Meet Laura Chow Reeve, Youth Resilience Coordinator!

The Action Alliance is thrilled to introduce to you Laura Chow Reeve, our new Youth Resilience Coordinator! Laura comes to us from LA, Philly, and most recently Jacksonville Florida. She took a few moments to talk with us about her path, her loves, and what lights her up about prevention work. 

Laura, what’s your story?

I’ve moved across the country, bouncing from coast to coast, three times. I’ve lived in Los Angeles and Philadelphia, but most recently, I lived and soaked up some magic in Jacksonville, FL (and its surrounding natural springs).

While in Jacksonville I worked directly with LGBTQ+ survivors of sexual violence, and I have always been invested in working with youth and doing social justice and anti-oppression work. For the past 6 years, I have worked with Girls Rock Camps, programs that use music and creative expression as tools to fight for intersectional gender justice. I first started at Girls Rock Philly and continued to do work with the Girls Rock Camp Alliance, an international network of over 100 camps, in various roles. (I encourage you to check out your local Girls Rock or Queer Rock camp! I’m a proud supporter of Girls Rock! RVA here in Richmond!)

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I have a MA in Asian American Studies from UCLA where I completed a collection of short stories that explores intimacies of the queer mixed-race body through magical, speculative, and fabulist forms. While at UCLA I also helped co-found a workshop for writers of color on campus and taught undergraduate Gender Studies and Asian American Studies Classes.

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I’m currently working on a collection of short stories and have a novel project still very much in its infancy. My writing has been published online and has been anthologized. One of the most exciting moments in my writing career was when LeVar Burton read my short story “1,000-Year-Old Ghosts” on his podcast LeVar Burton Reads. I am also the Southern editor of Joyland, an online magazine that publishes fiction and non-fiction.

What lights you up about prevention work?

For me, prevention work is anti-oppression work and vice versa. I love having big movement building conversations, using our brains and hearts to imagine the world we want to live in and then build towards that vision together. I also love the day-to-day, working on new curriculum, sharing resources, and supporting folks doing prevention work in their communities. I feel fired up when we talk about the ways in which prevention work is connected to transformative justice, racial justice, economic justice, reproductive justice and queer liberation, and even more so when we start doing that work with other folks in our communities.

If you were an animal (besides a human), what kind of animal would you be and why?

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There is this short story by Ken Liu that I love called “Good Hunting” about shape-shifting fox spirits (huli jing, Chinese mythological creatures/spirits). I want to be a shape-shifting fox spirit.

What’s one goal you have for your first year as the new Youth Resilience Coordinator?

I’m excited to explore new ways to engage with youth in our space, whether that look like a camp, youth training opportunities, or a youth advisory council! I’m about to head to North Carolina to observe NCCASA’s Young Advocates Institute in July to get some inspiration. I hope to dedicate lots of energy into clarifying how we make space for youth leadership and voices in our work at the Alliance.


Laura can be reached at lchowreeve@vsdvalliance.org or 804-377-0335 x 2109. Drop her a line and welcome her to Virginia!

On The Violence Against Women Act: Ensuring We Don’t Harm Those We Seek to Help

“VAWA has changed the landscape for victims who once suffered in silence. Victims of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking have been able to access services, and a new generation of families and justice system professionals has come to understand that domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking are crimes that our society will not tolerate.” –  The National Domestic Violence Hotline

The Violence Against Women Act is up for reauthorization in 2018. While helping to establish essential, coordinated responses to sexual and intimate partner violence, some advocates believe VAWA’s affiliation with the criminal legal system has also resulted in unintended consequences that harm survivors. VAWA reauthorization this year offers us an opportunity to create a VAWA that gets us closer to the world we want.

THE GOOD: VAWA PROVIDES MANY IMPORTANT, LIFE-SAVING SERVICES

First established in 1994, the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) has had a lasting impact on survivors of sexual and domestic violence, as well as the communities serving them. The Act has provided life-changing services for the survivors of violence. These services include:

Through these services, VAWA has not only worked to prevent violence through tools such as education, but also played a significant role in easing the burden on survivors. This is exemplified through its housing protections, as well as its ban on states charging rape survivors for forensic sexual assault examinations, among many other provisions.

According to data from the Bureau of Justice Statistics, the rate of IPV against females [1] declined 53% between 1993 and 2008, after the passage of VAWA. Similarly, the IPV rate against males declined 54%. Furthermore, between 1993 and 2007, the number of homicide victims killed by intimate partners fell 29%. Based on data from the National Crime Victimization Survey, between 1993 and 2008, the reported rate of rape or sexual assault against females declined by 70%, and the reported rate of rape or sexual assault against males declined by 36%.

THIS YEAR, VAWA IS DUE FOR REAUTHORIZATION – A PERFECT OPPORTUNITY FOR REVISIONS TO THE ACT

Every five years, VAWA expires; with the last reauthorization of VAWA taking place in 2013, the Act is due for reauthorization this year. Over the past two decades since the initial passage of VAWA, the Act has been successfully reauthorized three times – each time with a set of revisions. VAWA’s first reauthorization took place in 2000 and allowed for additional protections for immigrants who are survivors of violence, a new program for survivors in need of transitional housing, funds for rape prevention and education, and an inclusion of survivors of dating violence. In 2005, VAWA’s reauthorization added programs for indigenous people who are survivors of violence. VAWA’S latest reauthorization, in 2013, added provisions targeting human trafficking, provisions for LGBTQ individuals, and provisions for tribal courts to have jurisdiction over domestic or dating violence offenses committed by non-Native people.

THE BAD: VAWA HAS HAD UNINTENDED CONSEQUENCES THAT COULD HARM THE VERY PEOPLE IT SEEKS TO HELP

While VAWA has generally grown more inclusive and comprehensive over the years, it has also had unintended and unfortunate consequences. Passed with the intent to recognize and treat domestic violence as a serious crime rather than a private family matter, VAWA has contributed to the expansion of the role of the criminal legal system in cases of gender-based violence. Furthermore, the Act “encouraged states to adopt mandatory arrest policies that allowed domestic violence cases to move forward without the cooperation of victims.” One of the unintended consequences of such policies is that if police are unable to detect the primary aggressor at the scene of an altercation, they can simply arrest both parties – thus further contributing to additional trauma for victims of violence.

Mandatory arrest policies can also discourage some survivors from reporting domestic violence due to the fear that their partners, who may be the family’s only earner, will be immediately arrested and jailed. This means that domestic violence victims can actually be in even more danger, as they feel unable to seek help. In fact, a Harvard study, which used FBI Supplementary Homicide Reports, found that mandatory arrest laws actually increased intimate partner homicides – thus “harming the very people they seek to help.”

ADVOCATES SUGGEST REALLOCATING MORE FUNDS TO SERVICES FOR SURVIVORS INSTEAD OF INVOLVEMENT IN THE CRIMINAL LEGAL SYSTEM

Many advocates hope the next reauthorization will disconnect VAWA’s funds from its close involvement in a criminal legal system that often marginalizes people of color and breaks up families, thus leaving people more vulnerable to violence. Researchers have noted that VAWA’s connection to the criminal legal system fails to address the actual causes of intimate partner violence (IPV), which are highly correlated with economic distress. Additionally, the Washington State Coalition Against Domestic Violence notes that “lack of employment opportunities, low wages, lack of affordable housing and social supports such as childcare dramatically affect the ability of battered women to escape violence and rebuild their lives.” If VAWA funding devoted to the criminal legal system could instead be reallocated to services – such as transitional housing – that help survivors of IPV leave abusive partners, we would be closer to achieving a victim-centered approach and ensuring that, in our response to violence, we do not promote a cycle of incarceration that ultimately results in more violence.

As we envision the future we hope to live in, we dream up a world where everyone is able to live safely without the threat or fear of domestic and sexual violence. Safety also means a nation where mass incarceration no longer traps more than 2.2 million people behind bars, leaving them and their families vulnerable to economic hardship and more violence. By reauthorizing VAWA this year, and de-carcerating it in the process, we can be one step closer to making this dream a reality.


Maryum Elnasseh is a rising junior at Virginia Commonwealth University, where she is double-majoring in journalism and political science, with a concentration in civil rights. At the Action Alliance, Maryum is an intern for the Real Story Internship. She hopes to use her voice as a tool to ignite social change.

[1] The report does not address transgender and gender non-conforming individuals.

Featured image source: http://inamerica.blogs.cnn.com/2013/01/04/debate-over-violence-against-women-act-centers-on-the-vulnerable/

Justice. Healing. Liberation. 2018

From May 2nd through 4th, in Glen Allen, Virginia, the Action Alliance hosted our Justice. Healing. Liberation. conference for 140 advocates, law enforcement, preventionists, attorneys, case managers, and more. We held 32 workshops presented by over 40 presenters, a panel of 5 incredible storytellers, and 3 inspiring keynotes. Our conference included daily yoga sessions, two passionate performances by the Latin Ballet of Virginia, and a fundraising paint night hosted by Lynn Black from Paint for Good.

“[The conference] opened my eyes to struggles our clients go through and how we can help them cope with it.” -Conference attendee

We began on Wednesday, May 2nd, with a Trauma 101 session that offered our attendees a base understanding of different types of trauma, how trauma manifests, and its impact on the brain and body. Then, we dove into the nitty gritty. Attendees could choose from five different workshops during any time slot throughout the course of the day. Workshops covered topics from supporting human trafficking survivors, to looking at the intersections of trauma, oppression, and racial justice, and walking through a case study of intimate partner violence from the perspective of a law enforcement officer.

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Arianna Sessoms from James Madison University delivers a workshop about how to integrate racial justice practices into trauma response.

In the evening, the Latin Ballet of Virginia put on a vibrant performance that brought us back together as a group and re-energized us after a long day of learning. Our keynote, Dr. Dawn O’Malley, Fellow at the Child Trauma Academy, taught us about the history of brain science, and how critical the last 20 years of research have been for our understanding of how trauma impacts the brain. We concluded our evening with a dinner reception with distinguished guests, including Attorney General Mark Herring, Secretary of Health and Human Services, Daniel Carey, Deputy Secretary of Health and Human Services, Gena Boyle, and Commissioner of the Department of Social Services, Duke Storen.

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The Latin Ballet of Virginia

Thursday was focused on the power of storytelling, and how telling our stories can be a critical step in the healing process for survivors, as well as a source of inspiration and guidance for those who have experienced similar struggles. We started out with another performance by the Latin Ballet, whose movement and music told stories of hardship and joy. We even had some audience members and Action Alliance staff join them on stage. Then our keynote, John Richardson-Lauve from ChildSavers spoke to us about how telling one’s story after a traumatic event can foster resilience.

“I just LOVED it.  The food was great, the workshops were very informative, the dancing entertainment was a breath of fresh air and the keynote speakers and panel discussion were inspiring.” -Conference attendee

Next, we hosted our “Storytelling as Transformative Justice” panel, with KJ Delgado from the Virginia Anti-Violence Project, Lieutenant Deuntay Diggs with the Stafford County Sheriff’s Office, Gaynell Sherrod from Virginia Commonwealth University, Rodney Lofton of Diversity Richmond, and Lisette Johnson, writer of Shameless Survivors. We were honored to hear these inspiring individuals share their stories, and learned about how stories can change hearts and move minds. The rest of the afternoon was dedicated to workshops focused on survivor stories, both heard and unheard. Participants had the opportunity to view and discuss the documentary Baltimore Rising, look at the intersections of sex education in the United States, and understand the process of fatality reviews in the state of Virginia.

 “The best part of this conference were all the different workshop options and what they brought to the table for learning, growth and discussion.” -Conference attendee

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Tiffany Turner-Allen from Ujima: The National Center on Violence Against Women in the Black Community

The final day of our conference was focused on emerging trends in the field of sexual and domestic violence, and shifting the way we respond to and prevent violence. Our keynote, Tiffany Turner -Allen from Ujima: The National Center on Violence Against Women in the Black Community, started the day talking about promising practices in “allyship” and her role in life as a truth-teller. This led into our workshop sessions that included topics like “Restorative Justice as a Tool for Healing from Abuse” and “Policing in the 21st Century”. We ended the day with some words of wisdom from our fearless Executive Director, Kristi VanAudenhove, who also happened to be celebrating her birthday the same day. We sang her happy birthday, enjoyed lunch and cake, and said our goodbyes.

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Happy birthday, Kristi!

These three days provided an incredible opportunity to connect, share, and inspire. For everyone who joined us, thank you so much for your energy, stories, and wisdom. We hope that you are able to take these lessons and discussions back to your communities, and we’ll see you in 2019 for our Biennial Retreat!

 


Laurel Winsor is the Events Coordinator at the Virginia Sexual and Domestic Violence Action Alliance. She received her Bachelor of Arts in Social Justice at James Madison University in December, 2016.