It’s Time for Virginia to Invest in Prevention

The end of the year provides many of us with an opportunity to slow down, to reflect on the events of the past year, and to spend time in deep connection, nurturing our relationships with friends, family, and loved ones. It’s a much-needed respite before we slingshot forward into the new year. And 2020 will undoubtedly be a big year. With a newly elected state legislature and the most diverse House and Senate leadership in the history of Virginia’s General Assembly, we are poised to see a brand-new set of possibilities on the horizon. From strategic investments to reduce the maternal mortality rate for black women to electoral access to firearms legislation to the ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment, the role of sexual and domestic violence survivors and advocates couldn’t be more important in moving these possibilities forward.

Just like the legislature, our movement to end sexual and domestic violence is ready for change. Over the course of the past two years, members of the Action Alliance have engaged in a series of strategic visioning sessions where they were asked to imagine the world we are working toward: what will the future look like when we have achieved our goals? what do we need to be focus on now to reach that future? The culmination of these sessions is a new vision for the Action Alliance which centers a radically hopeful future where:

  • birds flying among clouds in the dawnall people reach their full potential,
  • relationships are healthy, equitable, nourishing and joyful,
  • government and community institutions are rooted in equity and justice, and
  • our decisions are grounded in considering the benefit to future generations.

On the heels of this work and in the wake of the 2019 elections, the Action Alliance believes that now is the time for Virginia’s policy leaders to invest in the prevention of sexual and domestic violence.

In 2020, we will ask the legislature to establish the Virginia Sexual and Domestic Violence Prevention Program with a budget request of $5 million per year as initial funding. The program will include dedicated staff positions and new grant programs in the Department of Social Services for intimate partner violence prevention and in the Department of Health for sexual violence prevention. Grant programs will support diverse sexual and domestic violence agencies, including culturally-specific programs to provide sustained prevention programming to communities across Virginia.

If you share our vision for a Virginia where we finally see reductions in the rates of intimate partner violence and sexual violence please make your voice heard. Talk to your legislators about the need to invest in sexual and domestic violence prevention NOW. Contacting your legislators is easy – and it becomes even easier when you use our handy Legislative Advocacy Guide – you can reach out via email, pick up the phone, or make contact on Facebook, Twitter, and in some cases, Instagram. You can find contact info for your legislators here.

A new Virginia Sexual and Domestic Violence Prevention Program will fund vital, evidence-informed activities like:

  • Ongoing school-based and after-school education teaching young people the skills required to build healthy relationships;
  • Education for parents and families – in coordination with Community Services Boards, in-home visitors, and allied professionals – to foster positive parent-child attachment, support developmentally appropriate communication and expression in youth, and build social-emotional learning skills;
  • Training and tools for school administrators, faith leaders, and peers on ways to create healthy, violence-free environments – including recognizing and responding to harmful behaviors that may be risk factors for future violence;
  • The coordination of multi-disciplinary community coalitions that address issues like VA Family-life Education (FLE) instruction, trauma-informed service provision, and community safety and cohesion.

Programs like these are the cornerstones for ensuring community-wide health and resilience—a key factor in preventing future violence. It is time for Virginia to invest in a robust and effective sexual and domestic violence prevention infrastructure. Preventing sexual and domestic violence is a necessary investment now and for our future.

In many ways, Virginia is on the brink of monumental change. But it will take all of us to help craft and guide this change. So here’s what we’re asking you to do:

Looking up at a skylight dome of an ornately decorated hall overlaid with text: "Join us for Legislative Advocacy Day, January 29, 2020, 8am-2:30pm, Richmond, VA, with virtual legislative advocacy happening statewide!"

 

  • Register and join the Action Alliance for Legislative Advocacy Day on Wednesday, January 29th, 2020!  It’s always an amazing experience to see survivors, advocates, and allies roaming the halls of the General Assembly lifting the voices of survivors and advocating for policies that will help prevent violence and ensure conditions where every person has the opportunity to thrive.
  • Talk to your legislators about the need to invest in sexual and domestic violence prevention NOW. Contacting your legislators is easy – and it becomes even easier when you use our handy Legislative Advocacy Guide – you can reach out via email, pick up the phone, or make contact on Facebook, Twitter, and in some cases, Instagram. You can find contact info for your legislators here. The more our policy leaders hear from us about this issue, the more likely they are to take action and make significant investments.
  • Sign up to receive Policy Action Alerts from us. Be the first to hear about our latest Action Alerts, legislative events, and the work we’re doing to create safer and healthier communities for everyone. We promise we won’t spam you, we’ll never share your personal information, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

Policy leaders want to hear from you about how investing in prevention, reducing offender access to firearms, expanding access to trauma-informed healthcare for survivors, and other issues that are important to survivors will help to create a Virginia where all families and individuals are safe and cared for! You can see the full list of the Action Alliance’s 2020 legislative priorities here.

We’re excited to work with you to expand the frame of the possible in Virginia in 2020.


Jonathan Yglesias is the Policy Director at the Virginia Sexual & Domestic Violence Action Alliance where he works with a team of advocates, movement minds, attorneys, and passionate policy nerds to coordinate the Action Alliance’s public policy efforts on behalf of survivors, sexual and domestic violence agencies, and communities in Virginia seeking to improve the prevention of and response to sexual and domestic violence.

On the Occasion of Linda’s Retirement

Dictionaries define retirement as “withdrawing from one’s position or occupation.”  How does one retire from being an advocate?

A smiling woman sitting at a desk by a computer with a vase of sunflowers.

Linda greeting folks at the front desk of the Action Alliance.

The inimitable Linda Winston will be retiring from the Action Alliance at the end of December after twenty years at the coalition. Linda and I came up in the movement to end sexual violence and intimate partner violence during the same time period and our paths have intertwined for nearly four decades.  Thinking back, there are a few things we learned that Linda carried with her all through these years, things that have made her an awesome advocate.

Linda learned to listen (deeply) and believe; she knows that each person has a story that must be heard and respected and she has never hesitated to give of herself to listen and value others. She learned that one role of an advocate is to help survivors to always have a “Plan B” just in case “Plan A” doesn’t work—and she continues to pull Plans B, C and D out of her pocket as needed around the coalition offices (after a brief period of grumbling)!

The training we received forty years ago helped us to recognize the depth of the roots of white supremacist patriarchy upholding violence, and also gave us a few of the tools to work on digging them out while making room for the deeper, healthier, indigenous roots to grow.  Linda loved the practice of caucusing—those with a minority voice coming together to amplify a message to the majority.  She taught many a young activist the value and the process of building consensus. She embraced feminist politics and the power of a protest. That won’t be ending anytime soon.  Linda will always be an advocate!

Still, she does get to retire from her position as Assistant to the Executive Director, and we celebrate her retirement with great joy (and a few tears, and a bit of worry about how we will get along without her!)  Linda has approached retirement the way that she has approached every position she has ever held at the Action Alliance, and there have been a few. First, she gave us three years notice. She’s not impulsive!  As the date got closer (about a year away) Linda worked with a coach to talk through her hopes and fears for the transition, to make some plans and set some goals, and then she set to work achieving every one of those goals.  Linda likes to talk things through—and make a plan!! Then she started going through 20 years of accumulated files (hers and everyone else’s!), recycling and shredding and archiving and making carefully organized stacks to pass along to the rest of us. She sure was not gonna leave a mess!

Group of women standing in two rows behind a table at the first Lifetime Members' Event.

Lifetime Members gather at the Action Alliance’s first Lifetime Members’ Luncheon.

In recent months Linda has stopped paying attention in meetings.  It isn’t uncommon for her to tell us to just “do whatever you want” with a laugh as she realizes she won’t have to implement decisions being made. Every once in awhile she makes a death joke – and we’re all trying to catch up with this newfound area of humor.  Evenings and weekends Linda has been hanging out with a new group of folks with whom she’ll be spending more time after she leaves the Action Alliance—Hospice Volunteers and Death Doulas.  Linda will be joining their ranks as an advocate for individuals, families and communities as they face the end of life—opening up options for experiencing death as a natural and important part of our human experience.

Linda is a Lifetime Member and lifetime advocate and we’ll be seeing her around—hopefully for years to come.  We will be honoring her this week, and we invite you to join us by making a contribution in her honor. She also loves an old-fashioned card, so if you would like to send one with your good wishes for her retirement you can mail it to 1118 West Main Street, Richmond, VA 23220!


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.