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30 Years, 30 People Honored for Sexual & Domestic Violence Work in VA

December 2, 2011

RICHMOND, Va. - Virginia has come a long way when it comes to assisting with domestic and sexual violence issues. This weekend, the Virginia Sexual & Domestic Violence Action Alliance will review its progress in the past 30 years, while honoring 30 individuals for their work in education, protection, and advocacy.

Ruth Micklem, community response advocacy coordinator for The Haven Shelter, Warsaw, is among the honorees. She says many important laws have been implemented in the last three decades. To her, one of the most significant has been the creation of civil protective orders for victims of spousal abuse.

"When they were created in Virginia in the early '80s, there was no option for people who were married and who were in abusive relationships to have any sort of protection, or any options for protection, other than divorce."

Over the years, the protective order laws have been extended to include a former spouse, roommate, neighbor or perpetrators of sexual assaults. As a result, explains Micklem, it is now much easier to hold perpetrators accountable for domestic violence, stalking and sexual assault.

Another honoree is Marcy Wright, executive director of Transitions Family Violence Services, Hampton. She points out that services to help victims and their families have expanded greatly in 30 years.

"Specifically around victims and survivors, I think we have now close to 60 shelters across the state. Law enforcement response has changed tremendously."

In Wright's view, education about domestic violence has been key to the state's success. Her agency and the Action Alliance are focused on prevention, particularly teaching Virginia young people about healthy relationships.

The Virginia Family Violence and Sexual Assault hotline number is 1-800-838-8238. The awards gala – "Act, Honor, Hope" – takes place Sat., Dec. 3, at 6:00 p.m. at the Renaissance Center, 107 W. Broad Street, Richmond.

Monique Coppola, Public News Service - VA