The V Word

Advocating to end sexual and domestic violence



The V Word – Laws in Virginia on Bullying, Assault, other interpersonal crimes

Today I review laws in Virginia regarding cyber bullying, assault, and threats. In our current climate with a new administration that is excusing sexual assault, saying that privileged men get to grab women by the p*ssy and get away with it and engage in cyber bullying, it’s time to review what laws are there to protect us.

You can listen to the show here:


WRIR 97.3 FM 

YWCA of Richmond 

Virginia Sexual and Domestic Violence Action Alliance 


On-Air for WRIR and Blogging for the Pixel Project

I am excited to begin a couple new projects in my anti-violence work.

On December 9th, my first blog on Rape in War – a small article and a list of 16 resources that range from international organizations, documentaries, books, and news articles will appear on The Pixel Project Website – 16 for 16 Days of Activism.  I am proud to be part of the 16 for 16 Days of Activism to end violence against women.  I have spent the last 6 years focused on running a local rape crisis center and centered on response and direct education for a small regional community.  It was a great opportunity and learning element to turn my focus on sexual assault in the context of war and conflict.  When looking at rape in communities, families, and organizations; you become focused on the known predator of interpersonal crime and address the issue of sexual assault with a single survivor and family.  Sexual assault as a war crime brings home the link to larger issues of sexual assault as a part of society’s response to conflict.  The numbers of victims becomes a global number and is staggering, the extended families as secondary survivors is even more staggering when looked at as a group.  My research for this simple blog brought home the enormous amount of crime that accompanies war and conflict.  Crime that is overlooked or ignored.  The impact of trauma on the survivors, the families, and the community that will carry on is equally enormous and with the reduction of resources that happens in war, will be even more difficult to address and treat.   The impact of these crimes will continue even when peace is obtained.

My other project is going to be a weekly short spot on my local radio station WRIR  (Richmond Independent Radio).  I begin taping this weekend with the spots to be starting after the New Year.  I so look forward to sharing information on the social impact of interpersonal violence (sexual assault, stalking, domestic violence, dating violence, trafficking) that are at epidemic levels in our communities.  More to come!


Welcome new stand alone Rape Crisis Center in Virginia

Here is a re-post from the Roanoke Times


Sarah Bruyn Jones, Roanoke Times

October 29, 2011

The Roanoke area’s sexual assault crisis center is now an independent nonprofit, as it seeks to maintain its long-standing presence in the community.

The Sexual Assault Response & Awareness program, or SARA, operated out of Blue Ridge Behavioral Healthcare until July 1, when it separated from the agency. On Friday the organization held an open house and silent auction at its new offices at 3034 Brambleton Ave. S.W. in Roanoke.

The process toward separation began in the fall of 2009, when Blue Ridge said it could no longer subsidize the administrative costs for running SARA.

Blue Ridge sought to find another administrative home for the group, but by this year, it had become clear that SARA would have to stand on its own, said Teresa Berry, who has worked for the program for a quarter-century and is now the executive director of the newly formed nonprofit.

The new organization incorporated with the state in March as Sexual Assault Response & Awareness Inc.

By May, SARA had successfully filed with the Internal Revenue Service for nonprofit status.

SARA, which provides free support services to sexual assault victims including counseling and accompaniment to court hearings, continues to operate with grants from the Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services, Berry said. SARA gets about $165,000 annually from three DCJS grants, she said.

But that doesn’t cover general fund expenses, including legal fees and other startup costs, she said. To cover those expenses, Berry has put in about $8,000 of her own money and received another $6,000 from donors.

Friday’s open house was intended, in part, to kick off some needed fundraising. Berry said she would like to add three more people to her staff, which currently includes herself and one other person.

SARA serves about 350 victims a year and has recently seen an increase in need, particularly among young adults and teenagers, she said.

“We need to be doing more education,” she said.

Sexual Violence and the Deaf Survivor

 Sexual assault victims who are deaf face higher rates of assault as well as have unique issues not encountered by the hearing. 

Arva Priola, Outreach Coordinator at the disAbility Resource Center in Fredericksburg reports that deaf women have a 10% higher rate of assault than hearing women.  And according to a recent study funded by the National Institute of Justice. Researcher Jennifer Obinna and colleagues at the Minneapolis Council on Crime and Justice found that, “Deaf people face specific barriers. It’s important to distinguish their experiences as sexual assault victims from other sexual assault victims.”

Obinna’s research found that when deaf people report sexual assault, they encounter stereotypes about being a sexual assault victim and being deaf.  It is well documented that survivors of sexually violent crimes report feelings of guilt and embarrassment because of the social stigma frequently attached to rape. The small and close-knit deaf community can contribute to hesitancy in reporting and the need to involve more people for interpretation and communication. 

The closeness of the deaf community can compromise a victim’s anonymity and erode privacy. In addition, as Obinna’s research found, many deaf victims of sexual assault perceive a lack of support within the deaf community, particularly if the perpetrator is also deaf. Consequently, deaf victims can experience a profound sense of isolation.

An additional barrier specific to the deaf community to reporting can be a lack of awareness about deafness and deaf culture among hearing people and lack of resources within sexual assault centers.  This lack of recognizing deaf culture as a defined entity rather than a deficit contributes to centers and the community not focusing on developing appropriate programs and adequate response to victims of crime.   “Part of being in the deaf community is deaf culture,” Priola says.  “We can’t always make assumptions about how a particular culture experiences violence. Even though the experience and many of the reactions are similar, there are cultural differences that service providers and law enforcement must pay attention to. Making decisions about who to tell—or even whether to tell—is all filtered through a cultural lens.”

Many deaf victims may be reluctant to reach out to agencies that serve sexual assault victims because most of the providers are hearing and do not have systems for effectively communicating with deaf people. For example, deaf sexual assault victims cannot count on service agencies having access to a TTY (teletypewriter), much less a staff member who knows how to operate it. Even if a social service or law enforcement agency has an interpreter, deaf victims, like hearing victims, may be reluctant to divulge intimate details to yet another stranger.  Some deaf victims of sexual assault also believe they cannot rely on interpreters to accurately represent their words and experiences. Service agencies that do not have qualified interpreters on site often use the victim’s family or friends to assist in interviews, which can further inhibit a sexual assault victim’s candor.

Today there are many more ways for the deaf community to communicate with the hearing community such as assistive listening devices, computer assisted real time transcription, interpreters, Virginia Relay, Voice Carry Over, Hearing Carry Over, IP Relay through your computer, chat rooms, video relay and texting.  For more information on how to communicate serve the Deaf Community, contact your local disAbility Resource Center. 

 If you know someone who has been sexually assaulted or abused, please contact the Rappahannock Council Against Sexual Assault 540-371-1666


Obinna, J., S. Krueger, C. Osterbaan, J.M. Sadusky, and W. DeVore, Understanding the Needs of the Victims of Sexual Assault in the Deaf Community, final report submitted to the National Institute of Justice, February 2006.

 Priola, A., Undertanding Communication for People with Hearing Loss. The Disability Resource Center. 2011.

Some facts to end DV awareness month ….

Do you know what constitutes Domestic Violence? Domestic or Interpersonal Violence is willful intimidation, physical assault, battery, and/or other abusive behavior perpetrated by an intimate partner against another. With the statistics showing that 1 in 4 women may become victims of interpersonal violence, it is considered an epidemic affecting individuals in every community, regardless of age, economic status, race, religion, nationality or educational background. Violence against women is often accompanied by emotionally abusive and controlling behavior that is a systematic pattern of dominance and control. Domestic violence results in physical injury, psychological trauma, and sometimes death. The consequences of domestic violence can cross generations and truly last a lifetime.  The majority of domestic violence reports are women by partners known to them.

Family members and loved ones who witness abuse are considered secondary victims and can also have emotional and psychological trauma.  The strongest risk factor for transmitting violent behavior from one generation to the next is children who witness violence between one’s parents or caretakers.  In particular, boys who witness domestic violence are twice as likely to abuse their own partners and children when they become adults.   Statistics from National Coalition Against Domestic Violence show that 30% to 60% of perpetrators of intimate partner violence also abuse children in the household.

There is a high correlation between domestic violence and homicide of females.  Almost one-third of female homicide victims that are reported in police records are killed by an intimate partner.  As reported by the NCADV, in 70-80% of intimate partner homicides, a staggering statistic, no matter which partner was killed, the woman was physically abused before the murder.  Also staggering is the realization that less than one-fifth of victims reporting an injury from intimate partner violence sought medical treatment following abuse.  It is suspected that intimate partner violence results in more than 18.5 million mental health care visits each year.

National Stalking Awareness Month

January is National Stalking Awareness Month

Do you know what constitutes stalking?  Stalking is a behavior in which an individual willfully, maliciously, and repeatedly engages in a knowing course of conduct directed at a specific person which reasonably and seriously alarms, torments, or terrorizes the person.  Stalking creates fear.

Many people do not realize the clear link between sexual assault and stalking.  The Stalking Resource Center has done research that clearly and methodically developed the link between the two crimes. They have found in their research and victim testimony the stalking behaviors utilized by offenders.  What has been found is that offenders routinely engage in following, surveillance, information gathering and voyeurism prior to a sexual assault. After an assault, the rapist frequently threatens the victim, attempts to frame the incident (e.g. thinks and talks about the incident as if it were consensual), and maintains social contact.

Thirty-one percent of women stalked by a current or former intimate partner are also sexually assaulted by that partner. The Stalking Resource Center has found that the typical offender/rapist, (stranger and non-stranger), premeditates and plans his attack and uses multiple strategies to make the victim vulnerable such as alcohol or increasing levels of violence. FBI research with incarcerated offenders revealed that the offenders picked victims based on observation (voyeurism) and stalked several women at a time waiting for an opportunity to commit a sexual assault.

The Bureau of Justice Statistics completed the Largest Study of Stalking Conducted to Date.  They recently released a supplemental report to the National Crime Victimization Survey focused on Stalking Victimization in the United States. This study confirms that stalking is pervasive, that women are at higher risk of being stalked, and there is a dangerous intersection between stalking and more violent crimes.

 What to Do if You are Stalked 


Get Help. Report to law enforcement and file criminal charges and/or obtain a protective order.  Request that law enforcement agencies log your complaint each time you call and Request a copy of your report.

Tell your stalker to stop. Have a registered letter to the stalker stating that he/she must stop the behavior immediately.

Tell someone. Do not attempt to deal with the situation alone. Tell a friend or family member about the stalking and document the stalker’s behavior. List date, time, place, what happened, any witnesses, and give a copy of the information to a friend or relative for safekeeping.

Develop a support system. Keep in touch with friends who are supportive and understanding. Give friends, co-workers, relatives, and neighbors a description of the stalker. Ask them to watch for the stalker, document everything they see, and give a written account to you.

Never underestimate the stalker’s potential for violence. Take all threats seriously. Not all threats are verbal; some nonverbal threats may be the sending of unwanted notes, cards, or gifts.

Do not attempt to communicate with the stalker at all. The stalker may misinterpret this communication as a form of encouragement.


Screen your calls: Have emergency numbers readily available. Remember to keep your cell phone charged and to have it with you at all times.

If you are being followed, go to a safe area, DO NOT DRIVE HOME. Drive to the nearest police station or a busy place. Use your horn to attract attention.

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