Resource Release: New 2020 Virginia Law

The 2020 General Assembly Session is officially behind us. However, the work of Virginia’s legislators and policy leaders is far from over. As we make our way through a deadly global pandemic and provide ongoing support to the global uprising in defense of Black lives, important decisions about state funding, voter access, healthcare, criminal justice reform, and public safety are still being made every day.

Our work to support survivors and build thriving communities has become infinitely more complex.  Communities are experiencing limited access to resources. Survivors are having to weigh the risks of exposure to Coronavirus versus sheltering in place with their abusers. As a movement, we are grappling with questions like “how can we address harm, accountability, and safety for all?” In all of this, the Action Alliance is working hard to amplify survivors’ voices and advocates’ needs in the policy world and beyond. New resources made available at this time include the #StaySafeVA public awareness campaign, the Rise Fund, and our COVID-19 Response Resources. We encourage you to (as much as possible) stay plugged in, stay hopeful, and know that we are here to help!

Text says "New 2020 Virginia Law: A legal guide for sexual and domestic violence advocates and survivors in Virginia" with background image of the Virginia General Assembly building's entrance.To this end, the NEW 2020 VIRGINIA LAW resource provides a summary of the legislative accomplishments that occurred between January and April and those policy decisions that we expect sexual and domestic violence advocates to be able to count on in a post-pandemic Commonwealth. (A summary document is also available here.) Our field saw several big wins in 2020, including:

  • the initiation of a new sexual and domestic violence state prevention fund,
  • firearms certification for respondents of permanent protective orders,
  • survivor-led housing protections for sexual and domestic violence survivors,
  • policies to increase access to forensic nursing throughout Virginia, and more.

We entered 2020 with a new Democratic majority in the House, Senate, and in the Governor’s mansion – this was the first time in more than 20 years that Democrats had a chance to fully pursue their agenda. As such, there was no shortage of bills filed or hot topics to debate. Legislators introduced 3,001 bills this session with 45% of these passing both chambers and ultimately being signed into law.

Though our work in sexual and domestic violence advocacy and prevention is far from over, we want to pause and celebrate our collective accomplishments and thank you for your steadfast advocacy at the General Assembly (and beyond!).

Without your support, none of our work advocating for survivors in the legislature would be possible. Thank you! Seriously.

For more information on bills of interest, the Action Alliance’s 2020 policy priorities, and news on the upcoming special session in August 2020, see the Public Policy section of the Action Alliance’s website. Additionally, if you would like to access our recorded webinar debriefing the 2020 General Assembly Session featuring guests Adele McClure, Director of the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus and Dr. Vanessa Walker Harris, Deputy Director of Virginia Health & Human Services, click here. As always, if you have any feedback, questions, or would like to get involved, feel free to drop us a line at policy@vsdvalliance.org.


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.

Action Alliance Statement on Police Brutality and Working for Racial Justice

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Action Alliance Statement on Police Brutality and Working for Racial Justice 

The Action Alliance explicitly denounces the senseless and unjust murders of Black people at the hands of law enforcement, as well as the continued threats against their lives and well-being for simply existing in this nation. Pain, sadness, anger, frustration, exhaustion, and fear are only a few of the words to describe the heaviness that sits on our hearts as we continue to learn of more Black lives being stolen by police brutality, including Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Tony McDade, George Floydall those who came before, and all those who may come after. 

As advocates for survivors of sexual and domestic violence, we know too well the tactics of oppression used by people to control and abuse partners and family members and see those same tactics replicated time and again by the police to control and abuse neighborhoods where Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) reside. These tactics include intimidation, physical and sexual violence, and gaslighting through minimizing, denying, and victim-blaming. 

Racism and white supremacy have been used for centuries to reinforce sexual and domestic violence; therefore, work to achieve racial justice is inextricably linked to the work to eradicate sexual and domestic violence. The Action Alliance commits to centering racial, reproductive, and economic justice in our efforts to achieve gender justice. This requires us to educate ourselves and others about the real-life impacts that violence has on BIPOC communities. It requires that we continue to learn how white supremacy and white complacency perpetuates, upholds, and reinforces that violence. It asks us to speak up and speak out when we see these systems at work in our families, workplaces, government, places of worship, community spaces, neighborhoods, and selves. It requires deliberate, intentional, and constant action. 

When we center racial justice — when we create systems that provide shelter, food, mental and physical healthcare, livable wages, and educational access to BIPOC communities — we all are more likely to flourish. The ability for BIPOC families and communities to thrive is intrinsically tied to thriving for all of us.  

Now is a time to lean into the discomfort of acknowledging the ways that white supremacy and racial inequalities have created opportunities for many, even in our own field of work, and placed barriers in front of others. In this moment, we are called to re-examine the ways in which we contribute to injustice, including our movement’s investment in systems of policing and incarceration which often increase violence and trauma, rather than reduce it.  

Black lives are beautiful and sacred. Black lives unequivocally matter. As a coalition, we must acknowledge our complicity in upholding violent systemssystems that refuse to see the beauty and sacredness of Black livesand do the work necessary to repair.  

We call in Virginia’s Sexual & Domestic Violence Agencies to join usWe call in our fellow advocates to account for the ways in which our movement has failed BIPOC survivors and to organize in the service of listening to and meeting the needs of BIPOC survivors and communities. We call in our fellow advocates to ensure that survivors have access to voting and to BIPOC-led resources in their communities.  

We ask all who support the idea of racial justice to help make it a reality by: 

  • Supporting BIPOC-led organizers and organizations working for justice and liberation like Southerners on New GroundSisterSong, and Black Lives Matter; 
  • Supporting efforts to ensure full participation in our democratic processes, like New Virginia Majority; 
  • Assisting with voter registration efforts and advocating for full access to absentee ballots so people may vote without fear of becoming sick; and 
  • Continuing to learn and teach others about the fight for racial justice in this country. 

We recommit to amplifying and centering Black voices as well as other marginalized communities. We recommit to deconstructing the many ways in which we uphold and embolden white supremacist ideology, and actively working to dismantle them. The voices of Black and brown people will be silenced no more. We will amplify and center those voices in all we do and all we are. We encourage you to lean into the discomfort with usWe choose to do the work of racial justice every day. We will hold each other up as we do this work together. Change must come swiftly, and just like peace, change begins at home.  

We Need More Than Words

Book cover with blue skies and white mountains, with words "Something needs to change."With the recent assassinations of Black people at the hands of the police and racists in this country, there have been calls for solidarity and the need for allyship. The assumption is that we are only asking for well-meaning White folks to do more, learn more, and be more active in fighting white supremacy and racism. While this is true, we need more than fight. We need change. We need to be able to be seen as whole free people feeling real emotions inside of a country that was created by white supremacy with the intention of having control over our bodies in life and death. We need to be who we are unapologetically. We need to be represented in spaces that have historically been occupied and controlled by White people and not have our experiences ignored or silenced.

We need change. We need to be able to be seen as whole free people feeling real emotions inside of a country that was created by white supremacy with the intention of having control over our bodies in life and death.

Black people and people of color have not been extended the privileges to enter those spaces and have people acknowledge what is happening to them in this county. We often have to fix our faces, tones of voice, and emotions to get the job done and proceed as if all is well because when we do speak up and out they are seen as trouble makers and then again we are silenced. We want to be able to be angry about how we are consistently impacted by all the racism and frequent microaggressions in our workspaces and the communities we live in. We want to openly mourn seeing the people that look like us killed either by the disproportionate negative impacts that this society has created or by the police that are supposed to “protect” us. We want to be seen in movements that have historically and presently continue to erase our presence and foundational contributions.

In this field of gender violence we collectively have fought for people to have autonomy over their bodies and the end to interpersonal violence. Yet, when it comes to the disproportionate impact on Black and Brown bodies, we have become invisible. We have just now in recent years inside of the mainstream spaces of this movement been bold enough to point out these impacts in words but in actions little has changed. We talk about being here for everyone, but the painful truth is that we are not. This movement has been hypocritical in its actions.

We have just now in recent years inside of the mainstream spaces of this movement been bold enough to point out these impacts in words but in actions little has changed.

The call for allyship is nice and needed but what we really need is for your actions to speak louder than the memes, retweets, shares, and repeating the words of Black people and people of color. We need change in our environments that push us out when we speak up. We need real dialogue that includes us in the “hard” conversations about race. We need you to do more than read books about privilege. We need you to look inside and think about the many ways that your non-action in speaking up about state violence and committing forms of it in the spaces that you frequent are also violent. Yes, we need you to learn AND we need you to change.

One person's hands holding another's hand in support.

To the survivors and advocates that are Black and people of color, we see you, you are whole and are loved.


Cortney Calixte is the Movement and Capacity-Building Director at the Action Alliance. Her main focuses are underserved populations, social justice movements and their intersections with advocacy.