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.

ti-microsite

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!

proj-horizon-tor-group

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

 

_________________________________________________________________

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

 

 

 

 

 

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. 

_________________________________________________________________

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

The Light of Moons Above

Richard Wright’s poetic description of leaving the South to “see if it can grow differently …respond to the warmth of other suns and, perhaps, to bloom” could not be more resonant than at this cultural moment. His words speak to a longing for opportunity that has been fleeting for many of us, particularly Black folk. Wright’s imagery also reflects the profound uncertainty that is widely-felt and the collective fragility that it exposes that we can no longer deny. Right now, we live within a world where it hurts to exist, and yet,

shaman imageThis week the Action Alliance hosts the Warmth of Other Suns Conference, of which the title’s significance looms large. I am humbled to be part of a supportive gathering for survivors and advocates. Our intention to hold healing space, which calls upon Richard Wright’s cautious hopefulness, imprints on my soul as a Black folk healer. While the promise of the Great Migration for our fore-mothers has not been fulfilled, our commitment to their liberation, and that of our own and our children’s remains resolute.

My hope is that our communion can invite the The Light of the Moons Above. It is, by contrast to Wright’s vision, a metaphor for healing wherever you are. Indigenous Black traditions, like other nature-based spirituality’s, associate the moon with transformative feminine power.

richaelMother Moon ushers in the deep intimacy of night-time where we encounter all of our shadow selves. Her great luminosity gifts us privacy for our suffering, opportunity for refuge, and means for escape. Her vessel represents the “dark night of the soul” but too, affords us a cycle for reflection and preparation. Moon’s medicine aided my enslaved ancestors to survive and her energies will continue our healing today across time and space.

Whether we follow the sun or moon, we can be assured that a search for realities better than the ones we occupy is a wise strategy against the backdrop of such an explosively vulnerable period. I look forward to bringing together our power, resilience, and wisdom in service to bloom.

Richael Faithful will be speaking at the Warmth of Other Suns Conference this week. You can find out more information here.

Richael Faithful is an African-American healer raised in Virginia. She/They serves as Shaman-in-Residence at Freed Bodyworks, a body-positive wellness center based in Washington DC, and birthed Conjure! Freedom Collective, a group of creative healers committed to healing trauma from U.S. slavery, ending racial caste, and building a love politic. Her/their main areas of practice are energy healing, spiritual counseling, and sacred drumming. Faithful, before her/their integration as a traditional healer, was a community organizer and peoples’ civil rights lawyer. http://www.richaelfaithful.com/

*All pictures courtesy of Richael Faithful.

_________________________________________________________________

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

We Can Do Hard Things

 In the wake of recent headlines, you may be asking yourself, like many of us: What can I do? Where do I start?

 Violence against African-Americans is not new – but these days it is in the forefront of the media and our growing collective conscious. We, as Virginians, can look back across history and see the cumulative effects of trauma experienced by African-Americans. We see this compounded over time and connected to experiences of and responses to sexual assault and domestic violence. We wonder about our capacity as individuals, as advocates, as communities to make lasting change, to create space for healing. We think – this is too big, too hard. We think, what can I possibly do anyway?

Our response is this – everyone can do something. Not everyone can or will march in rallies. Not everyone will work with legislators and policymakers. Not everyone will write inspired editorials that capture national attention. But everyone can do something.

i can do hard things       ***********************

We invite you to commit, right now, to spending August 10-12 in Richmond with us at The Warmth of Other Suns conference.

This groundbreaking conference is the first of its kind in Virginia and is a must-attend for anyone working in the anti-violence field. It is not limited to people of specific ethnic or racial identities and it is not limited to people who are far along in anti-oppression work.

You will learn. You will think. You will engage. You will be inspired. You will consider again and again (and then re-consider) the connections between racism, oppression, privilege, and violence towards our African-American communities in Virginia.

And by doing all of these things, you play a vital role in preventing, healing, and ending the violence that has afflicted our communities for far too long.

We look forward to a time of deep learning, connecting, reflecting, and healing together with a diverse and thoughtful group of participants.

Please join us – be a part of something bigger than yourself and take action with us today.

Warmthofothersuns.org

richard wright

To check out other training opportunities, click here.

_________________________________________________________________

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

Crisis Hotline Response: The Intersection of DV and Suicide

“How do you prepare yourself for a job like that?”

When you are introducing yourself to a new person, it is not long before you are asked “Where do you work?” When I tell them I work as a hotline crisis services specialist, the next question is invariably, “How do you prepare yourself for a job like that?”  The answer is training and very specific training.

As a hotline crisis services specialist at the Action Alliance we provide a 24-hour toll-free system of crisis intervention, support, information and referrals for the entire Commonwealth of Virginia via phone (1.800.838.8238 (v/tty), chat  or text (804-793-9999). We provide a wide variety of information as well as emotional support and need to be prepared for almost any question.

A lot of training happens before anyone takes a call solo. While development is an ongoing process, in addition to sexual assault and domestic violence, we cover broad topics like anti-racism, homelessness, human trafficking; and underserved populations, such as folks who are LGBTQ+ identified or folk who are incarcerated.

Suicide  is one of the many important issues we respond to on the hotline, and today I want to talk more about that issue. The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) reports that “suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S., the 3rd leading cause of death for people aged 10–24, and the 2nd leading cause of death for people aged 15–24.” When dealing with the trauma of intimate partner violence or sexual assault, a person’s mental health is impacted and a survivor may contemplate suicide. The ABA Commission on Domestic & Sexual Violence cites research saying twenty-nine percent of all women who attempt suicide survived physical assault by their partners. In their white paper, The Psychological Consequences of Sexual Trauma; Yuan, Koss and Stone find that “childhood sexual abuse was associated with an increased risk of a serious suicide even after accounting for the effects of previous psychological problems and a twin’s history of suicidal behaviors (Stratham et al., 1998).” What do these statistics mean for hotlines? It means we get callers who survived violence and are now suffering from suicidal thoughts. It means hotline crisis services responders need to be trained in more than advocacy; we need to be trained in suicide first aid practices.

Several of our hotline staff and an Action Alliance intern had the opportunity to attend Living Works Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training (ASIST) hosted by Richmond Behavior Health Authority.

DSCN0013

Steve Alexander and Kristen Vamenta in ASIST training.

Living Works encompases the core belief that suicide is an issue for the entire community and that as a universal human problem, suicide should not be the domain of any one discipline or viewpoint. Living Works holds the belief that everyone, working together, can help to prevent suicide in the community.

ASIST is for everyone 16 or older—regardless of prior experience—who wants to be able to provide suicide first aid. By the end of the training, we were better able to understand the ways attitudes affect views on suicide interventions and provide individualized guidance and suicide first-aid to a person at risk. These skills translate beyond the workplace, beyond the hotline and into our everyday lives.

As we go about our work with survivors and in our personal lives as community members, I keep coming back to an often shared quote attributed to multiple sources such as Plato, Philo of Alexandria, Ian MacLaren, John Watson:

“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”

The Hotline Crisis Services Team is comprised of an awesome team of trained staff who work 24/7. The hotline staff is:

Reed Bohn, Erin Cave, Charmaine Francois, Jennifer Gallienne, Mishawn Glover, Jennifer Harrison, Shirnell Lewis, Emily Robinson, Kristin Vamenta, and Carmen Williams

_________________________________________________________________

Joining the Action Alliance adds your voice to making change in Virginia. Start your membership today or call804.377.0335.

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

Are You Governed by Your Intake Form?

How did you learn your technique for interviewing?  Did it come naturally, did you learn it from an experienced mentor, or did you stumble into it, making it up as you went along?  I remember when I was a law student, interviewing my first clients in a legal aid clinic, I was petrified that I would “miss” something, so my interviews were epic, two-hour-long ordeals. It never occurred to me until years later that I was probably re-traumatizing clients by marching inexorably through my exhaustive list of questions, crossing the line from interview to interrogation. Yes, I got what I “needed” to fill out the forms, but was there a better way?

If your job description includes interviewing trauma victims in order to obtain critical details, you need to know how to sensitively ask for information in a way that does not re-traumatize the victim AND that gets you the essential facts you need to do your job. What are best practices for working with a client whose responses to trauma may vary?  I have come up with tools and techniques that help to resolve that conflict between relentless pursuit of the facts of the case on one hand and an understanding of the needs of the traumatized client on the other hand.

The Action Alliance’s conference, Trauma-Informed Approaches to Sexual and Intimate Partner Violence (May 4-5, 2016, in Charlottesville https://heartisamuscle.wordpress.com/ ) will include a workshop I developed to help professionals and volunteers identify the best techniques for working with traumatized victims in an interview. Whether we are social workers, shelter staff, attorneys, law enforcement or medical professionals, we need to fill out intake sheets and learn about the facts surrounding the victimization so we can offer tailored service, advice and referrals.

pixabay free image of intake form

photo credit: Pixabay

But what if our own interviewing has unwittingly become part of a long process of victimization? It is possible to consciously equip ourselves for those interviews with specific tools for working with a traumatized person.  You can learn how to create an atmosphere of safety and security; which techniques work best with angry, combative, fearful or disoriented victims; and what to do at the end of interviews to help the victim with next steps. Have you ever wondered how you could best work through an interpreter, handle sensitive issues regarding sex and drugs, or prepare for the next steps in the victim’s journey? And just as important as our awareness of the potential of re-traumatizing the victim is the critical but often overlooked topic of the interviewer’s self-care and vicarious trauma.

When you attend the workshop, you will learn:

  1. The three essential techniques for conducting an interview with a traumatized client
  2. How to set up your office or work space with a victim of trauma in mind;
  3. How language you employ in interviewing can hurt or heal; and
  4. The healing power of choice for a traumatized interviewee.

Ann H. Kloeckner, Esq., Executive Director of Rappahannock Legal Services, has spent over 30 years working with survivors of intimate partner violence.

The Heart is a Muscle: Trauma-Informed Approaches to Sexual and Intimate Partner Violence Conference will be held May 4-5, 2016 in Charlottesville, Virginia. Find keynote and workshop descriptions hereRegister here.

_________________________________________________________________

Joining the Action Alliance adds your voice to making change in Virginia. Start your membership today or call804.377.0335

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

Let’s Talk About Sex(ual) Coercion

“He said we’d be so much happier if we had a baby…”
“I thought we were using a condom but he took it off without telling me…”

If you heard the former statements, would they raise a red flag to you? Advocates spend a lot of time talking about relationship red flags. What about the red flags that are directly related to a survivor’s sexual health and reproductive well-being?

I would like to encourage every advocate to start listening for red flags related to sexual and reproductive coercion. Sexual and reproductive coercion are behaviors aimed at maintaining power and control over a current or former dating partner that impact one’s sexual and reproductive health.

What does that really look like?

RepoSexCoerc_Toolkit

From the Action Alliance’s Reproductive and Sexual Coercion: A Toolkit for Sexual & Domestic Violence Advocates, sexual coercion encompasses a range of nonphysical behaviors – verbal pressure, threats, lies – that an abuser may use to have sexual contact with a person who expressed that they did not want to engage in sexual activity. Reproductive coercion refers to a range of behaviors that interfere with contraception use and pregnancy, including birth control sabotage (active interference with contraceptive methods), pregnancy pressure (behavior intended to pressure a partner to become pregnant when they do not wish to become pregnant), and pregnancy coercion (forcing a partner to comply with the abuser’s wishes regarding the decision to terminate or continue a pregnancy).

In a review of 40 years of literature, Ann Coker (2007) found significant associations between intimate partner violence, sexually transmitted infections (STIs), and unwanted pregnancy. This isn’t particularly surprising; if a person doesn’t feel safe enough to negotiate condom and contraception use with their partner, they are more likely to be exposed to STIs or experience unwanted pregnancy than a person who can make these decisions with their partner.

Screening clients for coercion is just one of the many ways that sexual and domestic violence agencies (SDVAs) can ensure that they are better meeting the needs of all survivors. In preparation for implementing any form of screening, advocates should be trained and prepared to discuss sexual and reproductive health with survivors; SDVAs should take time to thoughtfully consider intake procedures, referral protocols, and shelter procedures; and SDVAs must take time to form relationships with reproductive health providers in their communities in order to ensure that survivors have access to necessary reproductive health services.

While there are many considerations that should be taken before implementing a screening process, the overall benefit to survivors is immeasurable. A person’s ability to make decisions about their own sexual and reproductive health has an impact on their long-term health and overall quality of life. Screening clients for sexual and reproductive coercion may open the door to a form of empowerment that a survivor had not experienced before.

If you’re interested in learning more, the Action Alliance is hosting a Sexual and Reproductive Coercion Continuing Advocacy Training on February 25, 2016. Click here for more information.

Kristen Pritchard is the Data and Technology Specialist 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 the 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.

Kristen can be reached at kpritchard@vsdvalliance.org.

_________________________________________________________________

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

Interconnected Without Falling Apart: A Tale of the Rubik’s Cube & The Future of The Training Institute

Alice in Wonderland

“Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?’ asked Alice. “That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,” said the Cat.
~ Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland


Do you remember playing with a Rubik’s Cube when you were a kid? I don’t know about you, but trying to solve that puzzle frustrated me to no end.

Rubiks cubeThe Rubik’s Cube has an interesting backstory. The creator of the cube did not set out to make a best-selling toy. His actual intent was to create a teaching tool for students to solve the structural problem of moving the parts independently without the entire mechanism falling apart.
The cube is made up of nine colored squares on each side that can be moved on their own, yet are still interconnected. The puzzle can be solved  in 43 quintillion different ways.  !!!

My approach was to focus on individual pieces and not the whole (“solving for pattern”, as the expression goes). As you can probably guess, I never did solve the darn thing.

What does all of this have to do with the future of the Training Institute (TI) you might ask?

In my fairly new role as the TI Coordinator, I’ve had the privilege of participating in intense discussions and strategic planning around the future of the TI. These discussions centered on the concepts of interconnectedness, strengthening existing partnerships/creating new ones, social change, and digging down to the roots of WHY we do what we do.

Stone pileAnd then there were conversations about striking a balance between the need to deliver knowledge/skill-based, evidence-informed training and the need to effect change, dismantle oppressive structures, and mobilize communities. Within the TI how would we do both? Could we do both?

Where did we want to go?

I began to see the decisions we needed to make for 2016 and beyond as a puzzle. As is my habit, I initially focused on the individual pieces – what webinar do we need next? Which dates were available for which training? Who will present at the conferences?

You get the idea.

Lightbulb idea drawingDuring one of our conversations, something clicked for me (for you Oprah fans, an “aha moment”, as it were) and I was able to understand what my supervisors were saying – to back up and look at the big picture – to think of all the individual parts in the context of a larger pattern, and to realize that, like the Rubik’s cube, the many moving pieces that make up the TI could be moved, yet stay interconnected, and that the whole structure would not fall apart. As we wrapped up our multi-year plan for the TI, I felt inspired.

2016 holds what you would normally expect from the TI, but with some new twists that we think you’ll love. We are updating and revising all of our curricula and adding new curricula that will include information from the field about how you can engage in social justice movements in your communities and beyond. We are building a training microsite, virtual peer communities, online training platforms, and more. And we are hosting TWO major statewide conferences.

In a nutshell: we will be busy. And we can’t wait.

http://www.vsdvalliance.org/#/training

TI logo-blue black4-shadow

 

________________________________________________________________________________

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