The Government Shutdown’s Impact on Survivors of Sexual Violence and Domestic Violence

As the nation enters the fourth week of an unnecessary partial government shutdown, federal funding for vital services to sexual assault and domestic violence survivors will come to an abrupt halt. As agencies cut back expenses to maintain essential crisis services, many of their other services and programs that provide vital support, resources, and healing are being temporarily reduced or eliminated.  

In Virginia, federal funds from the Department of Justice (DOJ) are the primary source of funding for these sexual and domestic violence services. These funds support crisis hotlines, accompanying survivors to hospitals in the wake of violence, legal advocacy and representation, emergency housing and transportation, trauma counseling for victims of all ages, direct financial assistance, and more. 

Domestic Violence shelters face an additional barrier since many of them rely upon funding from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) for vital homeless prevention, shelter operation, and transitional housing services. Both DOJ and HUD are closed and staff that were brought in temporarily to process funding requests will be furloughed this week. 

 

Intimate Partner Violence is More Likely to Occur When Couples Are Under Financial Strain

Virginia is one of the jurisdictions most heavily impacted by the furlough which has resulted in curtailment of pay for more than 800,000 federal employees and the loss of work for an untold number of contractors.  Should the shutdown continue beyond January 25th, some of the more than 1,000 employees of Virginia’s Sexual and Domestic Violence agencies will also face the prospect of furloughs. 

Families that suddenly lose a substantial portion of their income, whether single parent households, couples with children, individuals responsible for elderly family members, or adults without dependents, can quickly tailspin into financial crisis. 

Two thirds of adults in the US have less than $1,000 in savings — and those losing their income as a result of the shutdown are no exception.  The financial stress of not being able to pay bills, heat your home, purchase fresh food, or keep your children in safe care while you are out of work can become a point of volatility in relationships. For survivors of intimate partner or sexual violence who are in the process of recovering from violence, financial stress triggers trauma responses that jeopardize healing. 

 

This Shutdown is Irresponsible and Dangerous to Our Communities 

No matter your politics, the partial government shutdown is unconscionable.  It jeopardizes public safety.  The shutdown throws individuals and families into crisis, and then pulls the rug out from under crisis services. It is not acceptable to demand that essential federal employees work without pay (something that would NEVER be tolerated in the private sector) and then refuse to do the job of governance.   

 

Your Support is Vital to Your Community Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence Agencies 

Make a contribution to your community Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence agencies today! If you don’t know the name of your local agency, you can find the name and contact information on our web-site in the Help/Resources section:  Virginia SDVA Directory. 

Every dollar that you donate will stretch services a little further as the shutdown continues.  Agencies have had to cut back direct financial assistance for needs as varied as legal representation, trauma counseling, housing and medical care but local support could make a big difference.   

There may also be some unique needs for other types of donations or for volunteer help as agencies cut costs for travel, supplies and other semi-critical expenses. If you are available, reach out by phone or email and offer help.  

 

Policy Leaders Need to Hear from YOU 

You can also support your community Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence agency by reaching out to your Congressional representatives and the President to tell them to end the shutdown.  The budget impasse is a manufactured crisis.  The sad reality is that this crisis is being fueled by a xenophobic and racist policy proposal (i.e. the wall). We need both a budget AND thoughtful and compassionate immigration reform, and our Virginia policy leaders are capable of both. 

This is also an important time to let your state legislators know that increased state funding for Sexual and Domestic Violence Agencies is key to sustaining life-saving work throughout the Commonwealth. Please join us on Wednesday, January 30th, for Legislative Advocacy Day as we lift the voices of survivors and advocate for policies that will help prevent violence and ensure conditions where every person has the opportunity to thrive. 

Register For Legislative Advocacy Day (January 30th) Here: https://actionalliance.salsalabs.org/legislativeadvocacyday2019/index.html 

Find and Contact Your Representatives Here: https://whosmy.virginiageneralassembly.gov/ 

Reach Out to the President Here: https://www.whitehouse.gov/contact/ 

 

 

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.  

Governing Body Members Take Action! to Raise Funds

During the month of October, the Governing Body of the Virginia Sexual and Domestic Violence Action Alliance decided to raise $4,000 for the cause to end sexual and domestic violence. As they are spread around the state, they decided to hold neighborhood parties or go viral with an online giving circle.

And they succeeded, by raising just over the goal of $4,000. Kudos and many thanks to our awesome governing body members:

Kathleen Demro, Gena Boyle, Sanu Dieng, Michelle Hensley, Becky Lee, Jennifer Bourne, Judy Casteele, Frank Charbonneau, Joni Coleman, Marva Dunn, Janett Forte, Ted Heck, Sheree Hedrick, Claudia Muniz, Claire Sheppard, and Tabitha Smith.

 

 

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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

 

 

Kristi visits centers across Southwest Virginia

One of the more exciting roles of the Executive Director of the Action Alliance is to visit the member sexual and domestic violence agencies. This is one important way we keep in touch with what is happening in our cause area across the Commonwealth. I decided to share my latest trip to Southwest Virginia with you.

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Tamy with Ms. Kitty

Monday: 

It is early afternoon and I am pulling up next to a huge, red Victorian house in Covington, Virginia. Tamy Mann, Executive Director, meets me in the parking lot, and it is not too long before Miss Kitty, the “Deputy Director,” joins us. Tamy and Miss Kitty give me a tour of the playground that was recently updated by the Rotary Club and then take me over to a garage/shed that is being converted into a group room, a play space for teens, and with the help of some community grant funds, new office space to accommodate a rapidly expanding staff.

Thanks to new federal Victims Of Crime Act (VOCA) funding administered by Virginia’s Department of Criminal Justice Services money that comes from criminal fines and fees converted into vital victim services—Safehome Systems in Covington will have 24-hour staff on-site for the first time EVER. Those staff will welcome, support and counsel survivors in a warm and welcoming space thanks to Tamy and many members of the community who have worked hard over the past three years to complete major renovations to the shelter and offices and major improvements to the services offered throughout Craig and Bath counties. I spend a few hours with Tamy and her staff—and then leave them as they prepare from more interviews for nighttime and weekend staff. I head south and west…headed to Bristol on Tuesday.

A side note:  when you have been driving on country roads and have no idea where you are, but you are trusting your GPS, and then your GPS is telling you to turn on a country road that has a big, big sign that says “GPS not advisable on this route” what do you do??!

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Bristolopy

Tuesday:

Stephanie Poe, Executive Director of the Crisis Center greets me in the Center’s offices which are located firmly on the Virginia side of the VA/TN line that runs through Bristol. Stephanie heads up a small but mighty staff who are delivering a diverse set of services meeting a wide range of community needs. In addition to providing sexual violence services the agency operates a regional suicide hotline, manages a service that provides support to home-bound elderly and disabled adults, and fills community gaps for other crisis and support services, including the current support group for autism spectrum families. They do all of this with the help of a large and diverse group of volunteers and “Experience Works” employees who are all over the age of 55.

As I am leaving Stephanie shares the plans for their newest fundraiser: a new and improved version of “Bristolopoly!” As someone who LOVES Monopoly and has fond memories of weekend games that lasted for hours, this is just TOO COOL!

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Michelle Hensley

Wednesday:

Two visits today!! The weather is still beautiful, and the drive from Bristol to Gate City takes me through some beautiful countryside. There are three big highlights to this leg of my journey. The first is hearing about the plans Michelle Hensley, Executive Director of Hope House, is making after receiving a significant increase in state and VOCA funding. Hope House will be expanding to add sexual violence services—for the first time ever in this part of Virginia!!! Overall the staff size will double—making it possible to add a wide range of services for children and adults and making those services available 24 hours a day. Funds will also be applied to leasing a new outreach office—and moving staff offices out of the shelter will make space for 10 additional beds, which will truly be a blessing in this community where the shelter has been full since March!

The second highlight of this trip was meeting some of the new Hope House staff—what an awesome, passionate group of advocates. And the third highlight had to be the pastries.  They have one heck of a bakery in Gate City!!

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Hope House Play Space

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Marybeth Adkins and Kristi Van Audenhove

From Gate City I traveled down the road to Norton to meet with Marybeth Adkins, Executive Director of Family Crisis Support Services (FCSS). FCSS is another agency that is providing a wide range of community services—both sexual and domestic violence services, prevention education, and homeless prevention and shelter services. Sexual and domestic violence services are also expanding in this southwest community as a result of state and federal funding increases:  FCSS will be adding children’s services and like many other agencies, the funds also made it possible to reach the level of 24/7 staffing that ensures that survivors can reach a trained advocate any time of the day or night.

I enjoyed learning about a few unique partnerships that are working well in Norton. One of those partnerships is with a local movie theater that advertises the hotline number during each movie, provides movie tickets for shelter residents, and collaborates with FCSS to make safe space available for survivors. Family Crisis Support Services was also gearing up for a fun fall fundraiser while I was there—a flag football game between the Sheriff’s office and the fire department!!

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Jennifer Bourne

Thursday: 

Thursday morning I arrive at the Clinch Valley Community Action Agency just as Jennifer Bourne, Director of Family Crisis Services, arrives for work.  She takes me on a quick tour of the shelter (a spacious and well designed space that seems to be bustling this morning!) before heading up to her office. As I sit down in Jennifer’s office I am delighted by her bulletin board—a wonderful collection of posters, flyers, bumper stickers and more that provide a visible herstory of the movement!!

Perhaps most impressive of all is a flip chart page that is posted across the room with no fewer than 25 activities that are planned for October, Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Family Crisis Services has a high level of commitment to educating their community –about the issues of sexual and domestic violence, about the resources that are available, and about healthy relationships.  From a Porch Light Campaign to a PJ party—there is something for everyone!!jenniferbulletinboardsmaller

The new state and VOCA funds are making it possible for Family Crisis Services to expand sexual violence prevention programming from the high school to the middle school, add the service of sheltering pets, and provide professional mental health counseling for trauma survivors who need that vital service. There will also be 4 new staff at the shelter—making 24-hour staff available for the first time!!

From Tazewell I head north and east to visit the Women’s Resource Center of the New River Valley (WRC) in Radford. It is always a pleasure to see my long-time friend Pat Brown and to hear about how programs are evolving at the Women’s Resource Center. The Women’s Resource Center is one of Virginia’s very first sexual and domestic violence agencies and has been a leader in the field since those very early days. I spend some time with Pat talking about an emerging concern of Executive Directors across the state—how to bring their agencies into compliance with the new federal overtime rules by December 1. For agencies that have relied upon advocates to work flexible hours, to be on-call on weekends and overnight, to accompany survivors to the hospital and to court and to stay with them as long as they want and need an advocate, even when that is 6, 10, 12 hours or more the new overtime rules may be very costly to implement. Directors are balancing fair labor practices, which they value highly, with strong advocacy and support for survivors, which they value highly as well!

tazewellsmallerEven in this agency with nearly 40 staff, the VOCA funds and the state funding increases are making a difference. WRC has added Justice System Navigators to work on behalf of survivors in each of the localities they serve, a campus Outreach Specialist to provide dedicated services to students, and other outreach staff who will expand the reach of the agency—including connections with the LGBTQ community.  This was a great way to wrap up my trip—a cold beverage, some yummy nachos (thank you Laura Weaver), and a sense of having come full circle.

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. 

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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

Statewide Hotline Launch

Sexual and intimate partner violence are serious public health and safety issues. While huge strides have been made in our response to sexual and intimate partner violence in the past 30 years, many victims suffered decades of silence, fear, and isolation in a society that failed to acknowledge the seriousness of violence against women. With limited social support and little resources, survivors had few options for safety and support. Confidentiality and privacy are an essential element to providing safety and respectful advocacy services. Rape crisis and domestic violence hotlines quickly became a vital, confidential resource for survivors to share their stories, seek help, and organize for change. Hotlines continue to be a vital service for breaking through the silence and isolation and connecting individuals to resources and essential services.

We are celebrating the re-branding and expansion of our Statewide Hotline. The Statewide Hotline provides direct access 24/7/365 to experts with specialized training in sexual and domestic violence who provide lifesaving, trauma-informed services and practical tools for safety and healing.

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Within our Statewide Hotline, we host the LGBTQ Helpline in collaboration with the Virginia Anti-Violence Project, the PREA hotline in collaboration with the Department of Corrections, and serve our 64 member Rape Crisis Centers and Domestic Violence Shelters to host or back up their hotlines.

Virginia Family Violence and Sexual Assault Hotline – 1 (800) 838-8238 | 24/7
Confidential chat  … Text (804) 793-9999
LGBTQ+ Partner Abuse & Sexual Assault Helpline – 1 (866) 356-6998

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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

 

New Law: Person’s Subject to a “permanent” Protective Order

As of July 1, 2016, a new law went into effect: 

Persons subject to a “permanent” Protective Order may not possess a firearm.

 What does this mean? Here are answers to frequently asked questions: 

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Why is this legislation significant?

Domestic violence and firearms are a lethal combination. This new law is a critical step forward in limiting access to guns for perpetrators of intimate partner violence.

The new legislation brings Virginia in line with current federal law, which has prohibited for decades possession of a firearm for persons subject to protective order.  The problem is that it was virtually unenforceable at the state level because only federal law enforcement and prosecutors have the authority to act on federal law. This meant that it was very difficult—if not nearly impossible—to effectively remove guns from perpetrators of intimate partner violence.

The legislation provides an additional safety measure for victims choosing to seek a Family Abuse Protective Order against someone who owns a gun.  Prior to this legislation, there was no impetus on localities to address the presence of firearms in domestic violence.  The new law provides law enforcement, prosecutors and the courts a new tool for removing firearms from these dangerous situations and demands systemic action to ensure that violations of the law are enforced.

This policy alone will not eliminate intimate partner homicides, but it is an important and necessary step to reducing these preventable deaths.

 

2. What does the legislation do?

Prior to the new law, persons subject to a “permanent” Protective Order were prohibited from purchasing or transporting a firearm, but not prohibited from keeping firearms they already had in their possession.

The new law prohibits possession of a firearm for persons subject to a “permanent” Family Abuse Protective Order (the type issued after a hearing and lasting up to 2 years). Respondents have 24 hours to sell or transfer all guns or face being charged with a felony.

3. What does the legislation not do?

The new law only applies to “permanent” Family Abuse Protective Orders.

The new law does not apply to:

  • emergency or preliminary Family Abuse Protective Orders;
  • emergency, preliminary or “permanent” Acts of Violence Protective Orders issued by the General District Court. The “Acts of Violence” protective orders are not intended to address domestic violence.  They apply to situations where the individuals are not current family or household members, or are not former family and household members with a child in common.

The new law does not provide a plan for implementation.  It does not prescribe or layout a process for the voluntary or involuntary removal/surrender of firearms. It also does not describe a process for safely and lawfully returning firearms after the Protective Order has expired.

4. What issues should your community be discussing regarding implementation?

Because the new law goes into effect July 1, 2016 and does not tell localities “how” to make it happen, it is important that localities begin having discussions about how the new law will be implemented.  Below are a few key issues to consider:

IDENTIFICATION: 

  1. How will the courts identify respondents who possess a firearm?
  2. Will judges ask about respondents during the protective order hearing whether or not they possess firearms?
  3. Will petitioners be asked if the respondent owns a firearm? Will they be asked during the hearing?  Will a question be included on the petition?

NOTIFICATION: 

  1. How will respondents be informed that they are prohibited from possessing a firearm? Verbally?  In writing?
  2. Will respondents be notified at the time of issuance? At service? Both?

REMOVAL/STORAGE:

  1. There are numerous methods for removal: voluntary surrender, search and seize or a hybrid of the two. What removal options will be used?
  2. Will respondents be ordered to surrender firearms by the courts? To whom?
  3. What follow up is in place to ensure surrender/removal? Will the courts hold a review hearing to ensure removal within 24 hours?
  4. Will law enforcement inquire about firearms at service and allow voluntary surrender at time of service?
  5. Will law enforcement have the authority to search and seize at service of the order?
  6. What role can a respondent’s attorneys have in surrender and compliance?
  7. Once firearms have been surrendered or removed, where will they be stored and by whom? Law enforcement? Third party?  Firearm dealer?
  8. What is the process for storage? Receipt for firearms—proof of surrender? Fee for storage? Liability issues re: damage while in storage?
  9. What qualifications or procedures are needed for third party storage?
  10. What happens to unclaimed firearms?

RETURN:

  1. What, if any, process will be in place to notify petitioners if firearms are returned?
  2. What, if any, process will be in place to ensure firearms are lawfully returned? For example, not returned to a prohibited party?

For more information on the above, including best practices from other states:  http://efsgv.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/Removal-Report-Updated-2-11-16.pdf

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picture: DCJS

5. What’s next?

Key stakeholders will be convening soon to discuss numerous issues surrounding the effective implementation of the new law and to develop guidelines to assist localities. In the meantime, we encourage localities to consider policy, procedural and practice changes needed to enforce this new law to protect victims and help respondents comply.

Questions? Contact:  Kristine Hall at khall@vsdvalliance.org or 804-377-0335

Kristine Hall is the Policy Director at the Virginia Sexual and Domestic Violence Action Alliance. She has supported Anti-Violence work for over 20 years.

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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

 

 

New Marriage Age Law Equals Better Protections for Thousands

Over the last 10 years in Virginia, thousands of children were married, as young as 13 years old; 90% were girls, and 90% of the time they married adults, who were sometimes decades older.

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news.vawnet.org

The only barrier between them and a marriage license? A clerk’s rubber stamp based on parental consent or, for those under age 16, parental consent + pregnancy. There was no age floor, and no safeguards against forced marriage or other abuse or exploitation.

But as of July 1, when a new law goes into effect, young people will be enabled to make their own decisions about marriage, to advocate for themselves, and to have the opportunity to lead healthy and fulfilling lives.

The new law responds to a long list of urgent concerns flagged by advocates during the legislative process. These include:

  • Forced marriage is a serious problem in the U.S. that impacts many adolescent girls;
  • Child marriage can result in devastating, lifelong harm;
  • Girls aged 16-19 are at heightened risk of abuse;
  • All of the marriage licenses granted to children under age 15, and most of those granted to pregnant 15-17 year olds, sanctioned statutory rape as defined in Virginia;
  • Age 16 is the minimum age in Virginia to petition a court to be considered a legal adult (“emancipated”), marriage does not automatically emancipate minors, and unemancipated minors do not have the same rights as an adult to protect themselves in case of abuse (e.g., to seek a protective order or go to a shelter); and
  • Minors who are abused by their partners instead of their parents are outside of Child Protective Services’ jurisdiction in Virginia.

Given all these data points, Virginia’s current marriage age laws fly in the face of common sense and Virginia’s other laws and policies to protect children.

Today, if Virginia’s minimum marriage age laws were represented as an equation, they might read: Zero legal protection + minimal legal rights = extreme vulnerability. That’s an equation that results in serious consequences to girls’ health, safety, and well-being.

The new law will ensure that only individuals age 18 or older, or emancipated minors, can marry in Virginia.

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Beth Halpern, Hope Kestle, Vivian Hamilton, Jeanne Smoot, Kristine Hall, Rebecca Robinson, Kristi VanAudenhove, Delegate Jennifer McClellan

Companion reform bills (HB 703/ SB 415) were successfully championed this legislative session by Delegate Jennifer McClellan (D) and Senator Jill Vogel (R), and strongly supported by a broad coalition led by the Tahirih Justice Center in partnership with the Virginia Sexual and Domestic Violence Action Alliance and Prevent Child Abuse Virginia.

Key provisions include:

Procedural safeguards

  • 16 or 17 year olds seeking to emancipate in order to marry will petition a juvenile and domestic relations judge, who will hold a hearing, issue written findings, and can order a Department of Social Services investigation or issue other orders as appropriate;
  • the minor will be appointed an attorney (guardian ad litem, or “GAL”); and
  • if the petition is granted, the minor will be given the rights of a legal adult.

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Substantive criteria
To grant the petition, the judge must find that:

  • the minor is not being forced or coerced to marry;
  • the parties are sufficiently mature;
  • the marriage will not endanger the minor (taking into account age differences and any history of violence between the parties, as well as criminal convictions for crimes of violence or crimes against minors); and
  • the marriage is in the minor’s best interests – but very importantly, neither pregnancy nor parental wishes is sufficient to establish “best interests.”

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Improved protections for children from being forced into marriage, and from the many other risks and harms of child marriage

This is tremendously important progress, but we need your help to make sure this new law actually works as intended:

  1. Spread the news! Talk about the new law when you present to schools or youth audiences. Share it with family lawyers, GALs, social workers, CASA advocates, and other children’s advocates with whom you work.
  2. Monitor implementation! If judges and GALs do not do a vigilant job, or teens are too afraid to disclose in court what is really happening, or abusive parents or partners try to evade the new law, a vulnerable teen’s next phone call may be to your agency.
  3. Share stories with us! We are working with national partners to urge that child marriage be eliminated in every U.S. state. Knowing how this new law is working (or what snags it hits in implementation) will not only be crucially important to enable us to course-correct as needed in Virginia, but also to drive reforms in other states.

To learn more about the alarming data-points that built momentum behind this new law, see our earlier blog post: “Empowering Girls in Virginia to Choose If, When and Whom to Marry” (January 11, 2016). Please contact Jeanne Smoot at the Tahirih Justice Center, jeanne@tahirih.org or 571-282-6161, for more info or to share your experiences.

Jeanne Smoot is the Senior Counsel for Policy and Strategy at the Tahirih Justice Center, where for over a decade she has helped lead innovative advocacy initiatives to reduce vulnerabilities of immigrant women and girls to violence and to empower them as survivors.

 

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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

Meet Karen Burruss-Cousins

Why do you do this Anti-Violence work?
Because no one deserves to be hurt.

What is the latest book you have read and would you recommend it?
I have not read a book in years but I do listen to audio books.  Currently I am listening to the Outlander series and yes I would recommend it.

If you were a vegetable what would you be? Why?
A pumpkin; because what is not to love?  You can make soups, pies, decorations, and scare Linus and the Peanuts gang.

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What are the 3 things you love about Virginia?

  • The best is that I never have to leave the state to have a great vacation because of the variety of scenario available around Virginia.
  • The other best is THE WINE.
  • The third is having to correct my statements to ensure I say the Commonwealth of Virginia and not the state.

What would be the title of your autobiography? 
Never Stop.

If you had one box for all your stuff, what would you put in it?
I would fill that box with photos and a change of clothes (This is of course assuming my family and cats have their own boxes, if not then I am putting them all in there and toting them to safety with adequate air holes and food.)

What is the most incredible view you have ever seen? 
The Ring of Kerry in Ireland.

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Lastly, what excites you most about your new job at the Action Alliance? 
I am excited to be working with advocates from local programs and state partners to assist in making long-lasting and powerful change for survivors and the community at large across Virginia.

Karen Burruss-Cousins is the Training and Resource Specialist at the Virginia Sexual and Domestic Violence Action Alliance. 

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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

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.

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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.

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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

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.

brian

supersprowtz.wordpress.com

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. 

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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 Urgency of Addiction: Children and the Drug Overdose Crisis in Virginia

Each day in Virginia, more than 2 people die from a drug overdose. In the 15 years between 2000 and 2014, the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner noted that drug overdose deaths increased by 137%, from 424 to 992 victims. Now outpacing deaths from motor vehicle collisions, drug overdoses reflect our newest public health crisis.

The State Child Fatality Review Team – a brave group of professional women and men who gather several times a year to examine the specifics of child deaths in order to find solutions to these preventable deaths – has spent the past 2 years reviewing child cases of overdose to understand how this crisis is impacting Virginia’s children and their families.  Looking at the 41 deaths of children from poisoning between 2009 and 2013, the Team noted two distinct groups of children, each with their own set of risks: teenagers and infants/young children.

Teenagers who die from poisoning are most often the victims of accidental overdoses while misusing prescription medication, notably narcotics.  A smaller number die by suicide. They are overwhelmingly white and between the ages of 13 and 17. Even at very young ages, teens report a history of substance use and misuse, suffer mental health problems, receive substance abuse treatment, and grow up in homes with substance using and misusing parents. Keys to an effective response for these teens and their families include services that recognize and treat substance misuse in adolescents within the context of family relationships, and building Virginia’s capacity to serve those addicted to prescription medications and illicit drugs.

OSAS-REVIVE-FHMOchart

picture credit: dbhds.virginia.org

The picture of risk varies among the 15 infants and young children, where supervision by parents and caregivers is critical to their safety. While a majority of deaths were caused by taking prescription medications belonging to someone else, some children died after swallowing simple household products such as a battery, massage oil, or toothpaste.  Some died after accidentally chewing or swallowing a poison, some were murdered when given a lethal dose of medication to get them to sleep or to calm them, and others had no clear circumstances to determine how they died. And like teenagers, most lived with substance using and misusing adults. For these young and vulnerable children, attentive care and supervision by parents and other caregivers is crucial, including their diligence in safely storing medications and other toxic substances in the home.

The Team ended their review with the recognition that children’s overdose deaths reflect a small portion of deaths overall. But the loss of each of these young lives provides a window into a most pressing public health problem, one where the vulnerability of children and the needs of their caretakers are exposed, and the urgency of an effective response to addiction is paramount.

Once finalized in the summer of 2016, the Team’s final report on this review can be found here:  http://www.vdh.virginia.gov/medExam/childfatality-reports.htm.

 

Virginia Powell, Ph.D. is a Program Manager in the Virginia Department of Health in the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, in a department devoted to understanding injury and violence patterns through fatality review and surveillance projects.  Dr. Powell coordinated Virginia’s state child fatality review team; assisted in the development of a protocol for use by local domestic violence review teams; and was instrumental in the development of Virginia’s maternal death review team. She is principal investigator for the Virginia Violent Death Reporting System, a CDC funded initiative which is part of the National Violent Death Reporting System.  In Virginia, fatality review is at its core a public health effort designed to understand how and why people die and to educate others about those injuries and deaths in order to assist policy makers, advocates and planners in reducing violence.  

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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