Yes, Hate Has Consequences

“My mom literally just texted me ‘don’t wear the Hijab please’ and she’s the most religious person in our family….”

When we must choose between our safety and the freedom to be who we are, there is a problem. Following the election of President-Elect Donald Trump, there has been a substantial rise in the number of hate crimes being reported in the United States. Over 800 cases have been reported since Election Day, November 8th.

When President-Elect Trump used his campaign to call for a “total and complete shutdown of all Muslims entering the United States,” many Muslim-Americans began to fear for their lives. When he spoke about the entire African American community synonymously with this country’s inner cities, many in Black America felt silenced. To generalize an entire group of people under statements like, “You’re living in your poverty, your schools are no good, you have no jobs, 58 percent of your youth is unemployed — what the hell do you have to lose?” not only gave those outside of this community a false sense of all Black American lives, but disregarded the accomplishments and contrasting lifestyles of so many African Americans. In the same way, the President-Elect’s comments on Mexican immigrants as well as promises of a physical wall to keep them out of America have painted a detrimentally false narrative of Mexican Americans and immigrants in general.

President-Elect Trump’s comments are not the only ones to make sweeping and harmful assertions about entire groups of Americans. Vice President-Elect, Mike Pence has openly opposed equal rights for the LGBTQ community and has fought for public funding of so-called “conversion therapy”, a practice that has been deemed harmful to LGBTQ persons and rejected for decades by every mainstream medical and mental health organization.

The targets of these generalizations are primarily people of color and people who already feel vulnerable and isolated in this country due to the systematic oppression that thrives in America. Accordingly, when Donald Trump won the election, some Americans felt it validated his portrayal of people of color in this country. Statistically, the amount of reported hate crimes soared. A few of these cases, both reported and unreported, are exemplified in the following online posts.


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Even online, however, those sharing their stories are met with criticism. Still, there are online spaces that remain open and accepting. The victims of post-election hate crimes and allies have joined together to combat hatred through a variety of media from protests to online safe spaces. In these spaces, people have open discussions about how to deal with the increase in blatant racism, whether they are victims of it themselves or allies of these victims.

In a time that is leaving so many scared to merely exist as they are, advocates for survivors of trauma have extra work to do to provide trauma-informed help in this context. Two articles, listed below, are examples of helpful resources for survivors of trauma and their helpers.

“How to Cope With Post-Election Stress”

“I’m a therapist: Here’s how I help patients traumatized by the election.”


Dominique is a Hotline Crisis Services Specialist at the Action Alliance as well as an Intern for the Real Story journalism internship. She graduated from Virginia Commonwealth University with a B.S. in Mass Communications and a B.A. in African American Studies. She is an aspiring filmmaker and loves to create as well as watch others’ creations on the big screen.

The Real Story Internship analyzes and rewrites news stories to reflect a trauma-informed, survivor-centered and racial justice lens.


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

Standing With Standing Rock


They say history repeats itself. Unfortunately, the blatant disregard for Native American life and culture is part of our nation’s history. With Thanksgiving quickly approaching, we are reminded of the brutal history behind the holiday through a present-day battle for Native land.

Around this time one year ago the Dakota Access Pipeline or DAPL was approved. It was to be a 1,134 mile-long pipeline to carry oil across multiple states. Originally set to cross through Bismarck, North Dakota, its initial path was rejected after an environmental assessment pointed out that it might endanger the water supply. Citizens of Bismarck, whose population is listed as 92% White on the U.S. census, rejected the pipeline and it was rerouted.

Fast forward to the DAPL’s new route, and a similar concern has been brought forth. This time, the pipeline could threaten the Missouri River, the sole water supply of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. In addition, the construction of the pipeline disrupts and has even destroyed lands sacred to the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. However, the rerouting of the pipeline is an option that has not been offered to the tribe. Activist Rev. Jesse Jackson calls the situation “the ripest case of environmental racism I’ve seen in a long time.”

Since the pipeline does not technically run through the reservation, the Sioux Tribe has been shut out of decision-making about the DAPL route. This act, however, is illegal. According to The Atlantic, “Regulations require Federal agencies to consult with Native American tribes when they attach religious and cultural significance to a historic property regardless of the location of that property.” Because Army Corps did not consult the tribe, they are also in danger of violating the Clean Water Act as well as the Environmental Policy Act if the water supply were to ever be contaminated by a break or leak in the pipeline.

Still, the Army Corps fails to hear out the concerns of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. They insist the pipeline is what is best, as it will create construction jobs that will benefit the economy. Just the same as their forefathers did centuries ago, they are attempting to silence indigenous people by projecting their own ideas of what is best for them.

Once again, non-Natives have decided how they will occupy land that remains sacred to Native Americans. Once again this is being done with no regard to the needs or wants of indigenous people. Once again, non-Natives have defended their actions with the assertion that they are doing what is right for the Native community, while neglecting input from the people, themselves, stating otherwise. Unquestionably, water is essential to life. A boost in the economy will mean nothing to a community without a reliable water source. With the tribe’s sole source of water being compromised, Native American tribes and non-Native advocates from all over the United States have gathered at the Standing Rock Indian Reservation to protest the pipeline.


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The peaceful protests began around April of this year and the number of protesters continues to grow. However, over the course of seven months, the peaceful protesters have become targets of militarized counter forces. Shortly after peaceful demonstrations began, the National Guard was sent out to Standing Rock in riot gear in massive numbers. Protestors tell the Huffington Post  “law enforcement is using pepper spray, tear gas and beanbag rounds on [us] and responding to peaceful demonstrations, pipe ceremonies and prayer circles with militarized force.”


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Mass numbers of arrests have been made. Some of the protestors who have been arrested report being kept in chained, netted enclosures similar to dog kennels, and having numbers drawn on their body parts by law enforcement officers.

The chairman of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, Dave Archambault Jr., spoke out on the damage being done by both the construction of the pipeline and the law enforcement protecting it, saying, “The oil companies and the government of the United States have failed to respect our sovereign rights. …[They have] knowingly destroyed sacred sites and our ancestral graves with bulldozers. [They have] also used attack dogs to harm individuals who tried to protect our water and sacred sites.”

Some media outlets are choosing to defend the dehumanizing actions of these officers. The New York Times recently published an article that attempted to evoke sympathy for the officers out in Standing Rock. It focused on one officer in particular, Jon Moll. The Times gave details completely unrelated to the pipeline or the protests. It mentioned how Moll grew up as the only White child in his classes and, as the son of farmers, “worked hard for everything [he has].” The irony lies in the fact that after growing up in a diverse environment and seemingly understanding the work that goes into building and keeping up with a community, he is now infringing  on that right of others as he takes away what they too worked hard for. Moll goes on to vilify activists, who he says, in their protesting, have trespassed on federal property. He omits law enforcement’s recent vehicular destruction of sacred Native American burial sites out of his trespassing rant.

Instead of publishing this article defending the initiators of this battle, the Times could have focused on alternatives to the current route of the DAPL.  One such alternative is an oil railway. Railways are already used for the majority of North Dakota’s oil shipment and one was used in the past as an alternative to the Keystone XL Pipeline.


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Though a slightly different method than that used in the past, the construction of this pipeline endangers a mass population of indigenous people. The seriousness of its threats must be understood, and it is time to listen to the people most affected by its construction.

#NoDAPL  #StandwithStandingRock

Dominique is a Hotline Crisis Services Specialist at the Action Alliance as well as an Intern for the Real Story journalism internship. She graduated from Virginia Commonwealth University with a B.S. in Mass Communications and a B.A. in African American Studies. She is an aspiring filmmaker and loves to create as well as watch others’ creations on the big screen.

The Real Story Internship analyzes and rewrites news stories to reflect a trauma-informed, survivor-centered and racial justice lens.


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



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; 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.


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!


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. 

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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.

*All pictures courtesy of Richael Faithful.


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

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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.

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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

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.

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Black Lives Matter: Racial Justice and Trauma-Informed Advocacy

Gynnya McMillen was 16 years old when she died in her sleep while in custody at a juvenile detention center last month in Kentucky.

This was the first night she had ever spent in detention. She had been arrested on a misdemeanor assault charge on a family member. Guards used a martial arts-style restraint on Gynnya when she refused to remove her sweatshirt as part of the facility’s search and booking procedure; she was found dead in her cell 24 hours later.

The tragic death of Gynnya McMillen raises critical questions about how she was treated in the detention facility and what exactly caused her death. Her story also raises broader questions about the extreme and overly punitive ways in which we approach children and teens of color whom we deem “non-compliant”.

The U.S. detains and incarcerates girls of color at staggering rates. African-American girls constitute 14% of the general population nationally, yet make up an astounding 33% of girls detained and committed.1 Native American girls are also disproportionately involved in the juvenile justice system: they are 1 percent of the general youth population but 3.5 percent of detained and committed girls.2

The vast majority of detained and incarcerated girls are trauma survivors. According to a study conducted by the Human Rights Project for Girls, the Georgetown Law Center on Poverty and Inequality, and the Ms. Foundation for Women, more than 80% of the girls in some states’ juvenile detention centers have been sexually or physically abused prior to incarceration.

Challenging behaviors exhibited by children and teens are frequently rooted in trauma and abuse. Yet instead of being viewed and treated as survivors of trauma, girls of color who exhibit trauma reactions are often suspended or expelled from school or referred to law enforcement.

Educational and legal systems fail to address the root cause of problematic behavior, which in turn exacerbates feelings of isolation and disconnection. In the face of being sanctioned, rather than supported, young survivors’ trauma reactions worsen. Sanctions grow harsher for worsening behavior, and so on.

Studies on racial bias have shown that white people feel less empathy for black people experiencing pain than they do for white people experiencing pain. The same bias has been reflected in white children as young as seven. The toxic combination of individual and systemic racial bias, along with the criminalization of trauma responses results in a terrible, unnecessary cycle of suffering and imprisonment.

At the Action Alliance, we believe trauma-informed work must be done from a racial justice lens. That means, in part, taking into account the impact of racism on individuals and communities. Think for example: how might these 5 tenets of a trauma-informed response operate differently when we consider them from a racial justice lens?
• Safety
• Trustworthiness
• Choice
• Collaboration
• Empowerment

Likewise, how might we rethink and respond to behaviors typically labeled as “failure to comply”, “defiant”, or “combative” when we look at them from a trauma-informed lens? Lincoln High School in Walla Walla, Washington is an excellent example of the stunning changes that happen when struggling teens are approached from a trauma-informed lens.

At the detention center on the morning of January 11, Gynnya did not respond to a verbal offer of breakfast at 6:30am, nor for snack 2 hours later. She did not move when guards said her family members were on the phone waiting to talk to her. Each one of these instances should have been cause for alarm, a cue to check on her at a facility where policy dictates that juveniles in isolation be checked every 15 minutes. Even after she was eventually found unresponsive, guards waited 11 minutes to perform CPR on her.

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Gynnya McMillen is remembered as a “quiet, beautiful person” by one of her former counselors at Home of the Innocents, one of Kentucky’s largest emergency placement centers for children who have been removed from their homes because of abuse, abandonment or neglect.

Gynnya should have been cared for well before she was found alone in a cell, unresponsive. Like so many other girls of color presently living in detention, Gynnya should have been cared for–by any number of educational, social, or other systems ostensibly created to help children stay safe and achieve their potential–before she ever entered a detention facility.

Black Girls Matter: Pushed Out, Overpoliced, and Underprotected, a report by the African American Policy Forum, offers comprehensive recommendations for lifting up the experiences of girls of color and turning back the tide of overly punitive sanctions in favor of more restorative ones.

As allies and advocates, we have the power to lift up the experiences of girls of color and center them in our work. We can integrate what we know about trauma-informed approaches into our direct advocacy work in schools and detention facilities, as well as our policy work at local, state, and national levels. We can and must risk the discomfort of noticing and talking about systemic racism while working to undermine it. We can and must show up for racial justice and for kids who struggle every day with unrecognized trauma. We can and must show up for kids like Gynnya.


Kate McCord is the Communications Director for the Action Alliance. Kate’s work as a white ally to racial justice began in 2004 and has included serving for 3 years on Virginia Organizing’s statewide racial profiling campaign, serving on the Action Alliance’s Racial Justice Task Force, and raising her amazing kids to be actively anti-racist.

For more information about conducting trauma-informed advocacy through a racial justice lens, register here for our February 16 webinar, “Racial Justice as Trauma-Informed Advocacy”.


1 As referenced in “The Sexual Abuse to Prison Pipeline: The Girls’ Story“: Melissa Sickmund, Anthony (T.J.) Sladky, Wei Kang & Charles Puzzanchera, US Dep’t of Justice, Nat’l Ctr. for Juv. Justice, Easy Access to the Census of Juveniles in Residential Placement: 1997-2013, http:// (last visited May 24, 2015); Annie E. Casey Found., KIDS COUNT Data Center, Child Population by Race and Age Group (2013),,66,67,68,69,70,71,12|/17077,17078 (last updated Feb. 2015)

2  As referenced in “The Sexual Abuse to Prison Pipeline: The Girls’ Story”: Sickmund, supra note 8; Annie E. Casey Found., KIDS COUNT Data Center, Child Population by Race and Age Group (2013), available at loc=1&loct=1#detailed/1/any/false/36/13,66,67,68,69,70,71,12|/17077,17078 (last updated Feb.2015).



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