804.377.0335. 

To inquire about submissions for blog, please check the submissions page for requirements or email colson@vsdvalliance.org

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Meet Dominique Colbert

Why do you do this Anti-Violence work?
There are so many people out there who are either too afraid to ask for help or who do not realize they are in a situation where they may need help. It was because of others’ Anti-violence work that I was able to recognize what was wrong in a past relationship of mine, remove myself from the situation, and build myself back up. I just want to be able to be that for others who may be in violent situations.

What is the latest book you have read and would you recommend it?
The latest book I have read was titled “The Dream Giver.” I would recommend it. It is split into two parts which both highlight the journey of following your dreams. The first part is a fable which highlights the trials that come with the decision to leave your comfort zone and follow your dreams as well as their solutions. The second part explains the fable and relates it to real life situations.

cornIf you were a vegetable what would you be? 
If I were a vegetable, I would be corn. I just love corn. It is so sweet and no matter where it travels it pretty much stays in its original form. If you think about it too hard, it encourages you to remain true to who you are no matter what environment you’re in.

 

What are the 3 things you love about Virginia?

  1. I love RVA. I love Richmond because it has given me the best 4 years of my life so far. I went to school here, I learned so much about myself and others here. I love the culture and all the beautiful scenery here.
  2. I love that Virginia is on the coast so the beach is never too far away.
  3. I love that Virginia is has so many beautiful views that are yet, so versatile; from mountains to grassy fields, rivers and lakes to beautifully lit cities.

What would be the title of your autobiography?
Evolving and Resolving – (Becoming a better person every day through learning from others; Using what I learn to resolve bits of my past)

If you had one box for all your stuff, what would you put in it?
I would imagine it to be a pretty large box. Maybe a house-sized box.. made of brick.. with cutouts for sunlight and openings for others to enter and exit. I have a lot of stuff, I’m attached to it all, and since there was no size limit placed on the box, I would try to bring all of my belongings. If I had to choose the most important things however, I would bring my laptop which has all of my films and written pieces on it, a few cozy items from my closet, a few good books I own but have yet to read, and some dog accessories/food to attract the puppy I would want with me but do not yet have.

What is the most incredible view you have ever seen?
The most incredible view I have ever seen was in Miami. It was more of a series of views, like a video. I was looking out the window of an Uber. It was super late, yet everything was still lit up; the buildings and the people. Everything was just so active and I absolutely loved it. 

Lastly, what excites you most about your new job at the Action Alliance?
I am so excited to learn new ways to help those in sexual and/or domestic violence situations. It means so much to me to be able to provide the tools for them to have a choice in their next step. So many people are not able to see a choice beyond enduring the abuse and I want to give them the chance to see things differently.

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Dominique is a Hotline Crisis Services Specialist at the Action Alliance as well as an Intern for the Real Story journalism internship. She graduated from Virginia Commonwealth University with a B.S. in Mass Communications and a B.A. in African American Studies. She is an aspiring filmmaker and loves to create as well as watch others’ creations on the big screen.

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Joining the Action Alliance adds your voice to making change in Virginia. Start your membership today or call 804.377.0335. 

To inquire about submissions for blog, please check the submissions page for requirements or email colson@vsdvalliance.org

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Serving the Incarcerated Individual

Shows like Orange is the New Black, Oz, and Prison Break have communities talking about people’s experiences of being incarcerated.  At some point, the topic of sexual violence comes up, whether it is a joke about how to pick up soap in the shower or protective pairing (when an inmate of higher status offers protection to a less powerful inmate in exchange for goods or services, often nonconsensual sex).

What is available to support people who are incarcerated*?

The Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA), which was passed in 2003 with unanimous support from both parties in Congress.  (From the Executive Summary ).

“The goal of this rule-making is to prevent, detect, and respond to sexual abuse in confinement facilities… it has been at times dismissed by some as an inevitable—or even deserved—consequence of criminality.  Prison rape can have severe consequences for victims, for the security of correctional facilities, and for the safety and well-being of the communities to which nearly all incarcerated persons will eventually return.”

As Just Detention International proclaims, rape is not part of the penalty.  Everyone deserves to be safe, regardless of their status.  Those who may be struggling with mental illness, survivors of previous sexual abuse, or those who are LGBTQ identified are more vulnerable to violence while incarcerated.

How do people who experience sexual violence access services in Virginia?

If someone is housed at a Virginia Department of Corrections facility, they have the option of reporting any incident to any employee verbally or in writing through a grievance, dialing #55, or writing to the PREA post office box (PO Box 17115, Richmond, VA 23226).

When a person dials #55 they can leave a confidential voicemail for the PREA department or speak to an Action Alliance advocate.  We have protocols in place should someone need immediate in person assistance, for situations such as hospital accompaniment after an assault.  Advocates provide emotional support, information, resources, and referrals.
For local and regional jails in Virginia, many local sexual assault crisis centers have similar arrangements.

What impact do these services have?

There are some unique challenges to providing services to people who are incarcerated.  Their backgrounds, needs, and concerns can be different from those out in the community. Often folks are looking for support from anyone outside of or beyond the systems they engage in on a daily basis. Fear of retaliation from staff or other inmates may prevent someone from disclosing. The stress and conditions of incarceration are traumatizing and may trigger survivors. Folks who have used the PREA hotline or written us have said, “Thank you for making me feel less alone.” and “This is the first time I told someone about what happened when I was locked up twenty years ago.”  Another person specifically called back the PREA hotline to let Action Alliance staff know that “they (the PREA investigator) took my report seriously. I have been moved to a different unit and things are better. Thank you.”

 

Want to learn more about PREA in Virginia? Attend our 2nd Annual PREA summit

Beyond Compliance: Building Trauma-Informed Partnerships

NEW DATE-NOVEMBER 9 – THIS IS A CHANGE FROM NOVEMBER 8. NEW LOCATION-CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA

*Note: As part of an anti-oppression framework, it is important to acknowledge the shift in language, moving away from terms that dehumanize individuals.  From The Marshall Project.  -Bryan Stevenson, Executive Director of the Equal Justice Initiative puts it this way in his book, Just Mercy: “We’ve institutionalized policies that reduce people to their worst acts and permanently label them ‘criminal,’ ‘murderer,’ ‘rapist,’ ‘thief,’ ‘drug dealer,’ ‘sex offender,’ ‘felon’ — identities they cannot change regardless of the circumstances of their crimes or any improvements they might make in their lives.”

 

Reed Bohn is the Senior Hotline Crisis Services Specialist: Training at the Action Alliance.  He has worked and volunteered for HIV prevention, LGBTQ+ and anti-violence agencies. 

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