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The V Word

Advocating to end sexual and domestic violence

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Anti-Violence

The V Word: Quillin from the Women’s March

The Women’s March on Washington drew millions to gather in cities around the world on January 21st. They were advocating for human rights: gender equality for women and transgender, the end of racial discrimination and racial equality for all races and ethnic groups, end discrimination for those differently-abled, reproductive rights and the rights of bodily integrity, equal and affordable health-care access for all.

The largest peaceful protest in history .. protesting the current administration’s announced plans to scale back services, to reduce rights, to marginalize and silence.

Women attended, transwomen attended, transmen attended, Queer folks attended, men attended, African-American’s attended, Latinos/x attended, Asian’s attended, young attended, older attended, children attended. People protested in their neighborhoods, in their cities, on social media and flew across timezones to attend.

Here is one of those million voices talking about why she marched:

Want to add your voice, talk about your experience? email: thevword.radio@gmail.com

 

 

The V Word: An Interview with Nationz

Today Carol talks with Zakia McKensey about her work with Nationz as part of our series with the Virginia Anti-Violence Project. Stacie Vecchietti and  Ha Tran join her.

You can listen to the show here:

Links:

Nationz 

Virginia Anti-Violence Project (VAVP) 

WRIR 97.3 LPFM

The V Word Interview – Trace Fleming

traceflemingadvocatesToday we interview Trace G. Fleming, activist and advocate working to end violence against women. She is the creator of both the Advocate News and Self-Care for Advocates, platforms on Facebook to serve advocates. Today she talks about her work starting a Feminist organization, WISE; her work as the Coordinator of the Abuse in Later Life Project and hosting Self-Care for Advocates to be able to provide therapeutic care for advocates suffering from vicarious trauma and burnout.

You can listen to the interview here

RP: Toolkit for Adolescent Relationship Abuse – integrating into PREP

Hello all I thought I would pass this along: 

The Family and Youth Services Bureau (FYSB) created a toolkit for integrating Adolescent Relationship Abuse (ARA) components into PREP. This toolkit has lived on the limited-access Communities of Practice website.
The toolkit has recently been added to the National Clearinghouse on Families & Youth for everyone/anyone to access.
Toolkit to incorporate Adolescent Relationship Abuse Prevention into organizations and programs :
http://ncfy.acf.hhs.gov/features/toolkit-incorporate-adolescent-relationship-abuse-prevention-existing-adolescent-pregnancy?utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=ncfynews
Components include:

* 1. Organizational Readiness and Planning<http://ncfy.acf.hhs.gov/features/ara-toolkit/readiness-planning>
* 2. Selection and Adaptation of Materials to Address ARA<http://ncfy.acf.hhs.gov/features/ara-toolkit/selection-adaptation>
* 3. Preparation for Implementation<http://ncfy.acf.hhs.gov/features/ara-toolkit/preparation-implementation>
* 4. Monitoring and Evaluation <http://ncfy.acf.hhs.gov/features/ara-toolkit/monitoring-evaluation>
* References<http://ncfy.acf.hhs.gov/features/ara-toolkit/references>
* Appendix: Additional Information and Research about Adolescent Relationship Abuse<http://ncfy.acf.hhs.gov/features/ara-toolkit/appendix>

Originally posted on VDHSV list serve by: 

Mandy Paradise, M.Ed.
Personal Responsibility Education Program (PREP) Project Coordinator
Access, Systems and Coordination
Office of Healthy Communities
Division of Prevention and Community Health
Washington State Department of Health
Ph: (360) 236-3538<tel:%28360%29%20236-3538> | E: mandy.paradise@doh.wa.gov<mailto:mandy.paradise@doh.wa.gov>
Mail: P.O. Box 47880
Olympia, WA 98504-7880
Location: Point Plaza East – 310 Israel Road S.E.
Tumwater, WA 98501
Public Health – Always Working for a Safer and Healthier Washington

Letter to Attorney General Holder on National Standards to Prevent, Detect, and Respond to Prison Rape

Robert Hinchman

Senior Counsel

Office of Legal Policy

Department of Justice

950 Pennsylvania Avenue NW.

Room 4252

Washington, DC 20530

RE:      Docket No. OAG-131; AG Order No. 3143-2010

            National Standards to Prevent, Detect, and Respond to Prison Rape

Dear Attorney General Holder,

I am the Executive Director of the Rappahannock Council Against Sexual Assault.  We are a full service sexual assault response agency.  We also serve victims in local jails and prisons. 

On behalf of The Rappahannock Council Against Sexual Assault, I am submitting these comments in support of the recommended national standards developed by the National Prison Rape Elimination Commission. As volunteers and professionals working in the field of sexual violence, we believe that sexual abuse should never be tolerated and that, regardless of custody status or criminal history, anyone who is assaulted deserves proper support by a qualified service provider and a thorough investigation.

We applaud the U.S. Department of Justice’s commitment, as noted in the Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, to remove the current ban on Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) funding for treatment and rehabilitation services for incarcerated victims of sexual abuse. This funding restriction has prevented many community rape crisis centers from providing counseling to incarcerated survivors of sexual violence, despite their commitment to serving all victims.

Lifting the VOCA funding ban will be a positive step, but more is needed. The Commission’s recommended standards provide the best tool to date for corrections facilities to address sexual abuse. These base provisions are urgently needed, and should be promulgated as binding regulation without delay.

Response to the questions in the ANPR

  1. What would be the implications of referring to “sexual abuse” as opposed to “rape” in the Department’s consideration of the Commission’s proposed national standards?

 

Truly establishing a zero-tolerance standard for prison rape requires addressing the full spectrum of sexual violence. The national standards should take an expansive approach and incorporate all staff sexual misconduct and all coercive sexual activity between inmates. The term “rape,” however, is often understood to have a narrow definition in accordance with its use in criminal law. Using the widely recognized terminology of “sexual abuse” in the standards will minimize confusion with the criminal standard for rape — which varies by state — and will conform to the expectations and intent of PREA.

PREA’s definition of rape includes all of the conduct within the Commission’s definition of sexual abuse except for sexual harassment (inmate-on-inmate and staff-on-inmate), staff-on-inmate voyeurism, and staff-on-inmate indecent exposure. Sexual harassment, voyeurism, and indecent exposure create a hostile environment for both inmates and staff. These behaviors are also known precursors to sexual assault and should not be tolerated. Most importantly, addressing these forms of sexual misconduct will enable officials to prevent rapes from occurring. 

While the full spectrum of sexual abuse must be addressed as part of a comprehensive response to prison rape, consensual sexual activity between inmates should not be incorporated into the definition of sexual abuse. Corrections agencies remain free to establish disciplinary rules and regulations as they see fit, but conflating consensual sexual activity between inmates with the crimes of sexual assault and staff sexual misconduct serves no legitimate purpose and thwarts many of PREA’s goals. Indeed, doing so will force survivors of sexual abuse to suffer in silence, as fear that sexual abuse will be misconstrued as prohibited consensual sexual activity (and that they will face punishment) will prevent survivors from reporting their abuse and from seeking medical assistance. This disincentive to reporting will allow sexual violence to flourish – and will increase the vulnerability of many inmates, such as those who are gay or transgender, who are known to be at especially high risk for abuse but are often mistakenly assumed to have consented to any sexual activity.

2.   Would any of the Commission’s proposed standards impose ‘‘substantial additional costs’’?

The costs for implementing these standards are small compared to the devastating toll that sexual abuse takes on survivors, facilities, and the community. Incarcerated survivors of sexual abuse are at high-risk for developing long-term psychological problems, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, addiction, and suicidal ideation. The lack of control that inmates have over their environment exacerbates the challenges of recovering from sexual assault.  Prisoners who suffer multiple assaults and/or are under the long-term control of a perpetrator or group of perpetrators may develop Complex PTSD. Sexual abuse also often involves physical injuries and exposure to sexually transmitted infections, all of which are more prevalent in detention settings than in the community.

For the corrections agency, implementing the standards’ provisions will promote safety and efficiency, resulting in net savings in areas such as staffing and investigations. Proper crisis intervention, medical care, and mental health care at the outset will help identify medical and psychiatric conditions and ensure that they are treated in a proactive and cost-effective manner, resulting in substantial savings for inmate health care.

The vast majority of inmates will one day return to their communities – and bring their emotional trauma and medical conditions with them. Without proper care and services while they are incarcerated, positive reentry efforts may be thwarted. Prison rape survivors who do not receive adequate care are often unable to become self-sufficient members of society, because of their untreated trauma.

Beyond the economic impact, the moral costs of allowing sexual violence to continue must also be considered. Recent studies from the Bureau of Justice Statistics make clear that sexual violence is a serious problem across the country. Failing to put in place the basic measures recommended by the Commission to prevent and respond to this abuse is unconscionable. When the government removes someone’s liberty, it has the absolute responsibility to protect that person from abuse.

3.   Should the Department consider differentiating within any of the four categories of facilities for which the Commission proposed standards …?

Every person has the right to be free from sexual abuse, no matter where they are housed. The standards represent basic measures that all facilities must put in place to protect inmates from abuse and to ensure that those who are victimized receive appropriate care. Varying compliance requirements based on factors such as the size and resources of a facility will undermine the standards and will needlessly complicate their otherwise straightforward expectations.

Comments on the Standards

The Commission’s standards ensure that, where possible, victimized inmates are afforded the same quality of care as survivors in the community. The standards represent a compromise, balancing the fiscal and security interests of corrections administrators with the basic right of all people, including inmates, to be free from sexual abuse. Swift ratification of these provisions will spare thousands of men, women, and children the devastation of sexual abuse behind bars.

Prevention and Response Planning

Proper planning, through the development of sound policies and the collaboration with outside resources, is essential to improving health and safety in detention.  Adequate planning is also indicative of the strong leadership needed to address sexual violence in detention. The provisions in this section reflect the innovations and concerns raised by corrections leaders throughout the process as well as proven best practices from the community.

Standard PP-4 (limits to cross-gender viewing and searches) has been revised to substantially reduce its requirements, despite findings in each of the BJS inmate surveys that a significant percentage of sexual abuse in all types of corrections facilities is perpetrated by staff members of the opposite sex. Rather than limiting cross-gender supervision in any areas where inmates disrobe or perform bodily functions, the final recommended standard only prohibits actually viewing inmates of the opposite gender who are nude or performing bodily functions.

Many agencies already comply with PP-4’s preclusion of routine cross-gender viewing and searches in their women’s facilities. In light of the BJS data, which showed high percentages of abuse by female staff of male inmates, these protections are clearly needed in all facilities.

Limiting officers from viewing inmates of the opposite sex unclothed and from touching opposite sex inmates’ bodies during a search will also prevent re-victimization and related trauma. A significant number of inmates have suffered sexual abuse in the past, and the extreme loss of privacy that comes with cross-gender searches and supervision prevents them from retaining a sense of bodily integrity that is vital to healing. In addition to becoming targets for abuse, inmates who are re-victimized have trouble adjusting to prison life, often resulting in disciplinary problems and grievances. Therefore, beyond minimizing the opportunity for staff sexual misconduct, enacting the compromise measures reflected in PP-4 will prevent needless institutional problems and help promote a healthier inmate population.

Standard RP-1 (evidence protocol and forensic medical exams) relies upon the proven practice of uniform evidence collection, which will improve administrative and criminal investigations by maximizing the potential for obtaining usable physical evidence. The 2004 publication “A National Protocol for Sexual Assault Medical Forensic Examinations, Adults/Adolescents” is the definitive source for how to conduct a proper medical forensic examination. To ensure that these exams are conducted with the most effective cooperation of the victim, they must be provided free of charge and include a victim advocate. Forensic examinations are critical to the investigation, but emotionally difficult and physically invasive to the victim. By providing clear information and unconditional support, victim advocates help secure the survivors’ full cooperation in the investigation while helping them begin the healing process.

Collaborating with outside experts is a no-cost way for facilities to enhance dramatically their relevant expertise. Standards RP-2 to RP-4 (agreements with outside public entities and service providers, law enforcement agencies, and prosecuting authority) encourage officials to take advantage of the expertise available in their community, by proactively reaching out to reporting entities, direct service providers, police, and prosecutors and defining the proper role for each of these professionals in the response to a sexual assault at the facility. Reflective of concerns that corrections officials raised to the Commission, facilities can meet this standard even without a formal memorandum of understanding, so long as they make a serious effort to reach out to these entities.

As service providers, we particularly support Standard RP-2 and are eager to establish these partnerships. Some corrections officials may fear that if outside counselors are allowed to speak confidentially with survivors, the officials will not know the full scope of what is happening in their institutions. To the contrary, just as in the community, survivors who feel safe and supported are much more likely to report the sexual abuse and are better prepared to fully cooperate with the investigation and prosecution.


Prevention

Preventing sexual abuse is at the heart of all PREA-related initiatives, and the training and classification provisions in the standards represent well-established means of doing so. Rather than imposing stringent curricula, Standards TR-1 through TR-5 (training and education) include basic information that can be incorporated into pre-existing staff training sessions and inmate orientation workshops.

Policies aimed at eliminating sexual abuse in detention become meaningful only if corrections staff, contractors, and volunteers are appropriately trained to take action to prevent and address incidents of sexual violence. Specialized training for investigators and medical and mental health staff (Standards TR-4, TR-5) is especially important to ensure that these professionals are able to fulfill their specific duties pertaining to the detection and response of sexual abuse, including proper evidence preservation, assessing signs of sexual abuse, and ensuring that victims are adequately protected from further abuse and receive appropriate health care.

Similarly, inmates must be aware of their absolute right to be free from sexual abuse, and that the facility will not tolerate sexually predatory treatment of inmates. The basic information required by Standard TR-3 will encourage inmates to report abuse when it occurs. Letting them know about common reactions to sexual abuse will also help normalize the reactions of prison rape survivors, further encouraging them to seek needed medical care and mental health assistance.   

Proper classification is vital to ensuring that potential predators and potential victims are not housed together. It can also help break the insidious and common corrections practice of automatically placing the victim in protective custody following an incident of sexual abuse. Such isolation further traumatizes victims and makes it impossible for them to begin the healing process. Standards SC-1 (screening for risk of victimization and abusiveness) and SC-2 (use of screening information) address these concerns, relying on the BJS data and academic research that have identified certain populations that are especially vulnerable to abuse.

Detection and Response

In the aftermath of a sexual assault, inmates need safe, effective reporting options that are responded to swiftly and thoroughly. The reactions of the first people who a survivor tells about sexual abuse often will dictate the survivor’s ability to participate in the investigation and begin his/her recovery. The ability to contact any trusted staff member and the creation of hotlines to outside entities have proven to be important mechanisms for encouraging reports. However, it is still far too common that officials fail to respond to reports of sexual abuse appropriately, such as by failing to initiate an investigation, refusing to provide protective measures, or by directly facilitating or participating in retaliatory behavior.

Trained advocates who can protect confidentiality are the best source of compassionate, skilled responses to sexual abuse survivors. Standard RE-3 (inmate access to outside confidential support services) will give inmates access to one of the most basic and proven mechanisms for an effective response: confidential emotional support services. Confidential counseling provides survivors with a safe and trusted way to discuss the sexual assaults, deal with their fears, develop appropriate coping skills, and understand that the abuse was not their fault.

As noted above (with Standard RP-2), confidential services improve a survivor’s ability to participate in an investigation of the assault. These services further enhance safety in the facility; a survivor who receives quality care with the support of a counselor is likely to tell other inmates about the experience and to encourage anyone experiencing sexual abuse to come forward.

Medical and mental health care are vital components of detecting and responding to sexual abuse. The minimal requirements of Standards MM-1 through MM-3 (screenings, access to emergency services, ongoing care) are a great start to ensuring that corrections health professionals are providing needed services. Standard MM-2 rightfully recognizes that services should be provided free of charge and not dependent on whether the survivor names the abuser. The importance of follow-up mental health and medical services, like those mandated by Standard MM-3, cannot be underestimated. The successful recovery of a survivor rests heavily on the post-abuse services he/she receives. Just as survivors in the community have access to follow-up medical services and counseling, so should survivors in custody.

Monitoring

Incident reviews and data collection (Standards DC-1 through DC-3) are important ways to learn about patterns of abuse within facilities and about the effectiveness of response measures. Such information will allow officials and others to improve their efforts and continually increase facility safety.

Likewise, external scrutiny is vitally important to the strength of any public institution – and corrections facilities are no exception. Sound oversight, conducted by a qualified independent entity, can identify systemic problems while offering effective solutions. Standard AU-1 (audit requirement) mandates the essential components of independent oversight in a cost-effective manner. Done properly, this outside monitoring will provide a credible, objective assessment of a facility’s safety, identifying problems that may be more readily apparent to an independent monitor than to an official working within a corrections system. It will also help hold systems accountable when they do not meet the requirements of the standards. 

Conclusion

Sexual violence in U.S. prisons and jails has reached crisis proportions. Strong standards are urgently needed to protect inmates from this devastating form of abuse. I strongly urge you to promulgate the Commission’s standards without delay. Every day that these critically important measures are not in place, men, women, and children will continue to be raped while in custody.

Thank you for your consideration.

Respectfully,

Carol Ann Olson

Executive Director

Positive Results of Advocacy in Virginia!!!

Thanks and Congratulations to all who helped our advocacy to protect domestic violence funding.

Members of the General Assembly of Virginia passed a budget yesterday that restored funding for domestic violence services, homeless shelters (including domestic violence shelters), and child advocacy centers to the levels proposed in former Governor Kaine’s budget.
Your message was persistent, it was clear, and it was effective!   It is a direct result of everyone’s efforts that victims of domestic violence will still have access to safe shelter and life-saving services.
Thank you to the Members of the General Assembly, especially the Budget conferees, for protecting these programs!

Now, we await Governor McDonnell’s signature!
So, here’s what it all means in dollars and cents!
We started this session with a budget proposed by former Governor Kaine that included a 7.5% cut for domestic violence services through the Department of Social Services (VDSS), a 5% cut for Sexual Assault Crisis Centers through the Department of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS), an 8% cut for homeless intervention services through the Department of Housing and Community Development (DCHD), and a 10% cut to Child Advocacy Centers.
The Budget passed by the General Assembly includes these original cuts to funding, but no more!  The statewide reductions to domestic and sexual violence services will be:
  • DV Funding at VDSS:  $138,750 cut in 2011 & 2012;
  • SV Funding at DCJS:  $67,500 cut in 2011 & 2012;
  • Homeless Funding at DCHD:  $400,000 in 2011 & 2012;
  • Child Advocacy Centers: $100,000 in 2011 & 2012.
We also spent time advocating for a raise in marriage license fees.  What Happened to the Budget Amendment?

The General Assembly did not include the marriage license fee increase in the final budget.
  • This is GOOD news in that our requested fee increase which was intended to expand services was not used to restore a funding cut. Therefore the Action Alliance can still ask for an increase in the fee in the future to provide expanded services, such as those for children and youth.
  • The downside is that we don’t have dedicated funding for children and youth services.  It also means that domestic violence funding was not completely restored to its 2009 levels.

Holding the domestic violence and shelter funding cuts to below 10% is a significant feat in a budget year like this. Everyone of you who made a call, wrote a letter, had a visit, spread the news, or got media attention is a part of this success!  So thank you to everyone who responded to the action alerts put out by the Virginia Sexual and Domestic Violence Action Alliance and spoke up on behalf of Virginia’s domestic violence programs and the persons they serve.

Domestic violence services are important to everyone.  A special thank you to the following who engaged in grassroots organizing to spread the news of the domestic violence cuts and rally support for restoring funds:
  • NOW-Virginia
  • Virginia Interfaith Center
  • The Farm Team
  • Voices for Virginia’s Children
  • Virginia Organizing Project, which held a Bake Sale for the Budget.
Heartfelt thanks to Senator Mary Margaret Whipple and Delegate John O’Bannon for serving as our budget amendment patrons (and Delegate Kirk Cox for co-patroning) and to all of the Budget Conferees who supported restoring our funds.
Finally, a big thank you to the lobbyists, Gena Boyle and Claire Guthrie Gastañaga who worked tirelessly to get these funds restored (and Chris Spanos who helped explain the complicated and veiled budget process).
Now for the Next Steps and what you can do to help:

Governor: Now the budget is in the Governor’s hands – he can sign it or amend it.  Please call (804-786-2211) or e-mail via http://www.governor.virginia.gov/TheAdministration/contactGovernor.cfm and ask him to approve the budget as it includes no additional cuts to domestic violence and sexual assault programs.
Thanks again to all of our Local allies – your efforts were critical in getting this funding restored.
Re-posted (revised) from the The Sexual and Domestic Violence Action Alliance. http://www.vsdvalliance.org

Action Needed – Support Services for Victims of Violence

Earlier I posted a press release by the Virginia Sexual and Domestic Violence Action Alliance detailing the proposed budgets released by the House Appropriations Committee and the Senate Finance Committee.  There are significant differences between the House and Senate proposals and we need everyone’s help to bridge the gap and protect funding for domestic violence services.
The House Appropriations Committee is recommending a budget that includes significant cuts for domestic violence services (31%).
The Senate Finance Committee is recommending a budget that minimizes cuts for domestic violence services (7.5% ) and also includes an increase in the marriage license fee to $45 to provide funding for services to children and youth.
The Action Alliance is calling on its membership and supporting community members to ask our state Senators and Delegates to support an increase in the marriage license fee to preserve the opportunity to provide services to children and youth exposed to sexual and domestic violence without sacrificing services to adults victims of domestic violence services.

Each body will be voting on their respective budgets on Thursday, and then a conference committee will be appointed to try to resolve the differences and come up with one budget.
They need to hear from you that there is a revenue source in the Senate Budget to protect funding for domestic violence services.

Following are some steps that you can take:
1. Contact your state Senator:
  • Call your state Senator, express gratitude for the Senate Finance Committee’s support of domestic violence programs, and ask him/her to support the recommended budget of the Senate Finance Committee who worked hard to protect domestic violence program funding and supported the budget amendment for children’s services.
  • Send a personal letter (it can be brief) to your Senator immediately after your call to follow-up and reiterate in writing the need for them to support the Senate Finance Committee’s proposed budget and increase in the marriage license fee.
2. Contact your state Delegate
3. Contact anyone you know who is concerned about the safety of domestic violence survivors and their children, and ask them to also contact their Senators and their Delegates.

4. Contact your local domestic violence program and ask how you can support their action steps in your community.

5. After taking action, please let us know and share with us how it went by sending an email to dhaynes@vsdvalliance.org or making a post to the 1,000 Grandmothers Campaign on facebook at: http://www.facebook.com/pages/1000-Grandmothers-Campaign/275846239928?ref=mf
If you have any questions or concerns about this information, please free to contact the Action Alliance Co-Directors, Jeanine Beiber or Kristi VanAudenhove at directors@vsdvalliiance.org or 804-377-0335.
Thank you for your support!
Carol Olson, Governing Body Member and Executive Director of the Rappahannock Council Against Sexual Assault

Press Release – VSDVAA

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: February 18, 2010

Contact:  Kristi VanAudenhove, kvanaudenhove@vsdvalliance.org, 804/377-0335

 (Richmond, Virginia) On Wednesday,  Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell, proposed severe cuts to state domestic violence programs that will end services to thousands of Virginians whose  lives depend on the shelter and services these programs provide.   Governor McDonnell asked the General Assembly to cut more than $3.5 million in funding[1] that supports domestic violence shelters and services to victims and their children across the Commonwealth.  These cuts would be in addition to across the board cuts of 10% proposed in the Governor Kaine’s introduced budget.  If adopted, Governor McDonnell’s recommendations will bring the total cuts to 50% of state funding  – which translates to an average cut of $100,000 for each community Domestic Violence Program across the Commonwealth.

Kristi VanAudenhove and Jeanine Beiber, co-directors of the Virginia Sexual and Domestic Violence Action Alliance released the following statement in response to the Governor’s proposed cuts:

At a time when the need for domestic violence shelter and services is expanding, in part because of added economic stress on families, these programs should rank higher than rest stop convenience or overseas offices for state economic development bureaucrats. Domestic violence programs are a public safety issue and a “jobs” issue and they should be prioritized as such.

Speaking to members of the General Assembly just one month ago, Candy Phillips, Executive Director of the First Step domestic violence program in Harrisonburg said:  I implore you: please do not cut funding any further to domestic violence shelters in Virginia.  In the 15 years that I have worked at First Step I have never seen things this bad. Calls are increasing, our emergency shelter is staying full and we’re witnessing more severe acts of violence.

Individuals who cannot access shelter from violence or related services aren’t merely inconvenienced.  When asked “What would you have done if the shelter had not existed?” 22% of service recipients surveyed[2] indicated that they would have been homeless, 21% reported that they would have been compelled to return to their abusers and 10% believed that they would be dead at the hands of their abuser.

                Survey respondents said: 

 I would have been living in my car with an 18-month old worrying about my life.

I was close to ending my own life.  I felt safe here.

 Sarah Meacham, Executive Director of Avalon:  A Center for Women and Children, serving the greater Williamsburg area shared her response to these cuts:  A significant decrease in funding, like the one proposed by Governor McDonnell, will not only result in a loss of agency jobs and reduction in services available to victims who need it the most, it will force women and children to have nowhere to turn during the most difficult period in their lives.  We are experiencing a tremendous increase in demand for emergency shelter and supportive services—a 76% increase over last year alone. Our clients are real women with real children, not just budget items to be dropped.

In addition to compelling evidence that cuts to domestic violence jeopardize public safety, cuts to these programs are also a “jobs” issue.  There is a direct impact on Virginia’s economy when domestic violence services are unavailable; the inability to access services affects employee productivity, results in increased absenteeism and health care costs, and can impact the safety of workplaces.

Virginia’s long-term commitment to funding these programs is an important part of the Commonwealth’s commitment to public safety, an area the Governor protected from significant reductions.  Without the availability of shelter programs and other services, Virginia families and children face the prospect of lives in which they have no safe haven from violence, and law enforcement has no way to intervene to prevent violence before it results in injury or death. 

We urge member agencies of the Action Alliance and concerned citizens to contact their legislators as well as the Governor’s office to share their concern about this change of direction in Virginia’s commitment to public safety. 

We look forward to the opportunity to work with the Governor, with whom we have worked closely in the past as Attorney General and member of the House of Delegates, to find ways to continue to fund domestic violence programs in a manner that will alleviate the devastating  consequences that will result with the acceptance of this week’s proposals and accord these programs the budget priority they deserve.

The Virginia Sexual and Domestic Action Alliance is a not-for-profit agency representing 53 community domestic violence programs across the Commonwealth that annually provide services to more than 12,000 adults and 4,000 children.  For more information, visit the Action Alliance web-site: http://www.vsdvalliance.org.


[1] McDonnell proposes to eliminate funding that was first appropriated by the General Assembly in response to the fact that 1 out of 2 victims calling and requesting safe shelter could not be sheltered by Domestic Violence Programs because the agencies did not have space available.  The Assembly initially used federal funds to support a substantial increase in bed space—along with the crisis and support services necessary for victims and their children filling those beds.   Governor Kaine proposed replacing these federal funds with state funds – funds McDonnell now proposes to cut completely along with the needed services they provide.

 

[2] Virginia’s Domestic Violence Programs provide safety and support to thousands of victims of domestic violence each year.  In an effort to ensure quality services, in 2009 the Domestic Violence Programs implemented a statewide outcome evaluation effort supported by the Family Violence Prevention and Services office of the US Department of Health and Human Services.  697 individuals who have received shelter and services from Domestic Violence Programs have completed anonymous surveys evaluating those services.  It is a testament to the value of these services that 85% reported that as a result of the services they could live more safely.   In response to the question, “What would you have done if the shelter had not existed?” 22% indicated that they would have been homeless, 21% reported that they would have been compelled to return to their abusers and 10% believed that they would be dead at the hands of their abuser.

How you can help

There is still time to ACT to influence the outcome of the final budget.  Following are some steps that you can take:

  • Contact  Governor McDonnell and request that he restore $3.8 million to Virginia’s domestic violence programs as a public safety priority and to continue the commitment that he made to domestic violence programs as Attorney General and as a candidate for governor.  You can reach the Governor @ 804-786-2211.
  • Contact your state Senator and Delegate and request that they restore $3.8 million in the state’s budget to Virginia’s domestic violence programs.  If you do not know who your state Senator or Delegate is, go to: http://conview.state.va.us/whosmy.nsf/main?openform.  For Senator Capitol office phone numbers:  http://sov.state.va.us/SenatorDB.nsf/$$Viewtemplate+for+WMembershipHome?OpenForm

For Delegate Capitol office phone numbers: http://dela.state.va.us/dela/MemBios.nsf/MWebsiteTL?OpenView

  • Contact anyone you know who is concerned about the safety of domestic violence survivors and their children, and ask them to also contact Governor McDonnell, their Senators, and their Delegates.
  • Spread the word:  write a letter to the editor of your local paper or the Richmond Times Dispatch; post your concerns as well as these action steps on facebook, twitter, or your personal blog.
  • Contact your local domestic violence program and ask how you can support their action steps in your community.

If you have any questions or concerns about this information, please free to contact the Action Alliance Co-Directors, Jeanine Beiber or Kristi VanAudenhove at directors@vsdvalliiance.org or 804-377-0335. Thank you for your support! 

Stop Femicide Now! Human Rights Advocate Norma Cruz

r-post

March 2- Event with distinguished Guatemalan speaker Norma Cruz visiting the Virginia Commonwealth University campus

Stop Femicide Now! Guatemalan human rights advocate Norma Cruz will be speaking at Virginia Commonwealth University on Violence Against Women in Guatemala.

The program will be held March 2, 2010 from 1:00 to 3:15 pm at the Pace Center, 700 W. Franklin St.

The event is free and open to all, no pre-registration is required.

Ms. Cruz is an internationally recognized advocate and activist for women who are victims of domestic and sexual violence, human trafficking, and illegal adoptions. She is one of eight women worldwide to receive the “Women of Courage” award from Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in March 2009. Her work was born out of her personal struggle and has grown to provide legal, psychosocial, physical and political support for women survivors in a country where violence against women is prevalent and tolerated.

Sponsors: VCU Institute for Women’s Health, La Milpa: Guatemala Interest Group, Highland Support Project Club, Guatemala Human Rights Commission (GHRC), VCU School of Social Work, and the VCU Office of International Education.

The event is part of an east coast speaker’s tour hosted by the Guatemala Human Rights Commission with a goal of educating and informing a diverse audience in the U.S. on violence against women and impunity in Guatemala.

For more information visit: www.womenshealth.vcu.edu or http://www.stopfemicide.com or http://www.ghrc-usa.org Or call 827-1200 with questions

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