Lawyers, Legislation, and Lived Experience

Noah Mattapallil is the Victim Legal Network of DC Summer 2018 Intern at NVRDC. He is an undergraduate student in the honors program at Notre Dame and is majoring in Philosophy. 

Room 123 of the John A. Wilson building was silent. The chairs stood in attentive rows, the microphones at identical height, and the documents perfectly aligned on their gleaming tables. Impeccably-dressed women and men began to file in. Their eyes reflected purpose, their postures the confidence of experience. Among them were attorneys, officials, and ordinary citizens. They had come to speak their piece in the dominant item on today’s legislative agenda: the DC Council’s hearing on proposed amendments to the Intrafamily Offenses Act (IFOA).

The IFOA was passed in 1970 in the wake of many highly publicized domestic abuse cases. It defined an intrafamily offense as a criminal act that is committed or threatened against an individual by an offender related by blood, adoption, custody, marriage, partnership or shared parenthood. The IFOA also enabled survivors of such acts to petition for one-year civil protection orders (CPOs) against offenders. CPOs, similar to restraining orders, establish a legal mechanism to protect survivors from threats, stalking, harassment and assault. In years following, amendments were introduced that expanded the application and power of the act. These updates included allowing minors, domestic partners and stalking victims to file for CPOs, state-sponsored remedies for petitioners, sanctions for violating protection orders, and more.

In 2017 nine legal service providers and a handful of university legal clinics from around the DC area convened to review the IFOA. This newly formed Legal Advisory Work (LAW) Group was tasked with developing revisions to the statute that would help it to better reflect the modern realities of domestic violence survivors in DC. These revisions are among the most comprehensive changes to date. Today’s hearing gave members of the LAW Group the opportunity to publicly propose and defend those changes.

  • A CPO may not be filed by those in a landlord/tenant relationship

  • Individuals 12 to 16 years old can file for a CPO on their own behalf against intimate partners

  • Temporary protection orders (TPOs) can be extended to 28 days

  • CPOs may be filed for up to two years

  • More consistent staffing of a special unit within the MPD that processes CPOs

  • Adds an anti-stalking order

Representatives of several organizations cited the insidious ways domestic violence has made such changes necessary. Network for Victim Recovery of DC (NVRDC) Legal Co-Director, Kristin Eliason, testified against the current TPO duration of fourteen days, using her experience to argue for an extension that would keep the best interests of survivors in mind. Kristin told the Council,

“In Maryland, TPOs can be extended for a period of up to 6 months in order to effectuate service or for good cause. I saw first-hand how this law made a difference in keeping my clients safe and providing them peace of mind during the pendency of the case. Unfortunately, right now, DC petitioners aren’t as fortunate and must repeatedly return to court every 14 days when they are unable to effectuate service.”

Kristin also shared the story of one of her clients who was persistently stalked by an unknown woman for over three years where an extension of CPOs would have ensured more sustained protection while limiting time consuming legal complications. Particularly thought-provoking testimony came from Aubrey Edwards-Lucey, a senior policy attorney at the Children’s Law Center, who revealed that young adults often do not feel comfortable making an adult aware of the violence they experience. Fear of bringing shame on their family or revealing an unapproved relationship was an impediment to self-defense. To circumvent this, minors would need the ability to file for protective orders without parent/guardian consent. Dena Shayne of Amara Legal Center shed light on the unique predicament of sex workers in DC. Abusers often completely control every aspect of the survivor’s life and thus can interfere with, if not outright prevent, the filing of a CPO. Shayne argued that extending TPOs would give sex trafficking victims a more practical weapon against offenders by greatly reducing the need for frequent court appearances while providing instant protection in case of immediate threat. Further support came from attorneys at Ayuda, Legal Aid Society of DC, Break the Cycle, Bread for the City, DC Coalition Against Domestic Violence, and the DC Volunteers Lawyers Project.

The attorneys dissected the IFOA with technical precision. To the public witnesses, however, legal jargon and the turning of legislative gears were not all this hearing was about. The extraordinary women who came to speak did not represent any organization. Rather, they were the spokespeople for many victims of intrafamily offenses who could not be present to tell their stories. They bravely shared the trauma they experienced at the hands of those they trusted. Every terrifying detail of the almost omnipresent stalker, or the husband that took any opportunity to attack his wife, reminded all present that laws impact real people in a sometimes dysfunctional world. The emotion of lived experience that the survivors brought to the testimony is what most captivated Councilmember Allen.

In an era when legislative progress is a somewhat distant ideal, the IFOA hearing was a refreshing look at how coalitions of service providers, experts, and citizens can inform policies that affect thousands at what is often the most dangerous time of their lives. Lawyers and public witnesses alike brought the issue of domestic violence into the spotlight with eloquence. Many of the survivors that spoke were still working through the trauma of these past experiences. Yet despite their fear, compassion and courage brought them into Room 123 to testify. Survivors of crime need not be mere subjects to the justice system. They can speak, rally, and change it. They can proudly stand by the knowledge that their actions will not only improve their lives, but those of generations to come.


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#MeToo on the Hill | Op-Ed from a friend of NVRDC

A friend of NVRDC opened up publicly in recent weeks about her past experience with abuse and sexual harassment on Capitol Hill. Her experience illustrates a struggle we see in many different forms, between individuals affected by violence and abuse and the institutions reluctant to make waves by standing up for them.

NVRDC’s mission is grounded in the ideal of survivor-defined justice, but unfortunately, that almost never means delivering to clients the exact outcome they desire or that their cases deserve. Often, the avenues for the justice they seek do not exist, or are cut off by roadblocks. Often, survivor-defined justice means pushing with all our might in the client’s chosen direction, and hoping to see the needle move incrementally. Until we have fomented a lasting cultural shift and secured a profound change in the institutional response to abuse, survivor’s options will remain unjustly constrained, and abusers will continue to evade accountability.

Anna’s story is a powerful call for institutional reform within the very entity creating the laws of the country. Please read it and consider how we can work together to extend survivors the options, the resources, and the backing they need to reach a more just outcome.

Editor's Note: We intended to share only an excerpt of Anna's article with our followers, but found it too difficult to trim down. Her piece in its entirety, posted below, is worthy of reading, reflection, and action. If you'd like to see the original article in the Opinions section of The Washington Post, it can be found here.

I’m sharing my #MeToo story because
Congress is broken, and we have to fix it

By Anna | May 7

 The Capitol dome is shown before sunrise in Washington. (Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty Images)

The Capitol dome is shown before sunrise in Washington. (Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty Images)

The halls of Congress are filled with wide-eyed young people who are excited and honored to serve in that exalted place. Once I was one of them, but that’s not the story I am compelled to share now. Instead, mine is a story of workplace abuse that affected every part of who I was.

And of the institution that let it happen.

Throughout 2014, while I was working on Capitol Hill for Rep. Elizabeth Esty (D-Conn.), I was berated, punched and sexually harassed by Esty’s then-chief of staff, Tony Baker, whom I had dated before he became my boss. I kept quiet about this abuse at the time, worried about retaliation and concerned for the career of the congresswoman I had idolized since joining her first campaign.

On May 5, 2016, more than a year after I’d left Esty’s office, the reality of this abuse took hold in a new way. Baker called me more than 50 times, threatening to find and kill me. Upon learning what happened — both on that night and in 2014 — Esty kept Baker on her staff for months, putting her staff and my life at risk. She now acknowledges her response was poor.

In the days and months that followed, what it meant to be scared was redefined. I went to the police and obtained a year-long protective order, but beyond my immediate fear and profound disappointment came a slow, painful acknowledgment of all that had come before.

There was the escalating anger. The public humiliation. The professional and personal berating. The assault. The panic attacks I learned to expect. The threats to keep me silent that worked every time. All of this altered my self-perception and chipped away at my self-worth. I was confronted with the nagging, excruciating belief that maybe some part of me deserved it.

Looking back, what strikes me about this abuse was my inability to fully understand it. I remember turning off the House WiFi on my phone in 2014, crying on the bathroom floor, desperately searching for someplace to go for help. There was no good option. I was trapped.

Mine was a narrative that didn’t yet exist. No one talked about this; there was no language to define it. I questioned the extent to which it was happening at all.

As a 24-year-old in my first professional job, I mistook survival for complicity and suffering for weakness. I accommodated and rationalized to minimize and de-escalate. I made excuses, forgave and tried to forget. So this pattern continued, ingraining in my mind the role I played in my own abuse. For more than a year, I checked behind the shower curtain and locked my bedroom door every night.

Then, everything changed.

Survivors came forward with their own stories, and the national conversation shifted with the rise of #MeToo. Suddenly, my story was validated and legitimized. Suddenly, people in power were held to account.

Suddenly, there was something I could do to help prevent what happened to me from happening to anyone else.

I was done being a victim. I was done being afraid to walk to my car.

I am sharing my story now because there is a problem in Congress, and something must be done.

It has been about three months since the House passed #MeToo legislation to reform how cases of harassment are handled on Capitol Hill. The bill would revise the 1995 Congressional Accountability Act, addressing hurdles that block victims from holding abusers accountable and shining needed light on secret settlements, among other provisions. But similar legislation sits idly in the Senate, with Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) unwilling to bring it to the floor for a vote. This is shameful and unconscionable.

Congress must pass this bill. And then reform must go further.

The employment contracts and nondisclosure agreements required by some congressional offices upon hiring should never be allowed to prevent a staffer from protecting himself or herself. There should be no time limits on when a complaint can be filed. The proposed Office of Employee Advocacymust be required to disclose the limits of the counsel it provides, including any guidance on civil action. And the impartiality of advocates assigned by the office to guide staffers through this process must be ensured.

When problems arise, congressional staffers deserve to be treated with dignity and respect, not isolated and ignored by the members they trust and the institution they work for.

I write today with urgency, determination and boundless hope for the promise of this moment. That these stories — and my story — will embolden those who continue to endure, and prompt those who lead to act. That moral fortitude will prevail over systemic flaws, fear and intimidation. And that a commitment to decency in Congress is upheld, in the end, by the better angels of our nature.

Where Are They Now? Checking in with NVRDC Alum Christa Heilman

 Left: Christa at NVRDC in April 2014; Right: Christa at work in Chicago in March 2018.

Left: Christa at NVRDC in April 2014; Right: Christa at work in Chicago in March 2018.

NVRDC will soon be celebrating 6 years of providing impactful services to crime victims in DC! In honor of the many fantastic, inspiring, and hardworking individuals we have worked alongside since 2012, we’re kicking off a new blog series: “Where Are They Now?: NVRDC Edition”! We can’t think of a better person to start with than former advocate Christa Heilman.

NVRDC: Hi Christa! Thanks for talking to us about where life has taken you after working at NVRDC. Can you tell us when you were at NVRDC and what your role was?

Christa Heilman (CH): Hi, thanks so much for inviting me! I started with NVRDC shortly after the organization was formed, and just before NVRDC become responsible for the sexual assault hospital response program in October 2012. I was a Victim Advocate and Case Manager for the first year, and took on the role of developing and managing the Community Outreach and Education department while continuing to serve as an advocate through August 2014.

NVRDC: Do you have any favorite memories from your time at NVRDC?

CH: I would have to say by far my favorite thing about working at NVRDC was the people. I was incredibly fortunate to meet amazing people through our community and government partners, our clients, the universities, the DCFNE nurses, MPD, NVRDC leadership, and of course, my co-workers. The first year, the case managers (and there were only four of us!) baked holiday cookies for all our key partners to thank them for their collaboration and support [editor’s note: this tradition continues to this day!]. Both NVRDC and its partnerships have grown immensely. It demonstrates the importance of the work and the power of ongoing collaboration. I feel really lucky that I was there in the beginning and I’m so proud and excited to see how much it has grown.  

NVRDC: Are there any accomplishments that stick with you to this day?

CH: One accomplishment that sticks out in my mind was preparing for and attending in support of my client for the “Sexual Assault Victims’ Right Amendment Act of 2013.” I was in awe of, and so proud of my client and the many people who testified to make this Act pass. The Act was instrumental for victim services and ensuring transparency of information for the victim throughout the case investigation.

NVRDC: We’d love to know more about your current role. Where are you working?

CH: I work at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois in Product Development. I develop products that focus on preventive health and wellness for Large Group Employers. So for example, an employer may offer a wellness program to their employees and if the employee completes a wellness activity (i.e. participates in a health screening, walks 10,000 steps every day for a month, etc.) they would get a reward (i.e. lower premium, a fitbit, gift card, etc.). I work on developing and implementing those wellness programs.

 Former NVRDC case manager, Nicole, and Christa doing outreach in 2014.

Former NVRDC case manager, Nicole, and Christa doing outreach in 2014.


NVRDC: In what ways did your experience at NVRDC influence and prepare you for the next steps in your career?

CH: I left NVRDC to pursue a Master in Public Health. After working in direct services for several years, I wanted to gain a better understanding about the systems that directly impact a person’s health, wellness, and safety. From my experience at NVRDC, I learned a great deal about the importance of setting up a system of support through care coordination, and the deep impact multiple structures can have on a person’s wellbeing and health outcomes. NVRDC first exposed me to the research behind the neurobiology of sexual assault, revictimization, and the brain and body’s response to trauma that I continued to build from in my Grad School research and professionally.

After graduating, I worked for a year as a healthcare consultant in hospital systems throughout the U.S., before moving to my current job at Blue Cross Blue Shield. NVRDC instilled a ‘people first’ mentality in me. Behind every project I’m on and every future product I’m developing, it is all for the goal of impacting and improving people’s health—and most importantly, supporting them in defining what this means, and how they can accomplish it.

"NVRDC instilled a ‘people first’ mentality in me.
Behind every project I’m on and every future product
I’m developing, it is all for the goal of impacting and improving people’s health..."

NVRDC: Are there things you miss about DC?

CH: Oh yes! I now live in Chicago and love the city, but I really miss how in DC, it is a short drive to National Parks with great hiking. You drive hours outside of Chicago and it’s still flat as a pancake, land of corn fields. I really miss being able to walk to Rock Creek Park and the short drive to the Billy Goat Trail at Great Falls.

I also miss my coworkers. I was so lucky to work with some of the most brilliant, compassionate, and driven people, who I was fortunate to grow into friendships.

NVRDC: Give us some fun facts about your life outside of work?

CH: I am always trying to find the work/life balance, but I am a firm believer in prioritizing my relationships and hobbies. I became an Aunt last year and it is so fun! My niece is in the DC area, so not only do I get to plan trips to see her and how much she’s grown, I also get to visit friends and often stop by the NVRDC office.

I also love eating and drinking, and Chicago is a great place for it! There’s always a new brewery popping up and a restaurant to try. I really enjoy the diversity of the city and this can be seen through the vast options of food. Indian, Thai, Caribbean, Puerto Rican, Mexican—whatever you want, you can find it here!

NVRDC: Anything else you want to share with our followers?

CH: Just a huge thank you to the people at NVRDC and your followers. Much of who I am and where I am today is because of all of you.

NVRDC: Thank you so much for participating and for being the first interviewee in our new “Where Are They Now?” series!

 Left to right: Christa, former NVRDC case manager, Kari, and Director of Advocacy & Case Management, Lindsey, in 2013.

Left to right: Christa, former NVRDC case manager, Kari, and Director of Advocacy & Case Management, Lindsey, in 2013.


Activism after Surviving Violence

For two weeks and counting, survivors of the Broward County, FL school shooting on February 14, 2018, have made national headlines. Thanks to their ongoing efforts to leverage social networks, organize demonstrations and walkouts, and engage elected officials in public debate, they have successfully kept the issue of gun violence front and center in the national conversation. Whether or not this sustained attention results in lasting cultural or legislative change remains to be seen. However, their activism is notable for that achievement alone: of all the mass shootings that take place in the U.S., few, if any, make news for so long. Even fewer have been followed by such focus on the voices and demands of the survivors in place of discussion of the perpetrator. Which is to say: the survivors have already made a difference.

Protect Kids Not Guns, student lie-in at the White House to protest gun laws

From Black Lives Matter to Me Too, people who have survived, witnessed, or lived with vulnerability to violence have been recently creating platforms to speak out and push for change. Though the race of participants seems to be a factor in whether media coverage characterizes different movements as made up of passionate, precocious leaders or misguided, destructive rebels, many of the tactics are the same: online rallying and in-person mobilization to advance a particular message or cause. And, all have effectively brought a new visibility, poignancy and urgency to problems that have devastated individuals or communities for generations.


From the perspective of survivor recovery, what can we make of this moment of the survivor-as-activist? Current theories on recovering from violent trauma suggest that survivors have the capacity to undergo posttraumatic growth, and that using their experiences for the common good can be a part of that process, whether through activism or supporting others who have survived similar victimizations or both. Movements for change have the potential to not only benefit society at large but also the individuals involved, as they connect with others who can relate to what they have experienced and take part in creating a different, better world.

Thoughts and Prayers Don't Save Lives, student lie-in at the White House to protest gun laws

By no means is this intended to pressure any survivors to become activists, nor to value this type of recovery over any other. Survivors often feel a sense of obligation to put the welfare of others ahead of their own, when in fact it is a healthy and even a moral choice to care for themselves first and foremost. A survivor did not choose to be victimized, and the least that we can do is honor their choices in how to move forward. Furthermore, as any activist can attest, organizing under any circumstances involves stresses and strains that may be intolerable for certain people, particularly when posttraumatic stress is also a factor. Finally, timing is important. Trauma recovery is a long and often slow, non-linear process. People may find that they need to be further along in their healing before it is safe or sustainable to participate in activism.


For certain people, at the right time and in the right circumstances, activism after violence can be a gift: to society, to future generations, and to themselves. Our gratitude is with all the survivors making change, along with our hopes for their own healing.

You kids did great, student lie-in at the White House to protest gun laws

To Believe Or Not to Believe? How #metoo Reminds Us of Biases Surrounding Sexual Violence

 Written by  Naida Henao , Strategic Advocacy Counsel, with contributions from  Bridgette Stumpf , Co-Executive Director.

Written by Naida Henao, Strategic Advocacy Counsel, with contributions from Bridgette Stumpf, Co-Executive Director.

WARNING: Material in this article may be triggering to some readers. If the topic of sexual assault is a sensitive subject, please continue with caution or avoid reading altogether. Also, the use of the term "victim" is meant as a legal term of art, referencing individuals who are entitled to particular rights pursuant to the Crime Victims' Rights Act, 18 U.S.C. 3771.


Harvey Weinstein. Roy Moore. Al Franken. Kevin Spacey. Bill Cosby. Matt Lauer. President Trump. When you heard the accusations against them, how did you react? Did you immediately believe some but not others? Did you base your beliefs on who was being accused, or the person accusing them?  Did your political affiliation unconsciously color your acceptance of the claims against Roy Moore when you couldn’t believe the news about Al Franken?


Despite the significant increase in media coverage of sexual violence, an important question has yet to be asked: why do we believe some allegations of sexual violence, yet dismiss others? The reality is that we all hold biases about sexual violence. Whether our narrative was created by experience, education, or culture, there is a subconscious image in our minds about what “real” sexual violence is. We decide how a victim should look, and what they should do before, during, and after the violence. If the victim’s appearance or actions do not comport with this narrative, we are less likely to believe the violence occurred. And society seems completely blind to how these false narratives permeate our response, or lack thereof, to the problem of sexual violence. Police, prosecutors, defense attorneys, jurors and judges have these same narratives so we shouldn’t be surprised that very few offenders are ever held accountable via our criminal legal system.  

The statistics on sexual violence starkly reinforce what we refuse to believe—sexual violence touches all cross-sections of society, and transcends race, gender, sexual orientation, political party, religion, socio-economic status, and culture. Yet, research has shown that marginalized communities are disproportionately impacted. Sexual violence happens frequently, with 1 in 5 women, and 1 in 72 men1 being raped in his or her lifetime. Rape is one of the most under-reported crimes,2 and of the few reports made, only 2-8% are false.3

The trouble to challenging these false narrative of sexual violence is that we rely on them for a false sense of security. We struggle to understand that sexual violence can be unpredictable. We do not want to accept that anyone can be a victim. Or worse, that anyone could be an offender— including those we love. These fears prevent us from being open minded and objective when survivors disclose. And in turn, the reaction that follows validates the fears that often keep survivors from coming forward—victim blaming, shaming, and disbelief.


Sexual violence is a creature that grows where there is silence. The silence imposed on the victim through coercion and threats, the silence of those who witness it, and the silence created by the lack of education on these issues.  It is because of this silence that victims are reluctant to come forward until years afterwards, and why offenders can abuse for so long undetected. Both are relying on the same assumption: if the victim reports, no one will believe them.


As a society, we cannot afford to continue ignoring the impacts of rape culture. Sexual violence will only go away when it cannot hide behind false narratives. We can only start to correct those narratives when victims can come forward without judgement and assumptions. Acknowledging our individual biases that code our perceptions about victims and offenders may be the first step in shifting cultural misconceptions about sexual violence.



1 Black, M. C., Basile, K. C., Breiding, M. J., Smith, S .G., Walters, M. L., Merrick, M.T., … Stevens, M. R. (2011). The National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey: 2010 summary report. Retrieved from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control:

2 National Sexual Violence Resource Center, Statistics About Sexual Violence,

3 National Sexual Violence Resource Center, Statistics About Sexual Violence,

Supporting Trans Survivors on Transgender Day of Remembrance 2017

November 20th is Trans Day of Remembrance, a day to commemorate and honor the lives lost to violence and oppression against the trans community and to recognize the severity and pervasiveness of transphobia in our society. Trans people, trans women of color in particular, experience extremely high rates of violence. Studies have found that 66% of transgender individuals have experienced sexual assault 1. 30-50% of transgender people experience intimate partner violence 2. 23 trans women of color have been murdered in just 2017 alone 3. Looking at these statistics and hearing about crimes that have been committed in our city just this year, such as the violence committed against Desiree Copeland who suffered life altering injuries after a man shot fireworks at her and then beat her with a metal bat 4, pains me and forces me to reflect on what we are doing to create a society where these kind of things can happen. How many lives would be saved if trans survivors of crime were believed when they came forward about violence committed against them? Or if they were treated with respect by agencies and organizations that are supposed to support survivors? Or if trans survivors engaged in sex work didn’t have to fear being criminalized themselves for reporting a crime? Or if trans women weren’t ridiculed or turned away from shelter programs when they are escaping domestic violence?

As a case manager and survivor advocate I know how important it is to make sure survivors of violence are getting support as early and as often as possible. I have seen firsthand how critical it can be to have an advocate walking with you through accessing support, care, and legal guidance. I have helped people make it through the intimidating and often retraumatizing process of a sexual assault forensic exam, find the mental health care that they need to work through their trauma, and access basic needs like clothing and food after leaving an abusive relationship. I have supported them by providing them with information to make an informed and empowered decision about what legal options they want to take, and talked through and counteracted the pain and self-blame that is deeply rooted in a victim-blaming culture. Knowing that there are many, many, trans survivors of violence in the District who aren’t accessing these services because of a long history of not being believed, respected, or supported by systems that are supposed to support survivors and victims of crime is devastating.


Instead of having to remember those we have lost, I want to create a city and a society where trans survivors can confidently access resources and support when they need it, starting with the work that we do here at NVRDC. I want to ensure that if a trans man survives a hate crime, he knows he can come to NVRDC to find out more about his rights and access legal representation if he wants to. Or if a trans woman is experiencing domestic violence, she can be partnered with a case manager who can help safety plan with her, find partner organizations that are trans-inclusive that can house her, and support and empower her in finding what options are right for her. And if a non-binary survivor of sexual assault comes to the hospital for a forensic exam and medical care, there will be an advocate there who won’t assume their pronouns without asking, will make sure the staff doesn’t misgender them, ensure that they are treated with respect, and be able to provide them with trans-inclusive sources of support and healing. Experiencing violence, whether it’s sexual assault, a hate crime, bodily injury, or domestic violence in itself can be terrifying and disempowering. If the people and systems that are supposed to support survivors aren’t respecting their identity, use the the wrong pronouns, are asking invasive questions, or disbelieving them, that can be incredibly re-traumatizing and isolating. It’s no wonder that trans survivors who meet these kinds of reactions are less likely to trust or feel comfortable accessing supportive services when they face violence. And our job at NVRDC is to make sure survivors’ healing and justice processes are as empowering as possible, and that includes making sure we are informed, vocal, and steadfast in supporting the trans survivors we work with.


Stopping violence against the trans community starts with all of us. I encourage people reading this to look inward at their lives and see what they can do to increase trans inclusion and combat transphobia. Whether it’s not assuming peoples' pronouns without asking, talking to friends or family about trans rights, or educating yourselves on the trans rights movement. Or whether that’s having your workplace attend a trans-inclusivity training or showing up with us to the Trans Day of Remembrance event being put on at the Metropolitan Church of Washington, DC. We can all do something.



#metoo: an NVRDC Discussion

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In light of the #metoo movement sweeping its way across social media, members of the Network for Victim Recovery of DC staff share some thoughts and advice for navigating discussions surrounding the hashtag. These opinions come from their experiences as case managers and attorneys working with survivors of sexual violence. Thank you to our wonderful staff members for their contributions!

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Audrey Meshulam, Bilingual Case Manager and Undergraduate Intern Coordinator
Maggie Schmidt, Staff Attorney
Ruth Perrin, Staff Attorney
Sofia Kaut, Case Manager

Disclaimer: At times this article may use the term "victim" instead of "survivor." The use of the term "victim" is meant as a legal term of art, referencing individuals who are entitled to particular rights pursuant to the Crime Victims' Rights Act, 18 USC 3771. NVRDC acknowledges and respects the use of both terms, and encourages individuals who have experienced sexual violence to use whatever term they feel empowers them most. 


Is My Story Appropriate for #metoo?

What about if you don’t feel really certain whether or not these stories are your story? The tweet that went viral urged participation from not only those who had experienced sexual assault but also sexual harassment, opening up the “me too” to those whose violation(s) may not have involved touching or fit the cultural understanding of what constitutes rape. Some posts describe inappropriate comments from peers or superiors. Some detail catcalling or other types of street harassment. Some share experiences of having boundaries violated during what was supposed to have been consensual sex. Many point out how unremarkable, if humiliating, these experiences are in a world where they happen so constantly. And a lot of posts seem hesitant, or even apologetic. Hesitant to call out behavior that is so widely normalized. Ambivalent about condemning someone’s actions when their motives were unknown. Apologetic for making a big deal about small acts.

Here is the perspective of someone who has spoken with hundreds of survivors: everyone worries they are making too big a deal of what happened. That feeling is independent of the facts of someone’s case; it has no relationship to how physically brutal an attack is, and it has no relationship to how wrong the assailant’s actions are. And that’s the thing: writing off some forms of abuse or violation doesn’t help us take the other forms more seriously. The opposite is true.

Violence thrives on excuses and rationalizations. It’s okay to say that something is not okay, whether or not it seems as bad as what others have gone through. It is okay to imagine -- and demand -- a world where none of this behavior on the spectrum of sexual violence is acceptable.
-Audrey Meshulam, Bilingual Case Manager and Undergraduate Intern Coordinator


Tips for Survivors: Navigating triggering discussions and choosing whether to participate in #metoo

When sexual assault and sexual harassment are in the news, it can bring up a multitude of feelings for survivors. The news and dialogue about the many allegations against Harvey Weinstein have brought sexual violence into the spotlight. Sunday evening, survivors began to share the hashtag #metoo on social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook. They invited their friends to post the two words to their feeds if they had experienced sexual harassment or assault.

For some people, the trend is empowering; it’s encouraged them to bring their often-taboo stories to light and helped them find community and solidarity with other survivors. For others, the flood of social media posts that remind them of their trauma has been difficult to see; it’s hard to escape the conversation and it can be triggering to hear about friends’ stories they weren’t aware of before. For many, it’s all a big confusing mess of feelings they can’t identify yet. The pervasiveness of sexual violence is made quite clear on the internet this week. Some people have also felt pressure to participate in this trend, whether it’s from a feeling of responsibility, questions from friends who know about the survivor’s experience, or simply a feeling that if this movement is so popular they should want to participate too.

Navigating social media trends like #metoo can be tricky for survivors. There is no right answer as to whether you should join in on the conversation. Whatever you do is okay, and you know what’s best for you more than anyone else—you are the expert of your experience. If you shared your story or the words “Me Too,” we hope that you have felt empowered and validated by the response. If you chose not to share, know that your story is still real and valid and you are just as resilient and brave as the survivors who chose to post.

No matter what pressure you may feel, you can and should always set your own boundaries around conversations about sexual violence. You always have the right to feel safe and decide what you share. If you shared #metoo on social media, it is not an invitation for friends, family, or coworkers to ask you to tell your story. You own your experiences and it’s okay to say you don’t want to share, just like it’s okay to tell people you trust what was done to you. If social media is overwhelming right now, you are always allowed to take a break, take a breath, and take some time away. Your friends will still be there when you’re ready.

"If you chose not to share, know that your story is still real and valid and you are just as resilient and brave as the survivors who chose to post."

-Sofia Kaut, NVRDC Case Manager

NOTE: If you are feeling triggered, need support, or want access to resources to take action, please consult the resource list below!


Do Survivors Have a Responsibility to Participate in #metoo?

#metoo is a well-intentioned social media campaign. The fact that some survivors have felt empowered to speak out is unequivocally positive, and every survivor who engaged in the campaign should feel proud of themselves for doing so. But we also need to let survivors who didn’t engage in the campaign know that they should be proud of choosing what was best for them. We must recognize and validate the experiences of people who chose not to share their stories. In particular, the social media campaign was framed as something sexual assault and harassment survivors should do so that everyone knows the pervasiveness of the problem.

First of all, survivors of sexual assault shouldn’t be the ones bearing the burden of proving that sexual assault and harassment are a pervasive problem.  Survivors don’t owe their social media following their story. They don’t owe anyone their story. Survivors shouldn’t have to expose their trauma for others to believe that sexual violence is a problem. Second, because the hashtag puts that burden on survivors, when that burden is combined with the pressures of engaging in social media, survivors can feel guilt for not speaking up.
-Ruth Perrin, NVRDC Staff Attorney

They can feel like their silence means that they are contributing to the culture of tacitly accepting sexual assault and harassment. Sexual assault survivors already live with guilt and shame that they do not deserve. Survivors’ guilt is amplified when we tell them that they need to speak up and be heard in order for their peers to recognize that sexual assault is a problem. Sharing an experience of sexual assault or harassment is only empowering if it feels like a choice, not an obligation.

Often, sexual assault and harassment makes survivors feel powerless. But, when survivors own their story, deciding who they share it with, and when they share it, they reclaim that power. So, whether, as a survivor, you chose to share your story, or you chose to keep it to yourself, you have claimed ownership of your story, and should feel nothing but pride for that. 

"Sharing an experience of sexual assault or
harassment is only empowering if it feels like
a choice, not an obligation."

-Ruth Perrin, NVRDC Staff Attorney


Tips for Non-Survivors: How to Appropriately Talk About #metoo

The #metoo movement is intended, in part, to raise awareness about how common sexual assault and harassment are. Those who were not aware of the problem may now be painfully aware and surprised at the prevalence among their social media contacts. Even if you’re not a survivor, it might be difficult to see this reality. When someone discloses their experience, you might be scared to say the wrong thing or you might not know how to help them. Supportive words like “I believe you” or “I stand with you” can be a relief to survivors who may have been met with victim blaming or accusations of lying in the past. Traditionally, survivors are burdened with an expectation that they need to prove to others—police, courts, supervisors, even friends and family—of the truth in their narratives. We want to shift this norm and stop expecting survivors to justify their experiences. If you don’t know what to say, asking a survivor “How can I best support you right now?” gives them the freedom to tell you what they need. Validating your friends’ experiences and being a good listener are good support skills. You can also remind them that they are strong and resilient, the sexual violence they experienced was not their fault, and they are not alone. Everyone responds to trauma differently, so remember to be patient and try not to take anything personally. Finally, make sure that you are not creating a situation where your desire to help is forced on the survivor. When someone you love is hurting, it’s natural to want to “fix it”, but rarely is there anything you can say to restore them. If a friend or loved one feels safe disclosing to you, please honor and recognize that nothing you say can undo the crime that was perpetrated against them. What you can do is be supportive. Always give options, ask what would be helpful, and let them share their story on their own terms.


What you can do to improve the problem!

Everyone can help to stop sexual violence. While a social media hashtag can be huge for building solidarity, it is not the responsibility of survivors to speak out and end violence against them. The responsibility for sexual violence lies with those who perpetrate it. There is a role we can all play in ending it, however. When you are with your friends and they make rape jokes, catcall, victim blame, or admit to sexual harassment or assault, you can do more than laugh it off. Ask them why they think their inappropriate jokes are funny. Tell them you’re uncomfortable with the way they’re treating people. Educate them about the difficulties that survivors face and how their behavior contributes to the problem. If you see someone harassing or assaulting someone, intervene if you feel safe to do so: interrupt the activity, ask the victim if they’re okay, and hold a conversation with them until the person perpetrating violence leaves the situation. Sexual violence is rooted in systemic oppression, but we can still change our thoughts and behaviors on an individual level. The more people who actively stand against sexual violence, the more society  will follow their lead.


Legal Options for Survivors

Sexual harassment and sexual assault are terms that encompass a number of violations of law, as well as violations of an individual’s person. Every jurisdiction (state, territory, district, reservation, etc.) has slightly different definitions of sexual harassment and sexual assault. This lack of consistency across jurisdictions can make it frustrating to know what options a victim has in the face of these offenses. It also makes it hard to know where to start looking when a victim wants to address the sexual harassment or sexual assault. Further, sexual harassment and sexual assault do not always fall into distinct categories. Sexual harassment can escalate into sexual assault.

Sexual harassment is typically defined as coercion, bullying, comments, or inappropriate touching of a sexual nature that create an unsafe or uncomfortable environment. Individuals commonly report experiencing sexual harassment in the workplace, on the street, and many other locations. Victims of sexual harassment may be able to seek remedies from internal policies at a company or organization if the harassment is occurring at the organization. Victims of sexual harassment may also have claims for gender discrimination under civil rights laws. Additionally, victims may be able to seek remedies through civil law suits, where a victim can receive monetary compensation for the harassment. Student victims in K-12 and college/university settings may also be able to seek remedies through the Title IX/Clery process at the institution. Options for sexual harassment victims varies based on the jurisdiction and where the harassment occurred.

Sexual assault is typically defined as some sort of violation of a person’s physical body of a sexual nature without a person’s consent. Victims of sexual assault can obtain medical forensic exams through local hospitals during the immediate days after an assault. Every state, territory, and District of Columbia also have advocates that can be available for victims while the exam is occurring. Victims of sexual assault can seek justice through the criminal justice system, where the victim reports to the policy and an investigation determines if a case can be prosecuted. Victims of sexual assault, in most jurisdictions, can also seek a protection order from the court ordering the assailant to stay away and have no contact with the victim. Moreover, victims can seek civil remedies by filing a lawsuit again the assailant for financial compensation. K-12 and college/university victims of sexual assault may also be able to seek remedies in the Title IX process at the university. Victims of sexual assault have different options and each victim should seek the legal option that best suits their needs and goals in healing.  

"Victims of sexual assault have different options
and each victim should seek the legal option that
best suits their needs and goals in healing."  

-Maggie Schmidt, NVRDC Staff Attorney

How NVRDC can help you!

NVRDC can help victims of sexual assault in the District of Columbia through its case management and legal services programs. The case management team serves as the city’s advocates when a medical forensic exam is completed at MedStar Washington Hospital Center. Case Managers then work with the victim to address needs after the assault including Crime Victims Compensation, safety concerns, access to mental health support and so much more. NVRDC’s case management team also works with victims who do not report to the hospital. Because everyone’s path to healing is different, the case managers work with the client to address their needs at that time and work to empower the client in a meaningful way.

In addition to empowerment through case management, NVRDC had a legal team that provides representation in Civil Protection Orders (CPOs), Title IX/Clery processes, and representation for victims in the criminal prosecution of the assailant. The attorneys and victim work to determine what is needed in the CPO to help the client achieve safety the way that is necessary for the client. In the Title IX process, NVRDC attorneys serve as advisors for victims and help them to navigate this complaint process college/university. The attorneys help prepare for hearings/sanctions, collect evidence, and help the student obtain necessary accommodations. For victims that pursue a criminal investigation, NVRDC attorneys help clients assert their rights under the Crime Victims’ Rights Act during the prosecution. The attorneys help the client set up meetings with the prosecutor, prepare victim impact statements, and assist in protecting the privacy and dignity of victims. NVRDC’s legal team works closely with the case management team to provide holistic services to empower victims and help them heal in the ways meaningful to them.

NVRDC is here to support all survivors, regardless of whether they choose to participate in #metoo. If you want information, want to take action, or just want some support, we are here for you. Individuals providing support to the survivors in their life should also feel welcome to refer them to our services, or any of the resources listed below.




For more information or to conduct an intake: 202-742-1727


RAINN’s National Sexual Assault Hotline: 800-656-4673

DC Rape Crisis Center

If you have been sexually assaulted and want to talk to a confidential community-advocate about information and resources, please call: 202-333-7273

DC Victim Hotline

If you would like to have a forensic nurse exam, please call the DC Victim Hotline. Advocates are available to assist you through the process: 844-4HELPDC (844-443-5732)

Campus Safety Demands Institutional Action

Every September, our Sexual Assault Crisis Response Program team braces for a surge in calls to the hospital for folks requesting medical forensic services after an assault. Why? DC is home to a high concentration of colleges and universities. College students, in fact, comprise one in every 8 DC residents. With this autumn influx of returning students, the back-to-school season brings with it a bump in demand that is consistent enough to be predictable. Unfortunately, we are in the midst of a crisis of sexual assault on college campuses, and this is one of its symptoms. I have to think that this was a factor in the decision to designate September as Campus Safety Awareness Month--surely campus staff, students, and groups see this surge, too. Because predictable doesn’t have to mean inevitable, we are striving to find effective responses to campus violence. We work with schools and with student groups to equip survivors with information on where to go for help, to enable easy access to our services, and to provide free legal services. For us, Campus Safety Awareness Month means spending every September reaching out to a new generation of students to support their safety.


But in an uncanny and frustrating move this year, September is also the month that the current Department of Education (DOE) chose to reverse the previous administration’s efforts to combat the sexual assault epidemic on campuses. On September 7, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos gave remarks at George Mason University claiming that the previous administration’s guidance on using Title IX to protect and provide recourse for students who experience sexual assault had done more harm than good. According to her, this directive to schools gave rise to a supposed pattern of accused students being denied due process. Then, this past Friday, the DOE formally rescinded the previous administration’s guidance, issuing an interim Q&A as a replacement.


The interim guidance differs substantially from the guidance that it replaces. Critically, it allows schools to use a higher standard of proof when adjudicating accusations of sexual assault than that which was required previously. In other words, the new guidance opens the door for schools to make it harder to prove cases that are already by nature difficult to prove. Another disturbing change is that the interim guidance no longer requires institutions to allow a survivor to appeal a decision. Schools can limit appeals to the accused only, under the theory that only the accused student stands to lose anything from the school’s decision. We are sharply aware in this work, though, just how much a survivor stands to lose when their assailant is not disciplined. For many survivors, dealing with the physical and emotional fallout of trauma while meeting the demands of higher education cannot be done in the presence of their attacker, and it is not uncommon for survivors to withdraw from school.


Title IX is a familiar phrase around NVRDC. A lot of our hospital clients are students, about 25% of the whole, and a great many of our clients who have experienced sexual assault on campus or by a fellow student seek relief through Title IX-related disciplinary processes. At this moment, Title IX cases comprise approximately 20% of all of NVRDC’s active civil cases. Sometimes, student survivors simply want to continue their studies with reasonable accommodations for their physical and emotional safety. Or, perhaps, they hope for the assailant to face consequences even if there is little chance of criminal penalties ever being imposed. Often, the campus system of adjudication is more accessible, is more limited in scope, takes place in a shorter time frame, and is just plain less traumatizing and intrusive than the criminal legal system. The previous application of Title IX to help deal with campus sexual assault has made a substantial difference in the lives of survivors.


To me, the crux of this issue, the actual game-changer embedded in the previous approach to Title IX, is the element of institutional accountability. Institutions have a deeply ingrained incentive to make their problems disappear quickly and quietly. Regrettably, this works all too well in concert with a culture that prefers to deny the existence, seriousness, or pervasiveness of sexual assault. Assailants are able to operate because it is so much easier to ignore them and minimize them and wish them away than it is to take action and make changes. Under the previous interpretation of Title IX, there were consequences for institutions that tried to keep avoiding the issue.


The new administration’s approach changes that. Betsy DeVos’s September 7 commentary suggested that the previous guidance had unfairly stacked the deck in favor of accusers while stripping rights from the accused, and sets this change up as a corrective to protect the rights of all students. But this fundamentally misconstrues the purpose of the previous use of Title IX. Rather than putting a finger on the scale in favor of accusers, it shifted the balance of incentives for schools away from inaction and towards accountability. It takes a lot of pressure to tilt that balance, and that is what it looks like we might stand to lose at the federal level under this DOE Administration.

So what now? One important note is that the Clery Act, a federal law that sets policy for campuses in responding to crime, is still in effect, and still contains protections for campus survivors of sexual assault. Many of the requirements for campus disciplinary proceedings come from Clery, not Title IX, and are unchanged. The other thing to remember is that while we may be losing support at the federal level, the DOE is not the only player. As professionals, students, activists and citizens affected by this issue, we too can press institutions to enact or maintain policies that make justice for survivors accessible. The new guidance allows but does not require that schools apply a higher standard of evidence or prevent survivors from appealing decisions. We can press institutions to continue to use the appropriate standard of evidence and to recognize how much survivors have at stake in their decisions. We can draft local and state government into this cause to apply the pressure and oversight that we can no longer count on from the federal government. Let the lessons of this September be that campus safety demands institutional action, and that action flows from accountability. We can’t create safe campuses without the investment and participation of educational institutions--which is why we must leverage our individual and community power to keep educational institutions in this fight.

Questioning Consent on Bachelor in Paradise


As long as reality shows have dominated our screens, the “cliffhanger” has been a trademark twist to keep viewers excited for each new episode. The cliffhanger in the Season 4 premiere of Bachelor in Paradise, however, crossed the line and turned a serious subject into a tawdry plot line.

In case you’re not a regular viewer of the hit ABC reality show, this article in the Washington Post should catch you up to speed. A commenter on the article asserts, “Oh ABC you dropped the ball on this one”, and they are absolutely right. As a major broadcast network, ABC has a responsibility to address the issue of consent in a careful, honest, and effective way.

Granted, they certainly didn’t hide from the controversy. Instead, they capitalized on it. Host, Chris Harrison, opens the premiere with this sensationalized line, “There was trouble in paradise as accusations and allegations ran wild.” And, as the article linked above points out, “throughout the episode, there were multiple teasers about drama. ‘Stay tuned for the moment … the cameras stopped rolling,’ a voice-over said mischievously.”

The self-characterization of Corinne Olympios, one of the two cast members involved in this story, changed dramatically--going from this...

“I am a victim and have spent the last week trying to make sense of what happened. … Although I have little memory of that night, something bad obviously took place. … As a woman, this is my worst nightmare and it has now become my reality.” -Corinne Olympios this...

“I was a victim of, you know, just being blown into the media and having people make these crazy assumptions and judgments about what happened that day. I was really a victim of the media,” Olympios replied. “It was just all of a sudden people became an expert on the situation and on what happened and it’s like, well, I’m still trying to figure out exactly what happened. And it was just horrible to deal with.” -Corinne Olympios

We’ll never know what exactly happened on day 1 of filming for season 4 of the hit Bachelor spin-off, but it is irrelevant at this point. It has been made clear that sexual activity occurred and that alcohol was involved. Factually, we know that when someone is intoxicated beyond capacity, consent is--by definition--absent. The “no big deal; everyone was drunk” trope is a dangerous one. Instead of teaching young men how to get consent from a potential partner, we’re teaching them how to live in a world where consent doesn’t even matter.

ABC had--and missed--an important opportunity to talk honestly about rape culture and its role in shaping the response and judgement of Olympios, an opportunity to encourage discussion on what consent should look like regardless of whether or not a seuxal assault actually occured. We applaud the bystander on the set identified as one of the show’s producers, for speaking up when they saw something concerning taking place. And just a half-clap for ABC for not sweeping the entire situation under the rug.

Referring to the interviews with Olympios and Jackson, separately, included in the season’s early episodes, a show exec said "It’s been a real ordeal for both of them, and they’ll talk about all of that. After that second week, I can’t imagine there will be any more questions." What the exec fails to realize, and what we work hard to remind people, is that consent is an ongoing conversation and there should always be more questions. We were certainly left with many that had us wondering how much damage ABC’s/Harrison’s response to this situation has done to perpetuate misconceptions about healthy consent.

Combining Empathy and Ambition: A Summer Internship at NVRDC

Kiera Torpie was one of our summer interns at NVRDC. She is a rising sophomore from Tulane University who hopes one day to work at an international nonprofit that focuses on female empowerment. This summer she updated NVRDC's privacy manual, so clients can protect their privacy online.

As part of the grant that allowed her to intern with us this summer, Kiera wrote several blog posts for the Newcomb College Institute. If you want to read all three of Kiera's blog posts about her experience at NVRDC, you can find them at the Newcomb College Institute's blog.

Here on NVRDC's blog, we're featuring one of her entries as a guest blog. Keep reading for Kiera's reflection on her internship during her final weeks at our office.

 Kiera (right) with NVRDC Co-Executive Director, Bridgette Stumpf, at this year's Cornhole for a Cause event.

Kiera (right) with NVRDC Co-Executive Director, Bridgette Stumpf, at this year's Cornhole for a Cause event.

"Hey y’all!

Next week marks my last week here at the NVRDC and I can’t believe how much I’ve learned. I think I’ve actually touched each of my learning objectives. The first one, and perhaps most relevant to my project here, has been research. In order to create a virtual privacy guide I’ve spent hours doing research, figuring out what resources survivors can use if they’re being harassed online. My research has shown me that virtual crimes are an unpaved territory in a lot of ways. So, on top of my research for what victims can use to protect themselves, I’ve also researched laws that the NVRDC staff use to protect their clients in the court as well as the limitations law enforcement face when dealing with cyber-stalking and revenge porn. This is what my presentation was largely based on at last Friday’s staff meeting.

"In addition to this legal research, I’ve also become more acquainted with the law through my shadowing experiences. This past week I got to watch a cross Civil Protection Order, which is when both clients file CPOs against one another. The week before that I watched another CPO trial and got to be part of what we described as a “woman shield,” as the lawyer, case manager, other interns and I all surrounded the client in the hallway, the same hallway the perpetrator was standing in, while we waited to see the judge. It was an extremely enlightening experience because I got to see the impact a well-utilized justice system can have on the emotional health of a victim. The client got her CPO and immediately her anxiety alleviated. It was so empowering.

"Through all of these experiences, the staff here has been really helpful explaining legal terms and procedures with me. While I’ve grown to appreciate the law in more ways than I thought possible through this internship, I’m still not sure law school is for me. Regardless, I’ve become a true advocate for victim’s rights and the strong impact the law can have on the emotional health of a survivor. I recently finished my social media guide (3 formats: flow chart, packet, presentation) as well as an infographic that depicts a survivor’s reporting process timeline following sexual assault. I’m really proud of these projects because through my shadowing I’ve gotten to put faces to the issue. I can see, tangibly, the lives they will impact. Going back to my learning objectives, I’ve certainly had to practice self-starting. I love this environment because I feel like I’ve been given the perfect amount of responsibility: I don’t feel undervalued, but I also don’t feel overwhelmed. That is, when it comes to the format and organization of my guide, I’ve been given a tremendous amount of freedom. I’ve also been working on my fifth learning objective, self care, by trying new dinner recipes and going to yoga!

"I’ve become a true advocate for victim’s rights and the strong impact the law can have on the emotional health of a survivor."

"This internship has helped me develop as a female leader by allowing me enough responsibility to feel valuable. I’m also surrounded by phenomenal female leaders everyday. This office, with the exception of 2 incredible men, is all incredible women. That means constant female empowerment and positivity. A few days ago I was greeted by a “You Are Beautiful” sticker on my desk. If there’s one thing I’m definitely taking from this internship, it’s that I love working with other women. I’m especially inspired by the organization’s co-founder and co-executive, Bridgette Stumpf (pictured above at our cornhole fundraiser last saturday). Her ambitious magnetism is precisely the spirit of female leadership I seek to emulate someday.

"There are many skills I see myself taking from this internship. Mostly, I’d say I’m taking the ability to be active in my compassion. As an extremely empathetic person, I’ve always been drawn to places and activities that allow me to utilize that compassion. This usually means listening to my Uber driver’s deepest secret or driving to my friends house at 3 A.M because her boyfriend broke up with her or donating all of my time to volunteer work. I never really saw myself finding that in a career, though. NVRDC has shown me that there are infinite ways to combine empathy and ambition and create something for the greater good. I’m extremely grateful for this."

"NVRDC has shown me that there are infinite ways to combine empathy and ambition and create something for the greater good."



Swift Justice


NVRDC applauds Taylor Swift for having the courage to stand up to her attacker. She spoke her truth and used available resources to bring light to something that unfortunately continues to affect people every day. However, we keep in mind the variety of experiences survivors encounter when they enter various legal systems in search of justice. Some survivors are further victimized by systems that prioritize the rights of the accused instead of striking a balance with the rights of survivors. Some survivors never get the chance to seek justice, because their experiences are not believed by friends, family, or professionals. Some survivors lack the privilege or means to report their assault and suffer in silence, with few opportunities for redress. Historical oppression, a force undeniably present in Washington, DC, often keeps victims from trusting that they can safely and successfully engage formal legal systems or processes or even access crucial medical services following a crime.

The court system believed Ms. Swift and her version of justice was served. Justice comes in many forms and we strive to offer solace and support for all survivors regardless of privilege or status. Most survivors in the District are without the the resources available to Ms. Swift to take civil litigation. With a poverty rate well above the national average, resources such as no-cost legal advocacy are imperative to a survivor's realization of justice. NVRDC is grateful for the funding opportunities that give us the capacity to provide free legal services for victims of crime in DC.

Even with options to obtain a Civil Protection Order or free crime victims’ rights representation, it should be recognized that limitations exist for all survivors when it comes to filing civil lawsuits against offenders. The ability to find competent and compassionate civil attorneys to take on this type of litigation is really challenging; add to that the unavailability of legal aid providers in some jurisdictions. Ms. Swift was able to countersue—an action so many survivors in similar circumstances are unable to pursue for a number of reasons.

A person’s socioeconomic status should not prevent them from seeking justice or cause them to face more victim-blaming. Those impacted by sexual violence deserve free legal support and pro bono options to defend or seek civil justice. We assure you: survivors often pay endlessly in terms of suffering, self-doubt, and shame. NVRDC will keep fighting for all crime survivors to have the support and resources they need to achieve justice.

Recap: Cornhole for a Cause 2017

We explained cornhole back in May in the aptly titled "What is Cornhole?" and hope you retained what you learned so you can immerse yourself in our recap of this year's tournament.

The day started like any other Saturday, but soon, 26 teams would arrive to compete for the title of NVRDC's Cornhole for a Cause Champion. The teams identified themselves with some pretty clever names. Some were legal puns, "Write Writs Right Wrongs" and some cornhole-themed, like "Corny in Bethesda". Then some (we're looking at you "Wubba Lubba Dub Dub") were chosen just to twist the tongues of our fearless leaders and emcees, NVRDC Co-Executive Directors, Nikki Charles and Bridgette Stumpf.

This was our 5th annual cornhole tournament and, like those before it, was a double elimination set up. Fifteen minute rounds go by fast when you're playing for such a worthy cause. One by one, the teams were eliminated and it came down to the final two teams: Bund Bon and Mike's Silver Locks. It was a fantastic match up and, in the end, it was the undefeated team Bund Bon who conquered Mike's Silver Locks to clinch the title: Champion. Both teams walked away with fantastic prize baskets from our generous supporters. 

It was a great event. See for yourself in the photos below!
Special thanks goes to our photographers for the event, Sergio Reyes and Linda Escribano, who can be reached at

Thank you again to the sponsors of our 5th annual Cornhole for a Cause!

Silver Sponsor:
Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer LLP

Bronze Sponsors:
Williams & Connolly LLP
Latham & Watkins LLP
Resolution Economics LLC
Hogan Lovells LLP
Jackson & Associates

Honorable Mention Sponsors:
Steptoe & Johnson PLLC

Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP
Crowell & Moring LLP

Your Part-Time Controller

Combating Ageism with NVRDC

June 15th, might have seemed like just another muggy summer day to many District residents and commuters, but for some of us who work on elder justice it was a very important day indeed. It was World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (WEAAD).

The International Network for the Prevention of Elder Abuse and the World Health Organization at the United Nations first launched WEAAD a little over a decade ago, in an effort to unite communities around the world in raising awareness about elder abuse. WEAAD is in support of the UN’s International Plan of Action acknowledging the significance of elder abuse as a public health and human rights issue.

For the past three years, Network for Victim of Recovery of DC, in conjunction with its partners on the District’s Coordinated Training & Response for Older Victims (DC TROV) team have celebrated the day in DC with proclamations, awareness events, and training sessions. This year, DC TROV joined forces with DC Office on Aging Elder Abuse Prevention Committee (EAPC) in hosting with events at senior wellness centers throughout the city. As DC’s Elder Justice AmeriCorp Legal Fellow, I spent the day visiting senior centers throughout the city and enjoying providing outreach to older residents.

If you are reading this, you may wonder how does all of this affect you in your day-to-day life? Some might respond, “It doesn’t.”  Minding one’s business is a motto some live their whole lives by, but when it comes to stopping elder abuse in our community, this motto can be deadly.  For a lot of older adults who are victimized by adult children, caregivers or people they trust, help never comes when we are minding our business

So what if she was mean to her daughter growing up and now her daughter strikes back?   

So what if I haven’t seen him at church in a few days?

It’s okay if an older adult’s caretaker ignores her requests because she asks so frequently. 

How many times does a person really need something to drink?  Maybe they are just suffering from dementia. (Note: Not every older adult suffers from dementia. I cannot say it enough, dementia is not guaranteed with aging!)

One in 10 older District residents have experienced some type of abuse, but that’s only part of the picture: experts believe that for every case of elder abuse or neglect reported, as many as 23.5 cases go unreported.

Victimization often leads to an earlier death, especially in cases where the senior continues to live with their abuser. Those we trust the most are often the abusers; 90% of perpetrators are adult children or spouses. Unfortunately, those who live in nursing homes are not immune either. I asked the DC Long Term Care State Ombudsman, Mark Miller about his experience seeing abuse across the district and it is as pervasive as one could think. 

"Abuse continues to be an all too real experience for many residents of nursing homes and other long-term care facilities.  In 2015, ombudsmen across the country responded to nearly 16,000 complaints of abuse, neglect and financial exploitation, an 11% increase from 2014.  While that number may seem staggering, many more thousands of incidents of abuse and neglect go unreported and unaddressed each year.”

Many of us have statistics fatigue – we are overwhelmed by data on gun violence, sexual abuse, and other horrible crimes. As DC’s Elder Justice AmeriCorp Legal Fellow, I advocate for older adults who are victims of financial exploitation, physical abuse, sexual abuse, and neglect.  It is my job to care, and it is my duty that those statistics don’t become just another number. 

However, if that is not your job that is okay too. We are overwhelmed with tons of tragic information now making it hard to conceptualize many statistics, but what is easy to conceptualize is seeing your client unable to access all their important documents.  It is easy to notice when an older adult feels timid going places by themselves or asking permission to go places. None of these descriptions alone scream abuse. Abuse can show differently in many people and can be physical, psychological, or even financial.

I propose to everyone, myself included, that our first inclination is to be aware of possible abuse, listen closely to your “spider senses” tingling, and remember that one in ten seniors are being abused and so few are getting the help they need. We should each become aware of some typical signs of elder abuse, stay alert, and look out for our neighbors.

For instance, look around for indicators if you see a senior in your life, neighborhood, church or social circles struggling. Asking yourself: what caused that mood change? Are the two older adult partners dependent on one another? Does the older adult child let their parent speak?  If you suspect neglect, then it is perfectly normal to ask if they have the supports they need. Do they feel they get enough food to eat? What could you use more of? Do you have enough visitors? Do you feel like people think about you?

If these questions feel invasive, it’s fine. Answer them in your head, and if you don’t have the answers, it is always okay as a human being to check-in with another in private.  There are plenty of tools (also here) to help you be a good support for the seniors around you.  

So what if you do find out that a senior you know is being abused? The most important thing you can do is to make sure the person feels supported, encouraged and knows that they are not at fault.  Encourage them by offering a place to go or perhaps watch their grandchildren if they need a break. Plan social outings to separate them from the abuser.

Older victims seeking help can contact the DC Victim Hotline at 1-844-4HELPDC. This is confidential and available 24/7 to those who might want to talk it over with a trained advocate. Concerned friends and neighbors can also turn to that hotline for advice.

While we are on this subject, it is crucial that we start with believing the older adult.  In American culture, unfortunately, older adults are depicted as senile, oblivious and depressed.  It is pervasive in the film industry and reflected in our TV shows and that impacts the way we interact with older adults in our lives.  It also impacts their knowledge of self.  So, start your interaction with older adults by assuming that they are telling the truth and let them know that you believe their truth.

"Combating ageism is key to improving how we respond to the problem of elder abuse in the District. The way our society is structured today fails to keep people connected to the community at all stages of life. Seniors are "othered" and placed in a category and physical location away from the rest of society. This breeds isolation, which in turns creates conditions ripe for perpetrators to abuse, neglect, and exploit free from fear of detection and intervention by Adult Protective Services, victim advocates, and ultimately law enforcement and prosecution.”  -NVRDC’s Elder Justice Coordinator and leader for the DC Training and Response team for Older Victims (DC TROV) Merry O’Brien.

Remember that it is your business when your community is at harm. Merry eloquently points out the root of this issue, challenging what we believe about aging:

To combat elder abuse we need to be committed to ensure DC is "Age-Friendly." This means that no matter our age, we are all treated as full members of the community with equal opportunities to participate in community life. We can all help break down isolation by challenging our ageist beliefs, questioning our own fears about aging, and reaching out to senior neighbors to offer friendship. This is the first and most important way we can all join the fight against elder abuse in DC."

What is Cornhole?

Did you know that last week was National Backyard Games Week?

That's right! May 21 through 27. So I thought this might be the perfect time to explain cornhole for those who aren't familiar. It turns out there's an American Cornhole Association, so I'm using their resources for this light-on-words, heavy-on-links post.

First, What is Cornhole?

Cornhole or Corn Toss is similar to horseshoes except you use wooden boxes called cornhole platforms and corn bags instead of horseshoes and metal stakes. Contestants take turns pitching their corn bags at the cornhole platform until a contestant reaches the score of 21 points. A corn bag in the hole scores 3 points, while one on the platform scores 1 point.

How to Play Cornhole / Official Rules

There's a lot of information in the link above, but I posted the scoring section below, since the score is a pretty important part of any game!

Section A. Simple Scoring

In simple scoring the points are totaled at the end of each ½ inning and the smaller score is subtracted from the larger score and the difference in points is awarded to the team scoring the most points that ½ inning. In this scoring method only one team can score per ½ inning.

Section B. Cancellation Scoring

In cancellation scoring, Cornhole bags in-the-hole and bags in-the-count pitched by opponents during an inning (in singles play) or half of an inning (in doubles play) cancel each other out. Only non-canceled bags are counted in the score for the inning.

1. Cornhole Bags In-The-Hole: Hole-ins (HI’s) cancel each other. A bag in-the-hole of one contestant shall cancel a bag in-the-hole of his competitor and those bags shall not score any points. Any non cancelled bag in-the-hole scores 3 points.

2. Cornhole Bags In-The-Count: Bags in-the-count cancel each other. A bag in-the-count of one contestant shall cancel a bags in-the-count of the opponent and those bags shall not score any points. Any non cancelled bags in-the-count score 1 point each.

Section C. Score Calculation:

Cancellation scoring may be easily calculated as follows:

1. The points of both contestants are calculated for hole-ins and in-the-count Cornhole bags.

2. The points of the lowest scoring contestant for hole-in bags are subtracted from the points of the highest scoring contestant for hole-in bags. The result is the hole-in score for the highest scoring contestant. The hole-in score for the lowest scoring contestant is zero.

3. The points of the lowest scoring contestant for in-the-count bags are subtracted from the points of the highest scoring contestant for in-the-count bags. The result is the in-the-count score for the highest scoring contestant. The in-the-count score for the lowest scoring contestant is zero.

4. The hole-in score for each contestant is added to the in-the-count score for each contestant to derive the recorded score for the inning.

5. In this manner hole-in and in-the–count Cornhole bags from each contestant or team of contestants are cancelled out and only non-canceled bags are counted in the score.

Section D. Individual Hole-In Percentage Scoring (HI%)

For purposes of calculating individual Cornhole Hole-In percentages (see Rule 9 below) that is reported to ACA by members for purposes of ACA ranking and awards, ALL Cornhole bags pitched in-the-hole are included in the total used to derive these percentages including those that would be eliminated under cancellation scoring rules. Only bags determined to be foul would be excluded from the individual statistical scoring.

Section E. Recording The Score

In tournament play, the score sheet shall be the official record of the game and will be used to submit the Official Tournament Scoring Summaries to the ACA (see Rule 9 below). Contestants are encouraged to pay close attention to the score at all times. It is highly recommended that visible scoreboard (that all contestants can review and verify for accuracy) be used to keep score during tournament play. If a question or discrepancy occurs regarding the correct score, the contestant(s) may approach the scorer between innings to rectify the situation. If the discrepancy cannot be corrected to the satisfaction of both contestants, a tournament judge shall be called to make the final decision.

Now that you know at least a little bit about cornhole, a classic backyard game, it's a good time to invite you to our 5th Annual Cornhole Tournament: Cornhole for a Cause 2017. All of the information is in the flyer above or on the website you'll get to if you click on the flyer. 

All levels are welcome! It's a great time supporting a great cause. We hope to see you there!

Challenging our Sense of Awareness during Sexual Assault Awareness Month

I'm going to get this conversation going with a highly controversial statement: SEXUAL ASSAULT IS BAD. There. I await the multitude of indignant counterpoints that will surely follow this assertion.



We're all in agreement that sexual assault is bad? Hmm. Okay.

So why did we even have a sexual assault awareness month? Why dedicate a month to raising awareness of something that even the most sheltered among us has known about from a young age, have been warned of, feared? Something that by adulthood we have all seen splashed luridly across media reports, stumbled upon in books and movies and TV shows as plot devices of terror or tragedy? Something we have all felt the tremors of third-hand, or second-hand, or first-hand?

Can we possibly be lacking in awareness of something that looms so large?

Well.. maybe. The problem we have with sexual assault is not that too few people condemn it. The problem is that no one seems to think they are accountable for ending it. The more loudly we shout against it, the further it floats from our ability to practically address it. The more it becomes untouchable, unchangeable.



Sexual assault is everyone’s problem, everyone’s responsibility. Assailants are not fairytale monsters that come from the shadows. They are members of our communities, if not members of our families. It’s true that we need more accountability to be placed on the perpetrators of sexual assault, not less. We don’t need to be among those making excuses. But maybe we get closer to accountability by better understanding the complicity of social forces, of culture, of reinforcement of norms and behaviors that can lead a person to do what we would rather just label unthinkable. Otherwise, we risk turning the problem into one of battling absolute evil, something abstract and eternal.

And if we must resist the convenience of making assailants absolute evil, we must also resist the convenience of simplifying the diversity of survivors' experiences and identities into a single narrative of utter tragedy and destruction. Though it may seem like focusing on the most horrific consequences is the only way to push back against the widespread culture of victim-blaming and minimizing, narrowing the stories we tell so that they only look one way makes it harder for those who fall outside that description to be understood and believed.

Sexual assault is already a daunting enough thing to fight. To fight against it while also taking on a fight against all the systems and structures that reinforce and perpetuate sexual violence seems impossibly difficult. But to fight against sexual assault without taking on its roots is just... impossible.

We can only do this work by making the most of what exists in our flawed world and faulty systems. But we can only do this work well by keeping a bigger picture in view. When it comes to sexual assault, we must push the limits of our awareness and our framework.

Because I am not alone in this work, I reached out to other staff members to see what they feel is missing from the conversation on sexual assault. Where is our awareness really lacking?

Rochelle, also an NVRDC case manager, points out how we must broaden our understanding of sexual assault to reflect the experiences of survivors:

“It's easy for us to say that when a person rapes someone, especially a stranger, that that is sexual assault and bad. But, what about when one person is intoxicated and the other interprets their actions as consent? What about when two people have had sex before but, this time, one person didn't want to? What about when someone grabs another person without their consent? Those don't fit into our common interpretation of rape, but certainly are varying forms of sexual assault. In order to put effective policies into place, we have to break away from our narrow misconception of what sexual assault is, lest we want to continue passing policies that only apply to the survivors that fit within our narrow definition. This starts from listening to and believing survivors themselves. Because, in the end, we have to remember that these policies are meant for them and any future survivors.”

An NVRDC staff attorney had a frank discussion with me about one big taboo in sexual assault advocacy: the possibility that some assailants didn’t intend to hurt someone but lacked enough understanding of consent and communication to do the right thing. It’s a delicate or even scary conversation to have because of how readily that kind of discourse gets appropriated for purposes of victim-blaming or rape apologism. Yet, if we accept the premise that intent matters more than impact, we give predators much more room to operate---and miss an important way to reduce harm:

“I feel like I’m not representing our field well when I’m saying this, but I think there are situations where communication is genuinely murky, and if we could normalize clear communication we might actually make strides towards reducing sexual assault. But in our culture sex is this mysterious or even shameful thing that is supposed to just happen without anyone ever saying anything, and it makes it seem so weird and out of place to actually verbalize what you do and don’t want. I don’t like the idea that that’s impossible and I don’t like the idea that where we’re at currently is okay. I think we have to take some kind of ownership over the way that what we’ve accepted as ‘normal’ in how we communicate about sex adds to the problem.”

And another fellow case manager, Jess, offers a powerful cautionary to those of us in the field:

“Awareness can often end up being just a buzzword. Ending a phenomenon as complex as sexual assault, and working with survivors of such day in and day out, requires a lot of self-awareness, internal reflection, and a willingness to acknowledge when we are wrong; to be called out on our own implicit biases and internalized oppressive behaviors and outlooks. We have to be willing to admit that we do not always know all of the answers, and that sometimes we contribute to the very problem that we are trying to solve with our micro-actions and aggressions. We have to be willing to examine how we contribute to those systems and actively work towards undoing them, and the actions that build them up. And that is uncomfortable. It doesn't feel good to examine the ways in which you are oppressive or unintentionally retraumatizing. But it's crucial to do this self reflection. It's crucial to building a movement that is accountable to itself and to what it stands against.

We, as advocates and activists, are equally capable of perpetuating violence or violent actions. Language can be violent, excluding people is violent, letting certain populations be an afterthought is violence. We have to be willing to unpack these happenings within our own movement if we ever really want to end sexual assault. Even when it's uncomfortable for us to be self-aware. Especially then.”

Mindfulness, Self-Soothing, & Glitter

 Shrinky Dinks! Find step-by-step instructions on the  OOLY blog .

Shrinky Dinks! Find step-by-step instructions on the OOLY blog.


Happy National Craft Month! I didn’t know until recently that March was designated as such, but according to the Association for Creative Industries it has been since 1994, and I for one am delighted. Why? Well, because I am coming around to the conclusion that as fun and lighthearted and not-obviously-essential-to-survival as crafting may be, it’s actually a pretty useful practice for well-being and, for some of us, is a near-perfect form of emotional self care.


In this field, saturated with the stress and disruption of trauma, “self care” gets thrown around almost constantly. We urge our clients to practice it and admonish our colleagues to make time for it -- but we’re not always that specific in what we mean by it. Just about anything that can cut stress, help someone to decompress, or be considered restorative might get thrown under the heading of self care.


So, let’s drill down a little bit into what self care means. The term actually includes both physical and emotional care, and the physical side is important: food, water, sleep, hygiene, exercise and tending to our physical environments are all critical to feeling okay. On the emotional side of things, practices that we can do on our own are called self-soothing. A whole lot falls under the umbrella of self-soothing. Unfortunately, not all self-soothing activities work equally, and some practices can ultimately do us harm. We service providers are pretty familiar with our own tendencies to lean on numbing, escapist types of self-soothing like drinking, overeating or zoning out to addictive media as quick-fix strategies to deal with stress. “Self care!” we cry as we’re finishing off that bottle of wine, defending our indulgence on the basis of our emotionally demanding field.


It’s not that it’s an unreasonable defense -- the point here isn’t to pass judgment. It is rather to point out that we have other options, some with a cost-benefit ratio that may work a little better in the long term. So what makes an activity not just self-soothing in the moment but also, on a deeper level, nurturing to our well-being? What helps us exit a state of emotional overload without inducing numbness? Mindfulness can help, cultivating a state of alert but non-reactive awareness. Sensory engagement can help, grounding us in the present moment in a pleasurable way. Occupying both creative and logical parts of the brain can help, redirecting our focus away from anxious fixation.


Which brings us back to one thing that lends itself to all of the above: crafting. It’s certainly not the only practice that covers multiple bases of self-soothing at once, but it’s a great one to add to your self-care toolkit. Current research even suggests that the health benefits go beyond aiding those of us dealing with trauma exposure.


If you’re ready to spend the rest of the month up to your elbows in craft projects but don’t know where to start, here’s a quick roundup of a few low-budget, entry-level projects that might launch a new, full-blown hobby.


“Calm Down Jar” for adults

Last year, NVRDC staff had a group self-care event to make ourselves these hypnotic objects. Not only is it a calming experience to make them, but you’re left with a visually relaxing item to use for a moment of calm in the future. Check out the short video tutorial here.


Bubble Painting

Nice weather might be waylaid for the moment, but it’s coming… and when it arrives, here’s a great craft to try outdoors while simultaneously reaping the benefits of a few minutes in the sun.


T-shirt Rag Rugs

If you need to repurpose some t-shirts you never wear into something you might actually use, this tutorial shows you how to make a coaster or trivet while cutting down on clothing clutter.


Plastic Flowers

Also in the “repurposing” category, here’s a how-to on making vivid, glass-like flowers out of plastic cups. Pick up some markers in color combos that speak to your soul and have at it.


Shrinky-dink Charms (pictured in this blog)

Here’s more info on making fun things by shrinking plastic with some step-by-step pointers. Don’t stop there, though; try image-searching “shrinky dink patterns” and see what all the internet has to offer. It’s like coloring pages that you can zap down into wearable charms. Check out another tutorial here going into great detail on this technique with a very classy, very wearable end product. Experiment with lower-budget materials if you don’t want to invest up front in the ink she uses here.


The internet is a bountiful resource for crafting inspiration and learning, so I hope this roundup is only the beginning. Make the most of your craft-month March and enjoy both the process and the product!


 Shrinky Dinks! Find step-by-step instructions on the  OOLY blog .

Shrinky Dinks! Find step-by-step instructions on the OOLY blog.

On the Intersections of Black History Month and Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month..

As both Black History Month and Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month come to a close, we want to pause at two intersections that shape both the Gender-Based Violence and Crime Victims' Rights Movements.

There are many inspiring people in the movements we support. One is Ron LeGrand, an activist engaging men in conversations about healthy relationships and masculinity. We won't reinvent the wheel when our partners over at Break the Cycle put together a great write-up featuring some pertinent interview questions for LeGrand as part of their Trailblazer series.

Our favorite from the Q&A?

BTC: "What specific message do you want to send to young people about what you hope they will accomplish in the next phase of the movement?"

RL: "More than anything, I want young people to have a clearer understanding of what a healthy relationship looks like and that love should never hurt." 

Click on the photo below to read the full article and interview on Break the Cycle's website.

 Click the picture above to read Break the Cycle's spotlight on Ron LeGrand as part of their Trailblazers series.

Click the picture above to read Break the Cycle's spotlight on Ron LeGrand as part of their Trailblazers series.

Next up: most have heard that the teen publication Teen Vogue has been showing the world their "A game" with their powerful pieces of late. An article published this week, titled "Why You Can't Ever Call an Enslaved Woman a Mistress", is no exception.

Responding to a recent Washington Post article and subsequent tweet calling Sally Hemings—a young woman enslaved by Thomas Jefferson—the third president's "mistress", the Teen Vogue article makes some poignant and important points. Here's an excerpt:

"Using the term "mistress"...denotes a relationship predicated on mutual choice, autonomy, and affirmative consent—things slaves do not have. As a slave, Hemings was not afforded the privilege of self-determination, meaning she didn't do what she wanted; she did what she was told. The word to describe that type of interaction is not 'affair'; it's rape."

We don't know if teens are reading TeenVogue these days, but we hope so. We hope, too, that the lessons learned—in its pages or on phone, tablet, and computer screens around the world—are starting conversations and shaping relationships of all kinds.

To read the full article from TeenVogue, click on the cover of their latest issue, pictured below.


Talking about Healthy Relationships during #TeenDVMonth

February--a month that bears an enduring association with all the sugar and spice of romantic love at its sweetest--has also been designated Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month. Dating violence among youth certainly deserves focus and concern: according to statistics at, one out of every three young people experiences dating violence in one form or another. That may be a bitter pill to find mixed in with our Valentine’s chocolates, but getting honest about the harmful, destructive behaviors that can show up in some relationships need not undermine our celebration of healthy ones. Our friends and colleagues at youth-oriented organizations like Break the Cycle, One Love and Love Is Respect are spearheading events all this month that fight the shame and entrapment of abuse by uplifting the power, wisdom and capacity for transformative love that young people already possess.

Inevitably, if relationships are full of the dual potential for good or for harm, so are the tools we use to connect with one another, the means by which we develop and maintain relationships. When it comes to social media, the double-edged sword of abuse and empowerment is in full effect, not just exemplified but magnified. Those of us working in victims rights see staggering examples of social media being weaponized into a tool of abuse. This could look like launching a campaign of cyberbullying, turning an online community against a target, or publicizing private or stolen images of a sexual nature. An abuser may break into someone’s account to further their efforts to shame, isolate and terrorize them. And, with media and technology unavoidable and ever-present in our lives, abusers can exploit countless opportunities to monitor, harass, stalk and control. Young people, belonging to a generation that is both more connected to technology than any other and better at taking advantage of its capabilities, are particularly vulnerable.

Along with the vulnerabilities inherent in a technology-saturated world, though, this degree of connectedness is also a powerful tool in fighting abuse. Recent months and years have seen Twitter hashtags on topics of abuse and assault prompt largely spontaneous outpourings of storytelling, education, information-sharing and support-building--see #WhyIStayed, #WhyILeft, #MaybeHeDoesntHitYou and #NotOkay for some examples of how much heavy lifting can be done in a few words. These stories and conversations have the power to give clarity, nuance and the weight of lived experience to our understanding of abuse dynamics; taken collectively they illustrate the pervasiveness and complexity of relationship violence. And they are taking place on platforms that young people are especially equipped to use, both as participants and as recipients.

Other blogs, websites and messaging platforms are finding creative ways to join the conversation (and bring more people into the conversation). And this constant connectedness works against abuse in some important ways--not only does it make it easier than ever to access information and self-educate, but it is creates opportunities for quick access to communities and support, undermining the isolation so central to abusive control. If social media has opened up more avenues for abusers to get in, it is also opening up more paths for survivors to get out.

Take some time this month to check out the newest generation of efforts against dating violence. If it’s tough to think about the high proportion of teens affected by abusive relationships, it’s pretty inspiring to see what they are doing about it.

January is National Stalking Awareness Month

While National Stalking Awareness Month is coming to a close, I want to share some information that will hopefully stay with you throughout the year. The infographic below is is from Campus Clarity, which helps schools comply with the SaVE Act and Title IX through interactive, engaging online training. 

While anything with a cat on it will get my attention, I find this infographic to be relevant, factual, and easy to understand. My favorite tip is to "Keep a Record". You'll see below that it's a good idea to "document each incident to demonstrate that it fits into a pattern of behavior for safety planning, police reports, and to obtain a protective order."

I'd like to add another benefit of keeping a record: validation. One tactic used by stalkers is to undermine your sense of reality. You may find yourself asking and thinking things like:

"Does that count as stalking or harassment?"
"Maybe they didn't mean it like that..."
"Is this really happening?"
"Am I imagining it?"

A record can serve as a grounding object. It can remind you that what is happening to you is real and there are details that show it. Sure, it can be a tool for the police or an attorney, but it is also a tool for you. It's harder to underestimate the impact of stalking when you have a list in front of you spelling out a pattern of unwanted and intimidating behavior.



Bowling for Charity Silent Auction to Benefit NVRDC

Please see the below auction items that will be available at Bowling for Charity on December 20th at Mustang Alley’s in Baltimore. If you have not already bought your ticket please buy your ticket/make a donation here. All proceeds raised will support NVRDC's comprehensive, wraparound legal services and case management for victims of all types of crime in the District of Columbia. NVRDC empowers victims of all crimes to achieve survivor defined justice through a collaborative continuum of advocacy, case management, and legal services. All of NVRDC's services are provided at no cost to their clients. As a nonprofit committed to achieving survivor defined justice , they rely on the generous contributions of supporters. For more information please visit

You may bid even if you are not able to attend the event by sending a max and final offer to Kateleigh Hewins Clark ( who will be keeping track of the bids. If your max bid is higher than the bids at the event within the last final 10 minute mark of the auction, we will place your bid on the item of your choice. At the event we will place your bid, if it is the highest than those on the sheet at the last final 10 minute mark of the auction. People attending the event will then have one final opportunity to outbid you to win the item.

Please note all proceeds are a donation to NVRDC. Exelon employees please be sure to enter your donation (all payments including ticket, donation, auction items purchased) given to NVRDC into the Exelon match program so your contribution makes an even bigger impact for this wonderful organization.


Orioles Magic Basket

Are you the ultimate Orioles Fan? Do you love to tailgate and grill out? This basket has your name written all over it! The Orioles Magic basket includes an autographed Cal Ripken Jr. baseball, a limited edition, numbered, Baltimore Orioles Oriole Park at Camden Yards Panoramic Photomint, an Orioles Grilling set and an Orioles BBQ set. The starting bid for the Orioles Magic basket is $100, with an actual basket value of over $250.

Cal Baseball.jpg


Ravens Collectible Basket

Calling all Ravens Collectors! This basket includes great items to round out your Ravens Fan Cave! With a Ravens signed Ronnie Stanley football in display case, a limited edition, Baltimore Ravens Signature Gridiron Panoramic Photo, a Ravens Jersey Glass and a Ravens Coffee Thermos, this basket is valued at over $150. Bids on the Ravens Collectible Basket will start at $75.


Ravens Super Fan Basket

Show off your inner Ravens Super Fan this winter with a basket which includes a Ravens signed CJ Mosely football in display case, a Ravens fleece lines winter hat, a Ravens scarf, a Ravens Jersey glass, and a Ravens Coffee Thermos. The Ravens Super Fan Basket is valued at $200 and will have a starting bid of $100.


Wine & Chocolate Basket

If you are a wine and chocolate lover, this basket is perfect for a romantic or relaxing night! This basket has something for everyone with 2 red and 2 white wines, chocolate from a local Baltimore chocolatier, 2 winter wine glasses, winter wine charms, a Wine Saver Pump with 4 Vacuum Bottle Stoppers and a wine party tub. With a value of over $150, bids for the Wine and Chocolate Basket will start at $75.


Tailgate Pro

Are you a professional tailgater, or maybe looking to elevate your summer picnic game? This basket will include two tailgating games, one classic in Washer Toss, and one rising favorite with Kan Jam! Both games provide hours of enjoyment at your next tailgate, family picnic, or backyard BBQ. This basket will also include 2 extra insulated koozies, and some drinks to keep cold. Valued at over $150, bids for the Tailgate Pro basket will start at $75.


Adult Game Night

The Adult Game Night Basket includes five games which are perfect for a night with friends full of laughs, inside jokes, and memories to be made. The games in this basket are Joking Hazard, Quick and Dirty, Drunk Stoned or Stupid, Exploding Kittens (NSFW Edition) and Greater Evil. Bids for the Adult Game Night Basket will start at $45, and has a value of over $100.


Family Fun Night Basket

Finding things to do with the family always become more challenging when the weather turns cold, but the Family Fun Basket will provide some great options! This basket will include 4 tickets to Breakfast with the Animals at the Maryland Zoo, and a family pass (2 Adult and 4 Children tickets) to the Baltimore Museum of Industry. The Family Fun Basket is valued at over $300, and have a starting bid of $125.


Tickets to Baltimore Museum of Industry

Enjoy a family ticket to the Baltimore Museum of Industry. This ticket admits 2 adults and up to four children. The Baltimore Museum of Industry celebrates Maryland’s industrial legacy and shows how innovation fuels ongoing progress. Their exhibitions, educational programs, and collections engage visitors in the stories of the people who built Baltimore and those who shape the region’s future. The retail value for these tickets is $52. Bids will start at $15.


Cooler Basket

Whether it is a backyard BBQ, weekend camping, or tailgating for the big game, having the right equipment in critical! In this basket is a 45 qt. cooler which comes equipped with non-slip feet, molded tie down slots, no fail hinges, and a rapid drain system. This cooler will also keep your ice cold for up to 45 days, and is even bear resistant! Along with this amazing cooler we have a 20 oz. stainless steel tumbler which will keep your drinks cold for 60 hours, or hot for 12 hours! There will also be some drinks which will be perfect to keep cold inside of your cooler to test it out! The total value of the Cooler Basket is $225, and bids will start at $100.


Exelon (and its affiliate company) Employees only can bid on the items below.

You may bid even if you are not able to attend the event by sending a max and final offer to Kateleigh Hewins Clark ( who will be keeping track of the bids. At the event we will place your bid, if it is the highest than those on the sheet at the last final 10 minute mark of the auction. People attending the event will then have one final opportunity to outbid you to win the item.


Capitals Suite Tickets

Enjoy tickets for you and guest to see the Washington Capitals take on the Chicago Blackhawks on Friday January 13, 2017 at 7 p.m. (suite opens are 5:15 p.m.). Tickets are in Exelon’s suite and include food and drink. Large Constellation customers and several members of senior leadership, including possibly Mark Huston, will be in attendance. This basket also includes a caps hat and scarf.

Retail value: $450 Starting Bid: $150


Lunch with Leaders

Enjoy the unique opportunity to have a 1 on 1 lunch with a leader in our organization! This lunch allows for a once in a lifetime networking opportunity with senior level management. You can learn more about different aspects of the company or discuss your own career ambitions. Please consider bidding on this amazing opportunity.


Joseph Nigro

CEO, Constellation; Executive Vice President, Exelon.  A 27-year veteran of the energy industry, Joseph leads Constellation, Exelon’s competitive retail and wholesale businesses. He is responsible for the marketing of electricity, natural gas and other energy-related products and services to Constellation customers, as well as ensuring the optimization of Exelon’s generation portfolio by obtaining maximum value for power produced while managing risk for the company and its shareholders. Constellation has a business presence in 48 states, Washington, D.C., and parts of Canada.  Joseph serves on the board of directors of the National Aquarium, one of the world’s top environmental education organizations and an important anchor of regional tourism in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, and the board of trustees of Baltimore’s Living Classrooms Foundation, which provides hands-on, interdisciplinary education and job training programs that empower and motivate youth.  Joseph received his bachelor’s degree in economics from the University of Connecticut.

Starting Bid: $30


Tamla Olivier

President & CEO, BGE HOME and Constellation Home, Senior Vice President, Constellation.  As president & CEO, BGE HOME and Constellation Home, Tamla is responsible for developing and executing the strategic plan to differentiate Constellation’s deregulated gas & electricity products with home energy service offerings to deepen relationships and drive earnings for the organization.  Tamla is co-chair of the women’s council for My Sister’s Place Women’s Center, a non-profit organization providing women and children with meals, case management services for housing, emergency financial assistance, education, and job training in Baltimore. Additionally, she is on the board of the Partners in Excellence Scholarship program which provides young people with partial, need-based scholarships for Baltimore City Catholic Schools. Tamla is also actively involved with Cristo Rey Jesuit High School, St. Ignatius Loyola Academy and Cardinal Shehan School.  Tamla is a graduate of Cornell University's School of Industrial and Labor Relations.

 Starting Bid: $30


Mark Huston

President, Constellation Retail.  A 30-plus year veteran of the energy utility industry, Mark oversees Constellation’s industry leading retail energy business and is responsible for marketing, sales, operations, fulfillment and product development of energy solutions in support of commercial, industrial and residential customers. Primary offerings include power, natural gas, energy efficiency, combined heat & power projects, compressed natural gas infrastructure and distributed generation (solar, emergency back-up, fuel cells, batteries).  Huston currently serves as Chairman of the Board for the Maryland Science Center and serves on the board of Catholic Charities.  Mark received a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering under the co-operative education program from the University of Maryland, College Park, and a master’s degree in applied management from the University of Maryland, University College.

Starting Bid: $30


David Ellsworth


Senior Vice-President and Chief Operating Officer, Constellation

Starting Bid: $30


Andrew Singer

 Andrew Singer is the Vice President & General Manager of the Mid-Atlantic Region.  He is a retail sales leader who also enjoys mentoring and career and interview coaching.

Starting Bid: $20


David Hochberg

Vice President, North American Natural Gas Trading.  Our team handles the wholesale supply for Constellation’s retail natural gas business, Exelon Generation’s owned & tolled generation, acquires and manages Transportation & Storage, creates structured solutions for producers & end-users, & deploys risk capital.

Starting Bid: $20


Funmi Williamson

Vice President, Commercial Risk Management.  Funmi partners with the Constellation business to ensure all commercial activities are aligned with Exelon’s risk appetite while providing the opportunity for growth.  Funmi is currently a board member of the YMCA of Greater Baltimore, an organization dedicated to eliminating racism, empowering women and promoting peace, justice, freedom and dignity for all.  

Starting Bid: $20


Michael Pechin

The Vice President of Wholesale Operations is a member of the Executive Leadership Team reporting into the Chief Operating Officer for Constellation.    As the VP Wholesale Ops, Mike is responsible for providing direction and support of the wholesale business requirements and operations for Constellation Energy.   Mike is involved in daily decisions around operations to develop, recommend and execute policy, strategy and staffing requirements necessary to create a cost efficient, high performance team.  Wholesale Operations is a strategic partner with the Tradefloor, Financial Planning & Analysis, Accounting & Risk as it is the primary intermediary with all Independent System Operators (ISO’s), Power, Fuels & Renewable Energy Credit trading counterparties, FERC electronic surveillance, electronic subscriptions and the production of the Daily Profit Statement (a PnL of the wholesale trading regions).  Mike is a long-term veteran of the industry with nearly 30 years experience working with Exelon, Constellation and PECO Energy.  Mike holds a BS in Commerce and Engineering and an MBA; both from Drexel University.

Starting Bid: $20


Harald Ullrich

Harald Ullrich is VP of Commercial Analytics at Constellation. His team provides a wide range of analytical support and services to the commercial organization, its embedded functions, and to corporate, including: the review, pricing, and risk assessment of new structured transactions; analytical support for commercial decision-makers and senior management with respect to valuation, hedging, and other quantitative issues; and maintaining and continuously enhancing the commercial risk systems to meet the changing needs of commercial users and embedded functions.

Starting Bid: $20


David Diaz

Vice President, Finance, Constellation.  As vice president of finance for Constellation, David oversees the company’s wholesale and retail business segments, financial forecasting, project analysis, performance indicators and financial reporting.  David is on the board of directors of TurnAround, Inc., a nonprofit organization focused on building a community free of violence by advocating for and educating adults and children affected by intimate partner and sexual violence in Baltimore City and Baltimore County.  David received a bachelor’s degree in accounting from Towson University and completed the Program for Leadership Development at the Harvard Business School.

Starting Bid: $20


James Calabrese

Chief Information Officer, Constellation.  A 22-year veteran of the energy industry, James leads the IT team enabling Constellation's wholesale and retail businesses. In this role Calabrese oversees all IT operations, services, and projects for Constellation and focuses IT investments to maximize value. In 2014, James will fill a board position with the Economic Alliance of Greater Baltimore focused on developing Baltimore's information technology industry.  James received a bachelor's degree in mathematics from Purdue University.

Starting Bid: $20


Michael Smith

Vice President, Exelon Generation Innovation and Strategy Development.  A 20-year veteran of the energy industry, Michael is responsible for the development of key strategic initiatives for Exelon Generation and the company’s overall innovation strategy, strategic transaction management and venture investing.  Michael is on the board of trustees of Ladew Topiary Gardens, a nonprofit organization whose mission is “to maintain and promote the gardens, house and facilities in keeping with the creative spirit of Harvey S. Ladew for the public benefit and for educational, scientific and cultural pursuits.  Michael received a juris doctor from the Duke University School of Law and a bachelor's degree from the University of Miami.

Starting Bid: $20


Craig Wilson

Vice President, Retail Strategy and Sales Support, Constellation.  Craig is responsible for Constellation’s indirect sales activities across energy solutions and capabilities, mainly power, gas, load response and managing and growing the company’s third party channel partner network of aggregators, brokers and consultants.  Craig received a bachelor’s degree from the University of New Hampshire and an MBA from Suffolk University Sawyer School of Management.

Starting Bid: $20


John Quinn

John Quinn, BGE’s Director of Governmental and External Affairs, has responsibility for ensuring close and mutually beneficially relationships with governmental and community officials across the State. These partnerships are essential to efficiently serve our customers. He leads three groups that implement this outreach, Community Affairs, Local Affairs and State Affairs.

Mr. Quinn would like to offer the opportunity for a relaxed lunch discussion with an interested person or two to talk about how Maryland government operates and how we interface and maintain great relationship with our stakeholders.  Lunch could take place in Annapolis or Baltimore at a time and place to be mutually agreed upon. If you send your home address to him ahead of the lunch, he’ll bring along information about your elected officials and give you tips on getting the most from your elected officials.

 Starting Bid: $20


Paul Ackerman

Current lead compliance counsel for reliability and cyber security matters for Exelon companies (Atlantic City Electric, Baltimore Gas & Electric, Commonwealth Edison, Delmarva Power, Exelon Generation PECO Energy, and Pepco).  Responsible for conducting internal compliance investigations, enforcement defense, regulatory advocacy and counseling, and transactional support.  Other recent work at Exelon has includes providing legal regulatory support to Exelon Generation’s wholesale and retail commercial operations and transactions in U.S and Canadian markets.  Also led Exelon’s non-nuclear generation market compliance activities nationwide. 

Prior to joining Exelon, practiced law at DLA Piper in DC and Maryland with a focus on federal and state energy and environmental regulatory compliance counseling, enforcement defense, and legislative and regulatory advocacy. 

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION:   Born in Washington DC and raised in Maryland.  Upon graduation from college was commissioned an officer in the United States Air Force.  Served as a criminal investigator with the Air Force Office of Special Investigations prior to graduating from law school.  

Starting Bid: $20


Sean Boyle


Managing Director, Portfolio Operations

Starting Bid: $20


Frank Henshaw

Managing Director for the Midwest, MidAtlantic, and New York Portfolios

25 years in the industry with experiences in:

  • environmental compliance,
  • production as an onshift supervisor of a combined cycle power plant,
  • startup of environmental and fuel trading desks for Conectiv and Exelon
  • power trading in the MidAtlantic and Midwest portfolio’s

Starting Bid: $20


David Villa

Vice President, Continuous Improvement

Starting Bid: $20



Senior Vice President, Origination, Constellation.  A 22-year veteran of the energy industry focusing primarily on wholesale transactions, Joseph leads the structured power and mid-marketing groups. As senior vice president, he is responsible for coordinating Constellation’s wholesale customer business which includes power load serving, generator hedge contracts, and portfolio restructurings.  Joseph currently serves as a board member of the Notre Dame Preparatory School.  Joseph received a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering from the University of Maryland, College Park and a master's degree in business administration from Loyola University Maryland.

Starting Bid: $30