VOCA Fix Passes U.S. Senate Unanimously and heads to President Biden’s Desk

On Tuesday evening, the US Senate voted unanimously for the VOCA Fix to restore billions in funding to ensure safety for crime victims both in North Carolina and across the country. This bill was the result of bipartisan, bicameral support and many months of work from advocates and survivors in every state. NCCASA commends the US Senate for putting survivors and services first.

“Thank you to everyone for advocating with our senators,” said Monika Johnson Hostler, Executive Director of NCCASA. “Thank you for sharing the impact this funding will have on your community.”

The North Carolina Coalition Against Sexual Assault (NCCASA) is pleased to announce and open registration for the 2021 Young Advocates Institute Summer Off Season Cohort, August 9-18, 2021.

This year is the 10-year anniversary of the Young Advocates Institute. For the past decade, the Young Advocates Institute has been rigorous training grounds for over 1,800 youth across North Carolina. Merging the prevention/intervention of sexual and dating violence +social justice + education + advocacy + love + hip hop and popular culture lens + intergenerational approach, the Young Advocates Institute is a soulful and liberating experience. 

This year will be very different and only open to twenty (20) youth, ages 13-17.  We will combine the virtual aspects from 2020 + a cohort framework with twenty (20) brilliant minds + a community service project + two (2) day meeting + an end of year conference call for what will be the 2021 Young Advocates Institute Summer Off Season Cohort.

Below you can find:

You must apply for the 2021 Young Advocates Institute Summer Off Season Cohort via the online application at https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/2021YAICohort

The deadline to apply is Friday, July 23, 2021. Selected members of the cohort will be notified by Friday, July 30, 2021.

If you have any further questions, please don’t hesitate to contact Tracy Wright at (919) 871-1015 or via email tracy@nccasa.org

2021 YAI Cohort FAQ
2021 YAI Cohort Preview Application

On April 27th, District Attorney Greg Newman was removed from office in Henderson, Transylvania, and Polk counties. The court found that Newman engaged in “willful misconduct in office” as well as “conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice which brings the office into disrepute,” under N.C. General Statute 7A-66. This was the third time in North Carolina history that a district attorney has been removed. This would have never happened without the courageous efforts made by the survivors whom he abused. 

NCCASA supports all sexual violence survivors, and lifts up the work of the rape victims who bravely stood in their power to have DA Greg Newman removed from office. The dozen families who made the decision to pursue his removal deserve our praise and respect, including the survivors who will never see the justice they deserve in their cases. We recognize the additional trauma that the justice system added to the lives of the survivors, and the horrific choices that Newman made to embarrass or belittle those he was elected to protect  is unforgivable. The actions the survivors took to support one another is historic and NCCASA recognizes the courage it takes to stand up to a system that has repeatedly mistreated survivors and prevent it from happening to others. 

We stand strong with survivors as they pursue different avenues to find justice and healing for themselves, whatever it may be. Proceeding within the criminal justice system can be incredibly stressful and trying, and we commend survivors on their strength and bravery to do so. 

 

If you have any questions about this ruling or any other legal cases, feel free to reach out to NCCASA attorney Skye David at skye@nccasa.org or at 919-871-5868.

July 2, 2021

The North Carolina Coalition Against Sexual Assault is outraged, disappointed, and disheartened in the overturned Bill Cosby 2018 conviction by a Pennsylvania appeals court. This is not justice for survivors.

Cosby was convicted on three felony counts of aggravated indecent assault and was serving a three-to-10-year sentence. Cosby vowed to serve all 10 years rather than acknowledge any remorse over the assault he was convicted of. Cosby cannot be retried on the same charges.

The prosecution of Cosby came at the height of the #MeToo movement, where people across the world started a crucial conversation about sexual misconduct, harassment, and assault. At the time, his conviction was seen as a victory for survivors. 

We want to make this very clear: this overturned conviction is not a sign of innocence, but is based on a technicality in our flawed justice system. Additionally, we cannot ignore the fact that carceral punishment is not equal to justice for all survivors, as the prison system is incredibly flawed and traumatic. True accountability is reforming the entire judicial system that this country lives under. While not all survivors seek justice and healing through the criminal and legal system, this is an example of some of the many challenges and roadblocks survivors may face when seeking accountability.

To all the survivors involved in this case: we are standing with you during this incredibly disappointing moment. We will continue to fight for you, and for all the survivors in the world who have been impacted by this overturned conviction. The amount of courage it takes to speak up and share your story, especially when faced against a powerful figure, is immeasurable. Your bravery will not be in vain, and we will never forget the strength you demonstrated.

NCCASA will continue to work each day to advocate for survivor rights and justice. You are not alone, and we are here for you. 

The Rape, Abuse, & Incest National Network (RAINN), organizes the National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline. The Hotline is a referral service that can put you in contact with your local rape crisis center. You can call the Hotline at 1-800-656-4673, or access RAINN’s online chat service. To find your local rape crisis center in North Carolina, please visit our Get Help page at https://nccasa.org/get-help/

In Solidarity,

Monika Johnson Hostler

Executive Director, NCCASA

It has been one year since Vanessa Guillen was found near Army post Fort Hood in Texas. As we reflect on the difficulty of that time, we come to a stage of reckoning that military sexual trauma is pervasive and ever present in our communities. While Vanessa Guillen’s case garnered national attention, there are countless others like her, who have experienced sexual assault, harassments, repeated threatening and other traumatic sexual experiences while serving in the Armed Forces. The U.S Department of Veterans Affairs uses this to define Military Sexual Trauma (MST). Sexual assault and harassments are serious problems in the United States Armed Forces. Thousands of service member each year are estimated to have experienced some form of MST including rape, sexual assault and sexual harassments. 

An estimated 1 in 4 female veterans and 1 in 100 male veterans in the VA Healthcare system report experiencing MST. As with any sexual crime, anyone can be a victim and anyone can be a harm doer. So how does this affect our communities at large? What if I do not live in a “military town?” How can this issue affect me? What are options to help?

The persistence of sexual violence within the US armed forces is a fact long recognized by military officials, policymakers, health care professionals, and the media. In order to help those who are dealing with MST rape trauma syndrome (RTS) and post- traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), we must first acknowledge that every single day is different and every single survivor deals with their experiences differently. Triggers can come unexpectedly and with severe consequences. They can bring feelings of shame, loneliness, or helplessness. These emotions can manifest in different ways. Veterans can appear irritable, even angry, at times. Veterans become “overachievers,” trying to drown out their pain with countless hours of hard work. They might seem sad and may withdraw. We must acknowledge that each person who suffers from MST, RTS, and PTSD is affected in their own way. Sometimes, veterans are suffering in silence. While they seem fine on the outside, they are in a dark place on the inside.

Help is available, but in order to seek assistance, veterans must know it’s out there. The VA offers free and confidential treatment through its Military Sexual Trauma Support Team, aimed specifically at helping those with MST PTSD. There are support groups and organizations out there in order to provide a safe space to work through the trauma. MST survivors may find solace among others with similar experiences. However, it’s not enough. In my opinion, disability benefits for veterans with MST PTSD are not evaluated on the same playing field as veterans with combat-related PTSD. It is important we recognize and fix this inequality.

It has taken me years to reach the point of advocating for change. What I have learned is to leverage the trauma and to keep working through it. I use my own military sexual trauma as a motivator. It keeps me moving forward and pushes me to learn everything I can about my industry and to make the right connections. I use my past as a source of strength. I served my country and I am resilient. So too, are the other veterans suffering right now, whether we know it or not. Each trigger is not a setback, but rather, a reminder to keep pushing forward. We cannot undo the past, but we can manage how it affects our present and our future.

Sexual trauma is still a major problem in the armed forces. We need to acknowledge that our country has serious shortcomings while serving those who carry this burden, as the military works to combat the issue within its own ranks. Now is the time to make everyone aware, and now is the time to show support for change. Let this blog, my deeply personal acknowledgement, serve as a start to your conversations. Let’s not let what happened to Vanessa and countless others relinquish the opportunity to effect change in us and around us. Active duty and veteran survivors are all around you. They are essential workers, they are political strategists, they are advocates, they are everywhere in your community that you are in. As we are well aware from the COVID pandemic, trauma has far reaching effects. Not just for those who are actively experiencing the trauma, but also for those who are in the healthcare systems that veterans reach out to outside of the military. Also, for the dual agencies and rape crisis centers in the “non- military towns” who must learn to provide accessible services for veterans. And lastly, those who help to make positive changes in the way veterans are cared for after their MST and beyond. 

So in questioning how to help, how to advocate, how to be present for MST survivors, the best ways to start are by having conversations. Making sure the local and national resources for veterans are readily available to access. Do some research! Learn more about the veterans in your community, get actively involved with your closest Military faction, or veteran support service. If your community does not have one, work with your community leaders to incorporate something. We have given the ultimate sacrifice and signed a blank check for our lives to serve this country. Sexual assault is the highest violation of that honor and as a community, as a country, as a nation, we must stand together and say military sexual trauma is unacceptable and we will do everything in our power to right the wrongs experienced by those whose honor and valor was unequivocally violated. 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

June 29, 2021

FEDERAL FUNDING CUTS IMPACT DOMESTIC VIOLENCE AND SEXUAL ASSAULT SERVICES WHILE NEEDS ARE ON THE RISE

Domestic violence and sexual assault services bracing for a 34% reduction in VOCA funds.

PRESS RELEASE_VOCA cuts 2021

If you were able to attend the Spring Member Meeting this year, you were part of a spiritual, hopeful, and inspiring talk given by Tai Simpson. Tai is a Social Change Associate with the Idaho Coalition Against Sexual and Domestic Violence. Tai is a storyteller and was generous enough to share her talents and knowledge around storytelling in the anti-sexual violence movement with us. Our goal was to create a story of what does anti- sexual violence work look like in NC and where do we go from here. 

Here are some highlights from this time we spent in community:

As part of this time, Tai also gave three prompts for attendees to engage with. The prompts were: 

  1. How do you love yourself well?
  2. In a world without violence, I imagine ______
  3. Collective thriving is ______

The chat box overflowed with thoughtful and hopeful responses. Things like “I love myself well by connecting with my ancestors” , “by recognizing that rest is revolutionary”. In a world without violence I imagine “peace”, “all the fractured parts to be united”, “freedom”, “joy” and collective thriving is “choosing to love”, “connection”, “heaven on Earth”. 

We invite those who were unable to attend to share your responses to these prompts either through the use of this  jamboard or by emailing us directly. Your responses can be in the form of words, art, graphics. You can send your emails to leah@nccasa.org With your responses to these prompts, you’re helping NCCASA envision the future of the anti- sexual violence movement in NC and what we can do to support you in achieving your goals.

During the member meeting, we were also joined by a wonderful artist, Alexandria Clay, who provided us with a graphic rendering of our time together. You can view that image here

 

We know that many of you have been facilitating virtual support groups throughout the pandemic and though many of our programs have resumed in person, virtual support groups seem to be here to stay. NCCASA and RCC of Coastal Horizons have collaborated on an addendum to our support group manual to bring you information on facilitating virtually, what tools and skills you may need when holding group in a virtual space, what platforms are best, and what to do in case of an emergency. You can access the manual here: https://drive.google.com/file/d/193fbh1MZPKKkOztBadDbN88g09kiOZr3/view?usp=sharing

Virtual Support Group Manual Addendum_compressed

Thank you all for your participation in our first Sexual Assault Census Week Survey! It was a huge task to take on during SAAM and you all did amazing. Your hard work and contribution is greatly appreciated. 

 

Congratulations are in order for Hannah’s Place, Inc. as they are our first place winner! Hannah’s Place will receive next year’s NCCASA Membership completely free!

The following agencies are our runners up, and will receive discounted membership for the year:

  1. Partnership of Ashe- A Safe Home For Everyone
  2. Rape Crisis Center of Robeson County
  3. Phoenix Counseling Center
  4. Steps to HOPE, Inc
  5. SAFE of Harnett County, Inc
  6. Hoke County Domestic Violence & Sexual Assault Center
  7. Options
  8. Turning Point
  9. Families Living Violence Free
  10. Safe Space, Inc

 

Thank you to everyone for your engagement. In the following weeks we will be corresponding with participants and creating infographics to report back the data. Please be on the lookout for updates and emails on Census week. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact Erica Blackwood SADI Specialist at erica@nccasa.org

“Meet your client where they are.” A phrase we’ve all come to hear, but most have yet to master putting into practice. While there are many interpretations of this mantra, I think in our work it means asking our clients what their needs are, what kind of support they need, where they want to start, and moving forward from there. For example, if a survivor discloses to you, but says they’re not ready to share this with their family/ friends yet, following this up with their reporting options may not be what they’re looking for at that moment. It sounds like they’re just trying to figure out how to cope with and process the experience themselves. Your response should be to meet them in that moment. Try to avoid going down a checklist of options that you learned in training and being hyper focused on being professional. Remember, advocacy is not about you. It’s about supporting the person in front of you. Providing support is about empathy and human connection.

A few of us recently attended a training all about trade-offs. A part of this training that really resonated with me and had me looking back on my work with survivors was thinking of trade-offs as deciding what is worth it. I reflected on the survivors who turned down safe shelter in small, rural towns and wanted to stay in the same city (and sometimes the same home) as the person causing them harm. At the time, I didn’t understand this. I thought why would someone choose the potential for more harm over a safe place? With this new perspective, I sat back and thought about the trade-offs the survivor would be making by moving. They may be in safe shelter, but they’re leaving behind their social support. They may have to find a new job to support themselves and their children, which will be much harder without a car and a lack of public transportation. The survivors who made the choice not to leave town, may have decided that financial security, access to resources, and social support made it worth staying even at the risk of more harm.

What we think is “worth it” is important and most of us have already made these decisions based on our values and needs and it’s different for everyone. The lesson here being that what is worth it to you, may not be worth it to the survivor you’re serving and it is not an advocate’s job to change that or dissect that. The advocate has been tasked with listening to what the survivor holds as most valuable, respecting the trade-offs they’re willing to make, and working within that context to help them get what they need to move forward in their healing journey.

 

Blog post courtesy of Leah Tugwell Poole, Rural Sexual Assault Services Specialist