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

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

A Lifetime Legacy Day: We Believe You

Members join at the Lifetime level to show their commitment to engage in prevention and anti-violence work to solidify and strengthen the work of the Action Alliance.

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Annually, the Action Alliance gets together with Lifetime Members to celebrate their commitment to anti-violence work.This is an annual special event for Lifetime Members and their guests.

img_9203This year, our guest was Annie Clark – civil rights activist, co-founder and Executive Director of the survivor advocacy group, End Rape on Campus. She is the co-author, along with Andra Pino of We Believe You, Survivors of Campus Sexual Assault Speak Out. Annie joined the Lifetime Members group to speak on her journey from survivor to activist.

In 2013, authors Annie Clark and Andrea Pino, along with others filed a federal complaint against the University of North Carolina for mishandling sexual assault reports, and the government took their case. Annie and Andrea collected stories of experiences of trauma, healing, and everyday activism.

 

I love the Lifetime Legacy Luncheon because it gives me a chance to be in the same room with an incredible group of committed activists. Through this event we are able to honor multiple generations and their commitment to the work to end violence. 

Kate

Being a Lifetime Legacy member keeps me connected to the community of survivors and the advocates who work on their behalf. I am inspired by Annie’s activism and her book, and grateful to be part of celebrating the voices of survivors coming forth and grateful for their efforts to seek justice on behalf of all. 

Carol

 


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After the event, the guests enjoyed a complimentary day in the Botanical Gardens.

If you are not a lifetime member and want to join, please click here or contact Carol Olson at colson@vsdvalliance.org regarding membership or click on Join Us.

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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

Kristi visits centers across Southwest Virginia

One of the more exciting roles of the Executive Director of the Action Alliance is to visit the member sexual and domestic violence agencies. This is one important way we keep in touch with what is happening in our cause area across the Commonwealth. I decided to share my latest trip to Southwest Virginia with you.

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Tamy with Ms. Kitty

Monday: 

It is early afternoon and I am pulling up next to a huge, red Victorian house in Covington, Virginia. Tamy Mann, Executive Director, meets me in the parking lot, and it is not too long before Miss Kitty, the “Deputy Director,” joins us. Tamy and Miss Kitty give me a tour of the playground that was recently updated by the Rotary Club and then take me over to a garage/shed that is being converted into a group room, a play space for teens, and with the help of some community grant funds, new office space to accommodate a rapidly expanding staff.

Thanks to new federal Victims Of Crime Act (VOCA) funding administered by Virginia’s Department of Criminal Justice Services money that comes from criminal fines and fees converted into vital victim services—Safehome Systems in Covington will have 24-hour staff on-site for the first time EVER. Those staff will welcome, support and counsel survivors in a warm and welcoming space thanks to Tamy and many members of the community who have worked hard over the past three years to complete major renovations to the shelter and offices and major improvements to the services offered throughout Craig and Bath counties. I spend a few hours with Tamy and her staff—and then leave them as they prepare from more interviews for nighttime and weekend staff. I head south and west…headed to Bristol on Tuesday.

A side note:  when you have been driving on country roads and have no idea where you are, but you are trusting your GPS, and then your GPS is telling you to turn on a country road that has a big, big sign that says “GPS not advisable on this route” what do you do??!

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Bristolopy

Tuesday:

Stephanie Poe, Executive Director of the Crisis Center greets me in the Center’s offices which are located firmly on the Virginia side of the VA/TN line that runs through Bristol. Stephanie heads up a small but mighty staff who are delivering a diverse set of services meeting a wide range of community needs. In addition to providing sexual violence services the agency operates a regional suicide hotline, manages a service that provides support to home-bound elderly and disabled adults, and fills community gaps for other crisis and support services, including the current support group for autism spectrum families. They do all of this with the help of a large and diverse group of volunteers and “Experience Works” employees who are all over the age of 55.

As I am leaving Stephanie shares the plans for their newest fundraiser: a new and improved version of “Bristolopoly!” As someone who LOVES Monopoly and has fond memories of weekend games that lasted for hours, this is just TOO COOL!

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Michelle Hensley

Wednesday:

Two visits today!! The weather is still beautiful, and the drive from Bristol to Gate City takes me through some beautiful countryside. There are three big highlights to this leg of my journey. The first is hearing about the plans Michelle Hensley, Executive Director of Hope House, is making after receiving a significant increase in state and VOCA funding. Hope House will be expanding to add sexual violence services—for the first time ever in this part of Virginia!!! Overall the staff size will double—making it possible to add a wide range of services for children and adults and making those services available 24 hours a day. Funds will also be applied to leasing a new outreach office—and moving staff offices out of the shelter will make space for 10 additional beds, which will truly be a blessing in this community where the shelter has been full since March!

The second highlight of this trip was meeting some of the new Hope House staff—what an awesome, passionate group of advocates. And the third highlight had to be the pastries.  They have one heck of a bakery in Gate City!!

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Hope House Play Space

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Marybeth Adkins and Kristi Van Audenhove

From Gate City I traveled down the road to Norton to meet with Marybeth Adkins, Executive Director of Family Crisis Support Services (FCSS). FCSS is another agency that is providing a wide range of community services—both sexual and domestic violence services, prevention education, and homeless prevention and shelter services. Sexual and domestic violence services are also expanding in this southwest community as a result of state and federal funding increases:  FCSS will be adding children’s services and like many other agencies, the funds also made it possible to reach the level of 24/7 staffing that ensures that survivors can reach a trained advocate any time of the day or night.

I enjoyed learning about a few unique partnerships that are working well in Norton. One of those partnerships is with a local movie theater that advertises the hotline number during each movie, provides movie tickets for shelter residents, and collaborates with FCSS to make safe space available for survivors. Family Crisis Support Services was also gearing up for a fun fall fundraiser while I was there—a flag football game between the Sheriff’s office and the fire department!!

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Jennifer Bourne

Thursday: 

Thursday morning I arrive at the Clinch Valley Community Action Agency just as Jennifer Bourne, Director of Family Crisis Services, arrives for work.  She takes me on a quick tour of the shelter (a spacious and well designed space that seems to be bustling this morning!) before heading up to her office. As I sit down in Jennifer’s office I am delighted by her bulletin board—a wonderful collection of posters, flyers, bumper stickers and more that provide a visible herstory of the movement!!

Perhaps most impressive of all is a flip chart page that is posted across the room with no fewer than 25 activities that are planned for October, Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Family Crisis Services has a high level of commitment to educating their community –about the issues of sexual and domestic violence, about the resources that are available, and about healthy relationships.  From a Porch Light Campaign to a PJ party—there is something for everyone!!jenniferbulletinboardsmaller

The new state and VOCA funds are making it possible for Family Crisis Services to expand sexual violence prevention programming from the high school to the middle school, add the service of sheltering pets, and provide professional mental health counseling for trauma survivors who need that vital service. There will also be 4 new staff at the shelter—making 24-hour staff available for the first time!!

From Tazewell I head north and east to visit the Women’s Resource Center of the New River Valley (WRC) in Radford. It is always a pleasure to see my long-time friend Pat Brown and to hear about how programs are evolving at the Women’s Resource Center. The Women’s Resource Center is one of Virginia’s very first sexual and domestic violence agencies and has been a leader in the field since those very early days. I spend some time with Pat talking about an emerging concern of Executive Directors across the state—how to bring their agencies into compliance with the new federal overtime rules by December 1. For agencies that have relied upon advocates to work flexible hours, to be on-call on weekends and overnight, to accompany survivors to the hospital and to court and to stay with them as long as they want and need an advocate, even when that is 6, 10, 12 hours or more the new overtime rules may be very costly to implement. Directors are balancing fair labor practices, which they value highly, with strong advocacy and support for survivors, which they value highly as well!

tazewellsmallerEven in this agency with nearly 40 staff, the VOCA funds and the state funding increases are making a difference. WRC has added Justice System Navigators to work on behalf of survivors in each of the localities they serve, a campus Outreach Specialist to provide dedicated services to students, and other outreach staff who will expand the reach of the agency—including connections with the LGBTQ community.  This was a great way to wrap up my trip—a cold beverage, some yummy nachos (thank you Laura Weaver), and a sense of having come full circle.

Kristi VanAudenhove is the Executive Director of the Virginia Sexual and Domestic Violence Action Alliance. She has been a leader in coalition work, advocacy and policy for nearly 40 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

Meet Ki’ara Montgomery

Why do you do this Anti-Violence work?
There is so much in our society that can be changed with the help of proper education, advocacy work, and appropriate resources. Being a part of that process is an indescribable privilege.

What would you like to learn your first year on your new job? 
I would just like to be a sponge and soak in all of the information that I can.

imagesWhat is the latest book you have read and would you recommend it?
Gender, Sex, and Politics. It is a great compilation of essays that address various aspects of sex and our society. From the policing of bodies to how media effects our views of sex/sexuality, it has a lot of great opinions that can start really interesting conversations.

If you were a vegetable what would you be? Why?
I think I would compare myself to beans. They are so versatile; not only are they vegetables, but also protein and there are so many types of beans.  I like to think of myself as an open-minded person who is able to adapt to many different situations. And I have obtained many skills, experiences, and personality traits that I value.

image-1If you had one box for all your stuff, what would you put in it?
My experiences, my girlfriend (Jaz), and my laptop.

What would be the title of your autobiography?
The Discovery: The Search of Finding One’s Self

What are the 3 things you love about Virginia?

  1. The family I have here.
  2. The friends I’ve made here.
  3. And the experiences I’ve had here.

 

Lastly, what excites you most about your new job at the Action Alliance? 
I’m excited to be able to have the opportunity to help. Everyday I step into the office, I know I’m going in with a purpose. Even if not directly, what I do in that office will somehow be beneficial to someone.

Ki’ara Montgomery is a senior at Virginia Commonwealth University with plans to graduate in May 2017. She is obtaining a bachelor’s degree in public relations, and minors in business and gender, sexuality, and women’s studies. While in school, she has had opportunities with VCU AmeriCorps, Culture4MyKids, VCU School of Education, and the Richmond Raiders. She is currently interning with the Virginia Sexual and Domestic Violence Action Alliance with focuses in development, policy, and communication.

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

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

Step Out of Your Comfort Zone to Protect Your Children’s Comfort

It is often said that growth lies on the other side of our comfort zone. It seems like every success story speaks about the great change that came about once the decision was made to step outside of the familiar. Sometimes we choose to step out of our comfort zone and sometimes we are pushed out. The latter is how some parents feel upon recent news coverage.

trumpsmallTo catch you up, over the past week, Presidential Candidate, Donald Trump has been under fire for comments he was recorded making some years back. In the recording, Trump describes sexually assaulting women in a tone that implies he sees nothing wrong with it. He alludes that he can do whatever he  wants to a woman because of his celebrity status. The presidential candidate was recorded bragging about his attempt to coerce a married woman into having sex with him, kissing women without waiting for their consent, and grabbing them by their vaginas, again, without consent.

 

 

The reason some parents are wary of the news coverage is the awkward situation it creates at home when kids are exposed to such a topic. However, these sorts of situations provide the perfect opportunity  for parents to step outside of  your comfort zone and talk to your children about consent: how to ask for and give consent, and how to recognize when it is or is not being given.

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picture credit: ChicagoNow

 

It may be awkward for both parties to begin, but the more it is discussed the easier it will become to speak about comfortably. Whether or not consent is spoken about in the home, children will learn about it. However, it is up to parents to openly and regularly speak with their children to ensure they are getting the right information regarding consent. If the conversation begins when they are young, it can shape the way they go on to view sexuality.

 

 

The Ask. Listen. Respect video and the Teach Consent website are here to help. These resources were created by the Action Alliance to help parents start conversations with your children about consent. Check out the downloadable Parent Discussion Guide here.

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 Virginia Family Violence and Sexual Assault Statewide Hotline is available 24/7/365 as are its live chat and texting options.

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

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

 

 

Safety and Justice for All: Inside the Action Alliance’s Unique New Resource to Address Campus Gender-Based Violence

 

All college students have the right to learn and live in an educational environment where they are safe and treated equally. This is the overarching spirit of federal and state legislation governing campus gender-based violence response. It is also a core belief of the Action Alliance. The presence of sexual violence, dating/domestic violence, and stalking threatens this right. Institutional and societal oppressions compound the negative effects of violence on students of color and other marginalized groups.

Over the past 5 years, the Action Alliance has consistently heard from Virginia campuses that they need more resources to effectively address the complex maze of campus gender-based violence regulations. Community Sexual and Domestic Violence Agencies (SDVAs) have said they want to effectively support student survivors and work with campuses on prevention initiatives, but do not always have access to the campus-specific information or resources to do so. Based on these conversations, Action Alliance staff members and I began work on a resource to fulfill those needs. We focused on three specific areas: institution-wide trauma-informed responses, racial justice oriented systems and responses, and concrete examples of institutions that had implemented successful policies and programs.

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Safety and Justice for All: Best Practices for Virginia Campuses Addressing Gender-Based Violence is the culmination of this work. As there are already numerous best practices guides and model policies available, we wanted to make a unique contribution to existing resources. Our guide specifically focuses on addressing gender-based violence in trauma-informed and racial justice oriented ways. It is also one of the few guides that includes concrete examples of how institutions and organizations have implemented recommendations. The examples are critical because they help campus and community professionals begin conversations on how to implement the recommendations in their own context.

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We created two versions of Safety and Justice for All; one general version and one specific to community colleges. The structure of the guides is the same and essence of the recommendations are the same; however, the community college edition addresses the unique context of community colleges. We adapted the wording of several recommendations to address community-college specific concerns and also utilized community college examples whenever possible. To our knowledge, this is the only gender-based violence best practice guide specific to community colleges.

In both guides, we present key recommendations for six groups: administrators; advocates; faculty and other instructional employees; Title IX coordinators and campus disciplinary professionals; campus law enforcement and security officers; and prevention specialists. The guides include information for both campus and community SDVA professionals and highlight the importance of dynamic and mutually beneficial partnerships between campuses and community SDVAs.

Examples for Prevention Specialists-lower res.jpgWhile we designed the guides specifically for Virginia, we believe they can also be useful for campus and community agencies in any state. We hope you find these guides helpful and that they inspire you to keep working for change. Together, we can make sure there is truly safety and justice for all students on our campuses and in our communities.

Jen Underwood wrote Safety and Justice for All: Best Practices for Addressing Campus Gender-Based Violence. She is a campus gender-based violence consultant and is also a PhD student at Virginia Commonwealth University studying campus gender-based violence prevention.

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

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

Community Level Prevention – A Vision for Long-term Success

Why Focus On Community Level Prevention?

Historically, the solution to end violence is focused on a top-down approach to solving violence. Communities that face oppression have not been a part of the conversations and actions to make change in their communities. The Prevention Team at the Action Alliance, is working hard to make sure that their experiences inform our anti-oppression work to end sexual and intimate partner violence.   Sexism, Racism, and overall rape culture are some mechanisms of oppression that are weaved in to the thread of society and are threats to the health of many individuals. It is important to address and identify these mechanisms that continue to oppress these populations because this oppression is a factor in what perpetuates violence.

 

Social Determinants of Health

The Social Determinants of Health (SDOH) are the conditions in which people are born, grow, work, live, and age, and the wider set of forces and systems shaping the conditions of daily life. These forces and systems include economic policies and systems, development agendas, social norms, social policies and political systems (World Health Organization, 2016).

 

THRIVE-the Tools for Health and Resilience in Vulnerable Environments

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Image credit: /www.preventioninstitute.org/tools/

Developed by the Prevention Institute, THRIVE is a tool that have proven to be valuable in cultivating an understanding among stakeholders and enables communities to determine how to improve health and safety, and promote health equity.

It is a framework for understanding how structural drivers, such as racism, play out at the community level in terms of the social-cultural, physical/built, and economic/ educational environments. We call these community-level indicators the community determinants of health. In addition to being a framework, THRIVE is also a tool for engaging community members and practitioners in assessing the status of community determinants, prioritizing them, and taking action to change them in order to improve health, safety, and health equity.

The Prevention Summit is a 1-day prevention training focused on advancing community-level strategies to prevent sexual and intimate partner violence in Virginia. This training will utilize the World Health Organization’s Social Determinants of Health framework in order to explore both the conditions contributing to violence and successful multidisciplinary approaches to achieving community health and wellness in communities that have various needs but historically have barriers to accessing places at the decision making table. Trainers will draw from movements in other states and public health arenas while sharing best-practices and strategies for creating lasting community and societal level impacts in our work to end violence.

Register now for our Prevention Summit on October 19! Click here for details.

Leslie Conway is the Prevention Coordinator for the state of Virginia. Prior to working at the Action Alliance, Leslie gained experience coordinating primary prevention initiatives at a local program and developing a peer educator program in the local high school and faith community. As someone who understands the lasting consequences of witnessing the trauma that comes with domestic violence, she is committed to finding ways to resist and prevent all forms of violence.

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

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

Awareness + Action = Social Change

October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month; whether you are doing paid/volunteer work in a Domestic Violence Program or going it alone in your struggle to disrupt the patriarchy, your efforts are critical.

You, dear visionary and brave souls, are part of a larger movement to undermine domination and oppression and replace it with compassion and radical connection. This is good stuff, and we are so glad you are here.

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NRCDV

Our friends at the National Resource Center on Domestic Violence, the National Network to End Domestic Violence, and Move to End Violence are allies in this work too, and have a wealth of resources to help you stay present, connected, and moving forward this month and in the future.

The National Resource Center on Domestic Violence has cooked up some delicious webinars this month: October 11 “Keeping your Cup Full: Self-Care is Essential to Trauma-Informed Advocacy”, will offer strategies for dealing with daily work related stress, increase awareness of the issue of vicarious trauma, and provide ideas in order to gain organizational support to help sustain and support those working with survivors of trauma.

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NRCDV

Also check out the October 25 “Girls for Gender Equity: Centering Girls of Color within the Racial and Gender Justice Movement of the 21st Century”, where you can learn about two organizations’ radical and visionary approaches to promoting racial and gender justice and the critical importance it has to addressing and preventing domestic and sexual violence. Download NRCDV’s entire #DVAM2016 events flyer here.

The National Network Against Domestic Violence sponsors the National Week of Action October 16-22. NNEDV invites you to add your voice to the national conversation by participating in National Week of Action activities, such as: Conversation Sunday, Media Monday, Tie-in Tuesday, Write-in Wednesday, #PurpleThursday, Film Friday, and Shout-out Saturday. Check out the multitude of additional NNEDV #DVAM2016 ideas and offerings here.

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NNEDV

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Move to End Violence

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, let’s talk about you. This work is long-haul, expansive, heartbreaking, life-giving, joyous, and hard, and we need you here—really here—for the long-term. To make that happen, resilience is key. Move to End Violence promotes self-care as a core practice of movement building, and has an abundance of resources, like the 21 Day Self-Care Challenge to help keep your batteries fully charged so you can show up in all your glorious awesomeness Every. Single. Day.

Kate McCord is the Communications Director for the Action Alliance, a member of the National Domestic Violence Awareness Project Advisory Group, and is currently participating in Move to End Violence’s work with state coalitions to interrupt state violence against communities of color.

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

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

Shelter a Pet, Save a Life

Did you know that 2/3 of all households have pets? That is a lot of people. Did you also know that people have in fact died because the places they sought refuge from would or could not shelter their pets?

Remember Hurricane Katrina and the startling images of people forced to abandon their pets or of people who refused to leave their pets behind?  This catastrophe led to a shift in how service systems responded to families with pets in times of crisis.

Yet we have a long way to go, especially in Virginia where very few shelters accept pets. We can change this.

logo3-smWe recently had the privilege of having renowned animal advocate and founder of Sheltering Animals and Families Together, Allie Phillips Esq., present a webinar on how shelters can work towards sheltering the pets of survivors of sexual and domestic violence. During the webinar, Allie shared that she gets many emails daily from survivors asking for help in leaving an abusive situation – help that involves NOT leaving their pets behind to be tortured, killed, or abused. To have to choose between their own safety and that of a beloved pet is one that no one should have to make.

Understandably, some shelters have concerns about costs and the practicality of actually allowing pets in their residences. Many of these concerns were addressed in Allie’s webinar and she offers real-life examples of shelters who are making it work all over the country. Funding issues, vet care, physical accommodations and more are addressed in the webinar. Allie does an excellent job of breaking down the myths and all the reasons why it’s not possible to all the ways it IS possible.

We encourage everyone to take 1 hour and watch this resource-packed webinar and make plans to change how intake and safety planning are done so that pets are part of the equation. Get your communities involved as well! Everyone from vets, to animal shelters, to animal control, to law enforcement, to churches and more have a vested interest in saving the lives of survivors who just want to keep their pets with them and safe.

To illustrate the dire need for us to act, consider quotes from actual survivors:

“I stayed alive over a fish. When I had nothing else, I had a fish. It kept me going.

“If I had known about [this pet housing program] ahead of time, that would have saved my animals through the years that I’ve lost because of my abuser.”

The recorded version of the webinar is here. And if you are interested in doing more, reach out to us at training@vsdvalliance.org. We would love to exchange ideas, resources, and plans so that we can all work together to serve more survivors with pets.

Laura Bennett is the Training Institute Coordinator for the Virginia Sexual and Domestic Violence Action Alliance. She is the mother of 2 girls, 4 cats, and 3 dogs. She has worked in the nonprofit sector for over 15 years and is passionate about helping nonprofits build their capacity to carry out their missions. A native of New York state, she is happy to be living in the warm South.

To check out the conferences and training that Laura helps produce, click here.

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

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