Meet Laura Bennett

Why do you do this Anti-Violence work?
Because it touches every part of life. Because it keeps me up at night. Because I love my daughters.

What would you like to learn this year in your job?
How to implement trauma-informed principles in every facet of my job. In my work within the anti-violence cause area, I have become more aware of how vicarious trauma impacts not just responders and care-givers but those of us working in systems change.



What is the latest book you’ve read and would you recommend it?
The Door by Magda Szabo. A story about dealing with trauma, healing bonds between people, and surviving. YES!

What would be the title of your autobiography?
Serenity Now.


What are the 3 things you love about Virginia?
Virginia has so much to offer and I love so many things about it:

  • The weather,
  • The beauty, and
  • The people.

If you had one box for all your stuff, what would you put in it?
I would fill the box with photographs of my father, my children, my husband and our pets. I would add in things my father gave me and drawings my girls made me. I would also include my cat’s ashes. And I cannot forget to put in Sour Patch Kids.


What is the most incredible view you have ever seen?
Who can choose? It is a tie between a sunset over the ocean in the Outer Banks or the site of the new Wegmans being built in Short Pump.

What excites you most about your job at the Action Alliance?
I am excited to expand and grow the areas I work in and to continue learning – always learning. Lifelong learning and professional development are the keys to the sustainability of all nonprofits and I am excited to be part of the nonprofit community, particularly the sexual and domestic violence field, every single day.

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.


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

Meet Tamara Mason

Why do you do this Anti-Violence work?
In a time when communities are constantly being shredded and driven apart by ever increasing instances of violence, it is imperative for those of us who believe in building bridges of understanding find ways to spread love, not hate. Violence has no home where love and respect abides.

What would you like to learn your first year on your new job? 
As Sexual Violence and Domestic Violence are areas of social justice work that are less familiar to me, I know I have a lot to learn. I would like to learn more about the resources and agencies within the state of Virginia that are a part of the group of dedicated people and organizations working to combat sexual and domestic violence in our state and help the victims and survivors continue to lead a prosperous and fulfilled life.

If you were a vegetable what would you be? Why?
Though my hair would probably suggest a closer resemblance to broccoli, I would probably be a pepper. There is SO much variety in the pepper family, ranging from remarkably sweet to extraordinarily spicy. I like to keep people guessing.


Describe the magazines on your coffee table?
I lack both magazines and a coffee table and I am more of a catalog girl than a magazine girl.  It would not be unusual at all to find an Avon catalogue or 10 hanging out near my couch.

What are the 3 things you love about Virginia?

  • My family is here,
  • I am no more than 2 hours from either the mountains or the beach, and
  • Virginia has a deep and rich history – it is good, it is bad, and it is ugly.


If you had one box for all your stuff, what would you put in it?
My analytical brain wants to know details about this box, such as:

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  • Are we talking about a ring box or refrigerator box?
  • Is it only for my things or am I sharing it?
  • Is this box going to be moved?
  • Is this box going to be permanently sealed or will I have regular access to its contents?



What is the most incredible view you’ve ever seen?
The dome of ashes at Majdanek in Poland.  I went on a Holocaust study trip to Poland.  The entire trip was …………… wow, but this site was probably one of the most intense and “incredible”.

Lastly, what excites you most about your new job at the Action Alliance?
I am excited to be a part of the change I would like to see in the world. And being at the Action Alliance gives me the opportunity to participate in making change for survivors of violence.

Tamara Mason is the Data Systems and Resources Coordinator at the Action  Alliance. She has over fifteen years of experience operating in the social justice, human relations, and public policy realm. Knowledgeable of political, social, and cultural trends to anticipate, identify, and respond to political and cultural trends to achieve justice-oriented outcomes. Equally delighted to be part of a team or engage in independent endeavors. Lover of all things animal and rainbow. Doer of good.


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

Meet Jonathan Yglesias

Why do you do this Anti-Violence work?
I grew up with violence so not so surprisingly, anti violence folks – people who want to elevate and validate the voice of survivors and reject oppression – are my people. I am fortunate to be in a movement among my people working for the liberation and validation of all people.

What would you like to learn your first year on your new job? 
I am rejoining the Action Alliance and so am fortunate to be coming into this job already knowing a lot about the work and the people. But what I am most looking forward to learning in this new capacity is how to contribute to the movement and evolution of this agency in particular from a management role. I think I have a lot (A LOT) to learn from the visionary brains that I will be working alongside in this new role and I am looking forward to the inevitable growth and strain (a “feel the burn”, good, exercise kinda strain) that this role will produce in me.

What is the most incredible view you’ve ever seen?
I lived in Washington State for 3 years and saw a lot of beautiful sights and things all around the pacific northwest. My favorite view though, is the seeing the Appalachians from the seat of a plane. It is a welcome-home sight that I will always be grateful to see. It touches me in a way that is indescribable.

What is the latest book you’ve read and would you recommend it?
I recently read a collection of short fictions and wonders called “Fragile Things” by Neil Gaiman. I loved him growing up but I am not sure that I would suggest this particular series of stories. I found myself asking “wait, that is it?” at the end of each story.

I am guessing my tastes have evolved a bit since reading him in my youth.

What are the 3 things you love about Virginia?

    • The people.
    • The Fauna: Virginia is where the flora and fauna of the North and South meet – we have it all.
    • The history: Virginia’s rich history that has given rise to innovative and strong social justice and resistance movements in various pockets around the state.

If you had one box for all your stuff, what would you put in it?
My animals, a few books, and random household knick-knacks that hold sentimental value.


If you were a vegetable what would you be? Why?
Broccoli. I am tall, big headed, and when I grow my hair out – it is broccoli like. A good friend of mine, who is now a successful graphic designer has actually illustrated me (and our friends) as vegetables multiple times. I am always the broccoli. Without a doubt.

Lastly, what excites you most about your new job at the Action Alliance?
I am so happy to be working alongside such fierce, beautiful humans who you can not help but learn from and grow with – I am most excited about this group of people.

Jonathan Yglesias is the Programs and Services Manager at the Action Alliance. He has worked in prevention for various agencies and is a resource nationally for prevention and advocacy. 


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

What Are We Yearning For? Building a Movement.

On a rainy day in Portland three months ago, Kristi and I sat in a room with 25 other leaders of domestic and sexual violence state and national coalitions, and were asked to ponder this question:

“As a movement working to end gender-based violence, what are we hungry and yearning for?”

The Action Alliance had been invited to join a cohort of statewide and national organizations to build and strengthen the movement to end violence against women and girls. The effort is part of Move to End Violence (MEV), a 10-year project funded by the NoVo Foundation to support leaders in our work to step back from our daily grind to envision the change we want to see, imagine new strategies, and build the capacity needed to make that change come to life.

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picture credit: Kate McCord

This was the second meeting for the group to learn, ponder, and discuss what our movement has been in the past, what it is now, and what it needs to be moving forward. It was easier to answer the question with negatives: we are not hungry and yearning for more hotline calls, more protective orders, more arrests, a higher shelter census. Though they are critical and often life-saving resources, we do not yearn for them.

We kept talking. We yearn for healing. We yearn for joy. We yearn for a world where violence and domination is replaced by compassion and interconnectedness. We yearn for a future where our children’s children will learn about oppression only in history books.

We yearn for liberation. We yearn to hold community with others doing brave work to get to the same horizon.

We talked about how to get there: centering the experiences of marginalized communities in our work, igniting major shifts in the larger culture, economic justice, ending mass incarceration and detention, reproductive justice, an engaged democracy. Big work.

We imagined electrifying possibilities by filling in the blanks: “If all domestic and sexual violence coalitions joined forces to make X impact in Y way at the same time, what could we accomplish?”

Imagine what we could accomplish.

We will be partnering with other state and national coalitions to find out. The Action Alliance and all other coalitions involved in this project have committed to work on areas of bold action that we see as stepping stones to a world with less domination and inequality and greater interconnectedness, compassion, and justice.

The work will require us to believe that fundamental, systemic change is possible, and that we are part of that work. It will require us to embrace experimentation and change in the service of learning and adapting. It will require building a bigger “we”—showing up for and partnering with others who believe in a similar vision. It will require us to work in alignment toward the same shared vision.Image 3

And of course this is where you come in, dear brave members and supporters. We will be asking you to believe that another world is possible and to join with us in deep conversation about what it would take to make the audacious vision of that world come to life. To stay at the table long enough for our conversations to get to a place of deeper understanding, clarity, and connection. To join our efforts and hang in there with indomitable spirits as we make some big leaps and bold moves.

This will be hard. This will be worth the struggle. We can do this.

Kate McCord is the Communications Director for the Action Alliance, a member of the Action Alliance’s Racial Justice Task Force, and has been working in the movement to end gender-based violence for over 25 years. Kate will be working with other coalition leaders as part of this Move to End Violence initiative to mobilize against state violence and create community-based alternatives to incarceration.


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

Serving Victims, Building Trust, Restoring Hope 

National Crime Victims’ Rights Week – April 10-16, 2016

On behalf of the 65 member Sexual and Domestic Violence Advocacy agencies who are at the center of the Action Alliance, the Virginia Sexual and Domestic Violence Action Alliance is pleased to observe National Crime Victims’ Rights Week 2016.

Virginia’s Sexual and Domestic Violence Agencies served more than 20,000 victims of domestic violence last year, and more than 7,500 victims of sexual assault. Those services included shelter for 3200 adults and their 2600 children.

More than half of the victims served had reported to law enforcement.  For approximately 20% of victims the violence resulted in missing either school or work30% had to relocate as a result of the violence. One in 5 victims reported that a weapon was used during the violent incident that led them to reach out for help.

As one of the only services available 24 hours a day in every community in Virginia, Sexual and Domestic Violence agencies also responded to more than 70,000 Hotline calls. About one quarter of those calls were from individuals who were not victims of sexual or domestic violence, but who had some other urgent need—most often homelessness, or a mental health crisis.

A snapshot of an “average day” in domestic violence programs across Virginia can tell you a little bit more about how our member agencies are serving victims. The National Network to End Domestic Violence conducts an annual point in time census with domestic violence service providers nationwide. On September 16, 2015, over a 24-hour period, Virginia’s 51 Domestic Violence Programs (100% of whom participated in the census):

  • Served 1,613 victims
  • Provided emergency shelter to 267 women, 3 men, 1 transgender adult and 224 children
  • Answered 565 Hotline calls

When asked about the specific types of services that each agency provided on that single day:

    • 98% provided individual counseling or advocacy
    • 33% provided a support group
    • 50% accompanied a victim to court
    • 25% assisted a victim with a disability
    • 20% worked with a victim on an immigration advocacy issue
    • 10% provided advocacy to an LGBTQ survivor
    • 57% helped a victim to access health care or mental health care services
  • 24% worked with one or more survivors to find employment 

Sexual and Domestic Violence agencies are providing a wide range of services to diverse survivors each and every day. Of course, there is another side to this story. The census also revealed that on that same day 55 adults, with 29 children in their care, could not be sheltered because space was not available. Agencies also reported being unable to meet the full needs for legal services, counseling, housing assistance and child care on that day—with one agency reporting that the need so far exceeded their capacity that 23 victims were on a waiting list of counseling services!!

This gap between need and resources—which we first identified statewide in 2012—was further exacerbated in 2015 as 14 agencies reporting eliminating 32 direct service positions as a result of reductions in fundingWe look forward to seeing a turn around in those numbers in the upcoming year as a result of increases in both state and federal funding!!


     Building Trust  

Sexual and Domestic Violence Agencies are based in principles designed to build trust, empower survivors and ultimately restore hope for survivors and communities. They are trauma-informed, recognizing the short-term and long-term impact of trauma in the lives of survivors and considering the impact of environmental, community and historic trauma on those victims from marginalized communities whose personal experience is compounded by this contextual trauma.

They are asset-based, recognizing the strength within each individual and cultivating health and wellness as a part of both intervention and prevention efforts. And they are committed to “justice for all” in a deep and meaningful way—addressing the root causes of sexual and intimate partner violence and recognizing and addressing the intersections of oppression not only in our communities, but in the lives of victims who are directly impacted by sexism, racism, homophobia, anti-immigrant sentiments and other forms of bias and discrimination. If we are to be trustworthy we must embrace the inherent dignity and worth of every individual.


     Restoring Hope 

Survivors tell us each and every day that Sexual and Domestic Violence agencies are meeting the goal of “Restoring Hope” in their lives.  Each victim we serve has the opportunity to complete an anonymous survey that evaluates the services they received and offers an opportunity to provide feedback.

From the thousands of surveys that have been submitted over the past 3 years,  we know that 85% of victims feel more hopeful about their lives as a result of the services they received.  Survivors report:

“I neededServing Victims. Building Trust. Restoring Hope., April 10-16, 2016 support in my hardest times and she was there.”

“I was 9 months pregnant, with 3 kids.  I had been strangled and almost killed.  Because of you I didn’t give up.  You helped my keep going on…you have helped us to see that there is light out there for me and I’ll be okay.”

And from a caller to the LGBTQ Helpline

“I’m so glad that you have a service like this because I cannot talk to my friends or family members.”

All Virginians should be proud that you have created a network of “services like this,” through public funding, through your personal donations, through your contributions of time and talent as volunteers and as board members, and as dedicated advocates all across the state.  You truly are “Restoring Hope.”


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.


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




In the Beginning: Perspective of Mothers of the Movement

I have been a member of the Virginia Sexual and Domestic Violence Action Alliance (Action Alliance) for approximately 30+ years. Therefore, I have been a member since the late 80s. I became a member as a survivor and then gradually moved into various aspects of the Women’s Movement which has been synonymously linked to Virginians Against Domestic Violence (what the Action Alliance was called in the early years and their acronym was VADV). The sexual assault state coalition at that time was called Virginians Aligned Against Sexual Assault (VAASA). Both of these organizations merged into one organization approximately ten years ago.

My rationale for becoming active within the coalition in the late 80’s derived from their “fundamental principles” pertaining to victim services and how these principles fed my need to fight oppression and the passion to become familiar with every aspect of victimization. I devoured research and I still have an insatiable appetite for any and all research pertaining to victimization and trauma and recovery. I became the chair of the Women of Color Caucus (WOCC) and watched the caucus blossom into a membership of 40 women which thrived for three years. During that time I was facilitating support groups for a non-profit, creating my own non-profit, reading and participating in as much of the field of domestic and sexual violence and stalking as I could. I watched VADV morph into a viable organization of women who saw their dream of shelter structure and service delivery come true.

However, somewhere a transition occurred and the core of our work began to be dictated by what was beneficial to becoming renowned versus what is best for survivors. Upon reflection I cannot really put a finger on the actual time this occurred but it was the wave of the future which tended to narrow the scope of service delivery and impose restrictions and requirements that affected how we viewed provision of services to victims. The feeling of family and comradery was replaced by the mechanics of output and accomplishment. A few of us maintained contact and managed to preserve a sense of purpose, while some of us abandoned the vision of healing many future survivors, for the viability and aggrandizement of an organization. This happens to many organizations as growth becomes the goal opposed to being a viable entity in which output and productivity embraces the needs of the victims; promoting healing on a continuum while constructing and maintaining a place where victims’ voices are heard.

We should remember that we built our foundation on the mantra “Peace on Earth Begins at Home”. If we do not alter our course and remember our historical journey, who was at the table in the beginning, and the longing we had to maintain the belief that we are stronger together, we will lose our vision of our future. We believed strongly in diversity and maintaining ideologies which challenged the “majority culture” as we practiced the essential components of cultural competence and victim driven services. We have gravitated toward embracing the mainstream societal influences while overlooking or not comprehending this is not always beneficial to victims, especially the underserved populations. Is not this what sank the Titanic? The disaster was not caused by the icebergs. Yes, that is what caused the ship to sink but the captain’s belief that his ship was unsinkable caused him to stay the course which took him straight into danger. I urge us all to be aware of the distress warnings being heard from those who were tossed overboard for the good of the coalition. No organization is infallible. If we do not heed the cries of the survivors we will capsize. It is not what is seen that takes us down, it is what remains hidden.

Reverend Patricia Jones Turner, MA is a preacher, pastor, teacher, poet, trainer, counselor, educator, writer, and a motivational speaker who guides those who participate in her workshops into self-enlightenment.  Rev. Jones Turner says, “One cannot transcend the ‘world’s’  perspective without confronting and accepting our own inadequacies. It is in the acceptance of our ineptness that we come to understand we control nothing but should seek to give everything; thus fulfilling our destiny and accomplishing our purpose unto Heaven.” 


Our guiding principles  As The Alliance conducts its work, it is essential that survivors, the interests of survivors, and those impacted by sexual assault and domestic violence are at the forefront of all decision-making.

Interested in learning more about advocacy and prevention? Our Training Institute delivers forward-thinking and accessible education, training, and resources for professionals working on the front lines to address and prevention sexual and domestic violence. Register here for trainings.


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

Perspectives of Mothers of the Movement: Alice Twining

“What will matter is the good we did, not the good we expected others to do.”

-(Elizabeth Lesser)


What does “A Mother of the Movement” mean to me? – Nurturing, loving; mentoring, encouraging; positive communicating; excited about others’ energy and drive for social justice.

First I think, “I am not a mother of the movement,” I have just been around a long time! I was a farm girl. I worked my way through school in Boston where I first learned about sexual and domestic violence from Antioch graduate students I taught: a co-founder of Emerge (Batterers’ Intervention) and a domestic violence advocate in Cambridge. What I would learn later in California was the sneaky power of a psychopath.

In 1987 I moved to Virginia, fleeing with my baby from an abusive husband. My sister, Mary, took us in and mothered us. She found a lawyer at HER Shelter with advice on legal steps.  I saw a therapist who helped me manage my Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and secondary trauma. New friends at Virginians Against Domestic Violence (VADV) and the YWCA helped me recover. We worked, played, laughed, cried, sang and danced as we evolved with Virginians Aligned Against Sexual Assault (VAASA) into the Virginia Sexual and Domestic Violence Action Alliance (Action Alliance). Many advocates joined us. I focused my practice on assisting survivors and children who witnessed abuse, and joined the VADV (now Action Alliance) Training Institute to facilitate learning on violence and trauma, prevention and intervention.

I feel like I am always standing on the shoulders of mothers  – from Seneca Falls women in 1848 and Sojourner Truth in 1850 to Patricia Hein and others in 1983 who walked the halls of the General Assembly in flowered dresses and large hats (“To meet the legislators where they are.”). When I was asked to serve on the VADV Board, I did not think I could help since my self-esteem had been crushed in the two years I was married. I wanted to contribute, and was mentored and encouraged to do so. My work as a YWCA crisis counselor and at Samaritan House was invaluable: we listened to women and children. We mothered each other.

Our movement expanded with trainings by national experts such as Carole Warshaw. More of us learned how to lobby and build bridges with other advocates to get protective orders and other laws passed. I will never forget the day when hundreds of us attended the Senate committee hearing to add marital rape to sexual assault laws. The room filled with VADV and VAASA supporters wearing ultra-green-stickers: “Married Women Can Be Raped, too.” We brought the media with us. None of the committee members attacked the bill, and it became law. I know we made a powerful difference, and we continue to make a difference.

The social change I have observed in 68 years is remarkable: freedom to evolve past stereotyped gender roles, freedom to marry persons we love, and to establish norms based on equality for all. More profound is knowing the loving children and grandchildren we raised with values and prevention tools from our work. Looking back, it is a joy to be a role model and mentor.

(Dedicated to my late mother and my loving son, 30.)

Alice Twining is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist, trainer and expert witness in the psychology of women and children, and trauma and its impact on survivors. She was a psychotherapist for 30 years, specializing in domestic violence, sexual assault and battered women who are criminally charged. She has been on the faculty of the Action Alliance Training Institute since 1997, and is also a Lifetime Member of the Action Alliance. She was Program Director of the YWCA Domestic Violence Program of South Hampton Roads and Program Director at Samaritan House in Virginia Beach. Previously, she served for fourteen years on the VADV Board of Directors, and was President of the Board for four years. She is a painter, gardener and a jazz singer.


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

Working Together to Empower the Survivor.

Years in the making, Governor Terry McAuliffe recently signed into law a layer of safety for those who seek relief from the fear, intimidation and threat of lethal violence. This measure will enable individuals and families to begin rebuilding their lives outside of abusive relationships without firearms looming in the background.


Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe, center, with survivor and advocate Lisette Johnson, and Del. Kathleen J. Murphy, D-Fairfax,, after signing her bill relating to removal of guns owned by persons who have a restraining order against them during a news conference at the Executive Mansion in Richmond, Va. Friday, Feb. 26, 2016. Behind him are Sen. Janet D. Howell, D-Fairfax, Sen. L. Louise Lucas, D-Portsmouth, First Lady Dorothy McAuliffe, Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security Brian Moran, and Del. L. Scott Lingamfelter, R-Prince William. Picture credit: The Action Alliance


This is as a significant improvement in the protective order process; celebrated by and for those who advocate for and who are survivors of intimate partner violence. Empowered by measures beyond that of possessing a piece of paper, more women will seek and follow through to make their protective orders permanent now that the law gives it bones by requiring respondents to surrender firearms within 24 hours.Police now have the leverage to seek search warrants to find and seize guns of those who do not comply, and carries with it a Class 6 Felony charge with up to five years in prison.

As a survivor, after it is all said and done, I am brought back to the simple fact I just wanted a divorce. That is all. I did not want to speak out against domestic violence. I did not dream my life’s calling was helping women make tough decisions about their futures, their safety and that of their children. I never saw myself as an activist who would be a public voice, or represent those silenced by abuse and lethal violence.

I just wanted to move forward with my life and give my children a peaceful home.

In that simple statement is the heart of what every person leaving an abusive relationship wants; to leave without event and rebuild a life without violence. This legislation provides a needed protection and is the first step in letting survivors of abuse know they are not alone now that they have backup in the legal system, and that they can move from victim to survivor, with a much lower risk of being a statistic.


picture taken by the Action Alliance

The journey of a thousand miles has only just begun. There remains much work still to be done. We need funding for prevention and awareness. We must continue to look for new ways to keep families safe. When they are not safe, we need to have funding for adequate shelter, resources and support for survivors. Just for today, though, let us stop to rest and enjoy this victory.

Lisette Johnson is a survivor of an attempted partner homicide/suicide. She is an advocate for those experiencing domestic and sexual violence and collaborates for violence prevention education and awareness. You can read her first post on this issue published on January 25th here


Lisette Johnson is a survivor of an attempted partner homicide/suicide. She is an advocate for those experiencing domestic and sexual violence and collaborates for violence prevention education and awareness.  


Note from the Action Alliance: The Action Alliance is proud to stand with Governor of Virginia, Terry McAuliffe, as he signs historic bipartisan legislation that will increase safety for victims/survivors of ‪#‎domesticviolence‬ by prohibiting the possession of firearms for persons subject to “permanent” (max 2 year) Protective Orders.

The connection between guns and lethal domestic violence in Virginia is clear: over a 10 year period, firearms were used in more than half of all intimate partner homicides in Virginia.

We applaud the Governor’s willingness to reach across the aisle to enact common sense gun legislation to reduce lethal gun violence.


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

Community Activism – The synergy of individuals, local centers, and state coalitions. 


This past year I have been reading stories of activism communities all over the world about interpersonal violence, rape, stalking and trafficking. The stories have similarities in the focus of gendered violence against women and transgender identified persons. The responses have been as varied as the incidents… ranging from art-based responses (Graffiti Artists), technology-based responses (Callisto: A college sexual assault reporting system), social media, (It’s On Us), journalistic responses (The Rapist Next Door), media literacy (FAAN MAIL), films (The Hunting Ground), songs (Till It Happens to You) and marching in the streets. Through the use of technology, global conversations using social media are taking place, uniting people from all over the world to join local activists attempting to make change in their communities.

For the first time ever, the conversation about rape and interpersonal violence is being held everywhere. And it’s not stopping when the Twitter chat dies out or the art exhibit is taken down. Now these conversations move rapidly from speaking out, educating the public, identifying changes needed and developing policy to improve resources, laws and funds. The conversation sparks from survivors taking agency to speak out about abuse and then moves to activism and direct action. Gone are the days where it would take years to build momentum, now it takes hours for the momentum of people engaging to reach its peak and change can be put forth within months.

This is where local centers with their community response and activism are impactful collaborators with survivors bringing their story out and helping create the changes in policy, laws and funds to work toward ending interpersonal violence, rape, stalking and harassment. A prime example here in Virginia this past, is the collaboration between survivors of rape at University of Virginia, local rape crisis centers and domestic violence shelters, the Action Alliance and legislators to take the problem of rape on campus and create significant changes to laws and resources for students. Other universities joined in to show their support and help advocate, local centers around the state helped outreach their legislators to advocate and individual supporters lent their voice through social media and calls. The combined efforts of these parties kept the conversation alive and the work progressing.

campusSA-1 in 5 women_0

This is the power of community activism and the joint efforts of survivors and families, ally’s in the communities, activists with local centers, and state coalitions like the Action Alliance. This synergy can only happen with everyone involved. We must work together to keep these conversations active in order to make the change needed.

To get involved in the issues being presented in the general assembly this year, click here to see bills being presented for the 2016 General Assembly, click here to see how you can be involved and  how to communicate with your delegates and representatives, and click here to join a committee of the Action Alliance. At the Action Alliance, you can get involved in policy work, fund development, and leadership. Whatever your skill or interest is: communicating with legislators to lobby for policy change or increase in funds, being a social media activist and sharing information to bring information to the public, being an educator to local centers and allied partners to improve training, or to help raise funds in your community; you are needed.

Carol Olson is the Development Director at the Action Alliance. She was previously the Director of a local rape crisis center. She has continued to engage in community activism through her work with the Alliance and through radio at WRIR 97.3 FM. 



January 27, 2016 – 7:30am John Marshall Ballrooms, Richmond
Get Involved with Legislative Advocacy at the Action Alliance

Joining the Action Alliance adds your voice to making change in Virginia. Start your membership today or call 804.377.0335.