11th Annual I-Walk - We’re Going Virtual Again!

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We hoped to see everyone in person again, but with conditions related to the pandemic still evolving, to keep everyone safe the IWALK for ACTS is going virtual again in 2021! So this year you can once more walk, run, swim, paddle, or roll anytime between Saturday, October 9 and Saturday, October 16. Pick the place that works best for you — your nei...
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Surviving Sexual Assault in the LGBTQ+ community— One person’s story

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Forward by: Rebecca Sward As we prepare to end Sexual Assault Awareness Month, ACTS Sexual Assault Services is honored to publish a guest blog post by Evelyn BruMar, Executive Director and Founder of Casa BruMar, a local non-profit that is dedicated to working with LGBTQ+ youth. As allies, ACTS strives to elevate all voices, especially when considering the staggering statistics of sexual violence towards the LGBTQ+ community. We thank Evelyn for sharing her story and experiences and recognize the vulnerability and courage that it takes to do so. As you read Evelyn’s story please be aware that some content may be triggering, especially for sexual assault survivors. Personal stories of sexual assault and violence are, by their very nature, real and raw. Some readers may find the content graphic. The blog below is Evelyn’s personal story and has not been edited to censor her trauma, experiences, or feelings. Lastly, ACTS provides...
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Es Hora…de Unirnos Contra Otra Pandemia, la Pandemia de Violencia Sexual

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Descargo de responsabilidad: Lo siguiente puede ser desencadenante o perturbador para algunos lectores. Es importante reconocer y considerar la naturaleza única de la violencia sexual dentro de comunidades históricamente marginadas. Cada comunidad varía en sí misma en términos de cultura y tradiciones, que influyen en gran medida en cómo se percibe y aborda la violencia sexual. Por lo tanto, no podemos y no perpetuaremos los estereotipos, suposiciones o generalizaciones que se hacen sobre comunidades o grupos de personas en su conjunto. En cambio, este blog se esfuerza por resaltar los puntos en común con respecto a la violencia sexual en la comunidad hispana utilizando datos y observaciones basados en evidencia. Como Especialista Bilingüe en Asalto Sexual y miembro de la comunidad Hispana, he tenido la oportunidad no solo de escuchar sino también de ayudar a sobrevivientes de violencia sexual de varios países de Latinoamérica. Pero, hay una historia que siempre quedara...
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It’s still time

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Every 73 seconds someone in the US is sexually assaulted. Sexual violence can take many forms, and crosses all gender, racial, and socioeconomic lines. Sexual violence can include any unwanted sexual contact, “ranging from sexist attitudes and actions to rape… [it] can include words and actions…force, threats and manipulation” (National Sexual Violence Resource Center, 2021). Sexual violence can also have long lasting impacts on mental, emotional, and even physical well-being. It is a pervasive problem that transcends individuals and impacts entire communities. Building on years of advocacy and legislation, the National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRC) created the first nationally recognized Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM) in April 2001. For the last twenty years, every April, organizations, communities, and advocates highlight SAAM and shine a spotlight on awareness, survivors, advocacy efforts, and prevention. In 2011, NSVRC launched its first social media campaign for SAAM, entitled “It’s time”. In 2013, ACTS welcomed...
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Children are constantly exposed to domestic violence

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Hardly a day goes by that we do not read or hear about an act of domestic violence or tragedy involving children in our community or across the country. Children are constantly exposed to domestic violence and the aftermath can be devastating to the child’s emotional growth and future behaviors. For example, children and domestic violence studies show the following: 3 to 4 million children between the ages of 3 to 17 are at risk of exposure to domestic violence each year.Childhood abuse and trauma has a high correlation to emotional and physical problems in adulthood.Childhood domestic violence experiences can negatively affect a developing brain, creating a series of negative beliefs lasting into adulthood.Childhood exposure to domestic violence is the strongest risk factor for transmitting violent behavior from one generation to the next.Up to 90% of children living in homes with domestic violence, know what is happening. Don’t ever think “they...
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ACTS partnership with PWCPD is an effective collaboration for identifying high-risk victims of domestic violence.

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Domestic violence is an insidious problem that negatively impacts everyone, even if you are not directly involved in a domestic violence situation. The CDC has classified domestic violence as a public health crisis and it’s easy to see why. Victims often have lifelong emotional and physical scars; children who grow up in violent homes can suffer developmental, cognitive, and emotional deficits; communities are impacted by violence through increased healthcare costs, and increases in female head of household homes are common. What’s more is that domestic violence is incredibly dangerous not just for victims and their children but for the helping professionals who intervene. It is extremely important to address this public health crisis on a community level in order to be effective.  In 2018, ACTS Domestic Violence Services partnered with Prince William County Police Department (PWCPD) to implement LAP- the Lethality Assessment Program. LAP is a multipronged approach to assess danger for domestic violence victims, safety-plan, reduce...
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I don’t understand why they just don’t leave.

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Leaving an abusive relationship is never easy. Even when survivors of domestic violence get to a point of feeling like they are ready to walk away countless barriers stand in their way. Things like finances, children, and housing are all practical concerns for the abused partner but there are deeper, unseen barriers too. Love and bonds don’t turn off like a light switch. It’s not as simple as just walking away and you may find yourself wondering why. Trauma bonding is a phenomenon where an abuser and victim become bonded through traumatic experiences. It goes without saying that being abused by the person you love is traumatic. Abusers manipulate their victims to rely solely on them for love, intimacy and connection. Abusers keep their abused partner isolated and reliant on them for any small act of affection, no matter how rare it may be. They often use a technique called “dosing”...
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Operation Give Thanks

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The Hunger Prevention Center is accepting food donations for Operation Give Thanks now through November 20th. Donations may be dropped off Monday through Friday between 9:00 am and 4:00 pm at the Hunger Prevention Center, 17958 Dr. David Cline Lane, Dumfries, VA.  The Hunger Prevention Center provides gift cards to clients, to purchase their own turkeys, but we rely upon donations to provide for all the fixin’s.  Pie crust Corn bread or biscuit mix Green beans / canned vegetables Instant mashed potatoes Can or jar of gravy, or gravy mix packet Stuffing Cranberry sauce Yams or sweet potatoes Pumpkin or fruit pie filling Evaporated milk  If you have any questions, please feel free to contact Phil Edney at 703-441-8606 Ext. 288 or at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..  
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10th Annual Virtual I-Walk

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Let's face it. 2020 has been a challenge.Nothing's the same and we're all going a little stir crazy. It's time to get outside. Time to move with a purpose.Time to make a difference at this year's IWALK for ACTS.Click here to learn more!https://www.iwalkforacts2020.com/To keep everyone safe during the pandemic, we're going virtual.Instead of gathering at Stonebridge Potomac Town Center, this year you can walk, run, or roll anytime between Saturday, October 3 and Sunday, October 11.Pick the place that works best for you — your neighborhood sidewalk, a trail through the woods, a path along a stream, or even a treadmill at your gym or in your own home.And you’re not limited to running or walking. You can bike, kayak, stand-up paddleboard, rock climb, chase the kids around the house — whatever gets your blood pumping for 5K.Better yet, sign up with a group of friends and make it a socially-distanced...
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Gaslighting

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You’re crazy – that never happened.” “Are you sure? You tend to have a bad memory.” “It’s all in your head.” The term “gaslighting” has gotten thrown around a lot recently, mostly in reference to people in power claiming something had (or hadn’t) happened, and refused, when confronted with contradictory evidence, to acknowledge otherwise. It is a common technique of abusers, dictators, narcissists, and cult leaders to make a victim question their reality. The term Gaslighting comes from the 1938 stage play Gas Light, in which a husband attempts to drive his wife crazy by dimming the lights (which were powered by gas) in their home, and then he denies that the light changed when his wife points it out. In 1944, the play was made into a movie of the same name. The film was nominated for seven Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Actor, and Best Screenplay; winning two for...
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We Will Not Be Silent

We Will Not Be Silent
No matter who you are, you are welcome at ACTS.  We serve our neighbors - all of our neighbors, and you are our neighbor.  If you come to us, you will be welcomed without prejudice. PERIOD. Many of those who come to us are victims of violence, and one form of violence is SILENCE in the face of another's suffering.  At this time, ACTS is not standing by silently.  While we do not deal directly with issues of race, it is certainly a factor in why many need our services.  We stand with all of those who have suffered at the hands of injustice and those who are suffering still, including many of our own Team.  Our neighbors are grieving, and we grieve with you. Steve LigaACTS CEO 
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Sexual Assault Awareness Month

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Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM) is an annual campaign to raise public awareness about sexual assault and educate communities and individuals on how to prevent sexual violence. Attention generated during this time helps energize and expand ACTS Sexual Assault Services efforts throughout the year. The video posted here is part of ACT’s efforts to enhance awareness during SAAM. It features Sarah Fenno (a volunteer with ACTS) who, in her words, will describe the highly important role she and other volunteers like her provide. Sarah also offers some insightful information and encouragement to the victims who feel horribly alone during the Covid-19 crisis.
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Human Trafficking Symposium

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In a standing room only meeting at the McCourt building, volunteers, educators and elected officials attended a human trafficking symposium to learn about what is happening in Prince William County to help prevent and address Human Trafficking. Mary Ellen Smith is the Human Trafficking Prevention Specialist for PWCS. Previously a social worker, Smith coordinates the Human Trafficking Program for the schools. This program is in the middle and high schools, case management for identified victims and public awareness and education for students and community agencies. Click HERE to read the rest of the article. By Rebecca Barnes Wednesday 1/29/2020
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Answering Crisis Calls This Holiday Season

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The holidays can be extremely tough for those who have lost loved ones, are struggling to pay bills, or dealing with other stressors in their lives.  Our Helpline Program allows us to come alongside our neighbors as they work through deep mental and emotional pain.  It is run by a dedicated staff of seven and volunteer team of fourteen.  Our trained Crisis Listeners are available 24/7 and receive nearly 2,000 calls per month - 39% of which are suicide related.   Encompassing four different resources, the Helpline program, with the help of donations received, provides: Crisis Listeners: Thirty-nine percent of calls received per month by the Helpline are suicide related. All ACTS crisis listeners are trained to help people deal with their feelings and to talk through their issues.Resources Listeners: Providing a wealth of information on the availability of resources available to people who are in crisis, such as hospital locations etc.Senior Link: A completely...
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Working to End Domestic Violence in Prince William County

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Step out with ACTS Domestic Violence Services (Turning Points) by joining our 2018 Purple Purse Challenge! Together we can help put an end to domestic violence in Prince William County! 2018 was a big year as we launched a new and vital partnership with the Prince William County Police. The LAP program, or Lethality Assessment Protocol, allows us to reach high danger victims with safety planning and advocacy as never before. But the need is greater now. Many have no where to go in order to stay safe. Your support will provide needed resources to help high danger victims who need safe shelter and transportation, sometimes in the middle of the night. Your gift will help people like Laura, a survivor of domestic violence:  “My bruises were in my head.” Laura told us. “It felt like love at first, but then he became jealous and suspicious of me,” she said. “He kept...
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Operation Turkey 2018

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Now that ACTS' Hunger Prevention Center is officially open, Thanksgiving will soon be around the corner, and we'll need your help to ensure that every family receives a Thanksgiving meal this year! Last year, 783 Total Families were assisted, which included 1,379 adults and 1,123 children. This year, our goal is to provide meals for 1,000 local families, and we hope that, with your help, we can achieve this! Thank you for helping us alleviate hunger this upcoming (though it doesn't feel like it!) holiday season!
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Operation Turkey '18 Underway!

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Now that ACTS' Hunger Prevention Center is officially open, Thanksgiving will soon be around the corner, and we'll need your help to ensure that every family receives a Thanksgiving meal this year! Last year, 783 Total Families were assisted, which included 1,379 adults and 1,123 children. This year, our goal is to provide meals for 1,000 local families, and we hope that, with your help, we can achieve this!  The following items are what we need most:Canned Sweet Potatoes (15oz)Boxed Corn Muffin Mix (8.5oz)Boxed Stuffing Mix (6oz)Boxed Pie Crust Mix (9oz)Canned Pumpkin Pie Mix (15oz)Gravy Mix PacketsCranberry Sauce (14 oz)Instant Mashed Potatoes (13.75oz)Pie FillingEvaporated Milk (12 oz) Please bring all donated food to ACTS Hunger Prevention Center location at 17958 Dr. David Cline Lane in Dumfries by October 12th during the facility's hours of operation. These times include: Drop Off Hours:Monday: 9-11:30am / 1-3pmTuesday: 1-3:30pm / 5-6:30pmThursday: 9-11:30am / 1-3pmFridays: 9-11:30am...
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ACTS To Hold Grand Opening of Hunger Prevention Center

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We did it! After two years of planning, purchasing, constructing, and more planning, I’m very happy to tell you that our Hunger Prevention Center (an expansion of our food pantry program) has now been operational for a month. It makes me even happier to say that we will be holding our official grand opening of this massive undertaking this week on August 15th from 11am-1pm, and you’re invited. Two years is a long time to be committed to a project. Thanks to your donations, the Hylton Foundation, and the unwavering support of ACTS’ volunteers, we were able to achieve something spectacular. I think the first lingering question in the community is, “Why did we do it?” On the outside, our food pantry was running pretty well. There was a location for clients to pick up food, as well as one for donors to drop off food. Local grocery stores and individuals...
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Suicide and Self-harm in the Media Today

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If you’ve been struggling with thoughts of suicide, feeling hopeless, feeling lonely and isolated, worried about someone you care about, you have help available through ACTS Helpline. Your call will be greeted by a compassionate trained listener. This person is there to help clarify your problems, offer suggestions, and most of all, listen. Call our helpline, day or night, at (703) 368-4141. Anthony Bordain, Kate Spade and 13 Reasons Why have all brought attention to something we should all have awareness of by now; suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States. According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention 45,000 Americans die by suicide yearly. Numbers are expected to be higher since under reporting is known to occur. Impacts of these tragedies shock people in different ways. Kate Spade and Anthony Bordain were both lost within one week of each other. There has also been discussion in...
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Raising Awareness in Prince William County with International Belly Dancing

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In May, ACTS Domestic Violence Services took part in the world’s largest international belly dance event – the Shimmy Mob! Created to raise awareness about domestic violence, the Shimmy Mob celebrates world Belly Dance day by joining groups across the globe in dance performances designed to raise funds for shelters and victims of abuse. On May 12, patrons of the Manassas Mall were treated to a performance by the Prince William Troupe that included all styles of Belly Dance, and a short show full of fun and variety. Tina Bauch, Team Leader for Shimmy Mob Prince William 2018, said that each year her dance troupe participates in the Shimmy Mob, along with groups across the country. One of their goals is to break the record for flash mob Belly Dancing, which they do each year. On the same day, having the same goals, troupes unite by dancing the same song, using...
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Life After Losing Your Spouse

Life After Losing Your Spouse
Read the whole article at: ACTS Helpline provides numerous support lines to ensure that no one is ever alone.Your call will always be greeted by a compassionate, trained listener. This person is there to help clarify your problems, offer suggestions, and most of all, listen. All calls made are confidential and anonymous, allowing you to be completely open about what you’ve been going through. If you would like to sign up for ACTS Senior Link service, call 703-441-8606 ext 210 and ask for Senior Link. Introduction The death of a spouse is one of the most difficult challenges many of us will have to face. Your world is turned upside down, and it’s not easy to come to grips with the many emotions that you will inevitably feel. This is especially true if you had been married to your spouse for a significant amount of time. Nobody likes to think about...
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Updates & News about the Volunteer Program

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As ACTS fiscal year comes to a close, we're excited to share that our volunteer program is being revamped! Currently:  We are working on ways to expand our Senior Link program by means of senior visits. Our intention is to have friendly visits of fellowship or an activity, like BINGO where we give out gifts or treats and information about Senior Link. This event is open to all including youth and families. Registration will be offered via sign-up sheet and dates will be announced on Facebook. July is the launch of volunteer orientations. This is a one-time hour session offered on Monday Mornings or Thursday Evenings to give an overview of ACTS, our services and information about the various ways to volunteer and give back within the organization. Sign up We continually look for ways to improve our volunteer programs and recently emailed a survey to active volunteers that can be...
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Volunteer Spotlight: June

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This month’s Volunteer Spotlight is on the Volunteer Program. I have been a part of the ACTS team since September 2017; in my short time, I have had a lot of assistance making sure that our vast number of volunteers have undergone intake, feel appreciated and have information about our growing number of events and programs. I want to especially thank, Ethan Vick, who is a staff member and has been incredibly patient and helpful as I learned and developed within the Volunteer Program. The volunteers I want to spotlight are new to my program as Group Leaders but not new to ACTS, as they worked previously under the manager of the Thrift Store for the last few years. The Group Leaders are Natita Knight and Anita Cooper. The purpose of a Group Leader within this program is to assist groups during their day of service. Leaders also give instructions on...
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My Partner Is Trying to Make Me Seem Crazy. Am I Crazy?

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As seen in: ACTS Domestic Violence Services' Adult Advocacy Program focuses on your safety, helping you set boundaries, and empowering you to lead an abuse-free life using resources we can help you attain. Individual and group support are both available. Call anytime: 703-221-4460 Sarah’s* abuser made her sleep facing him in bed. It started innocently enough. He said he liked it when she slept facing him so he could watch her fall asleep. It was romantic. But what started out as a request quickly turned into a demand. He convinced her that rolling over meant “turning her back on him,” and he’d become furious, even if she did it unthinkingly in that period between wakefulness and slumber. Sarah used to lie awake until she was certain he was asleep and then quietly roll over onto her right side, which is how she preferred to sleep. Sarah had to take two Tylenol PMs...
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Make IMPACT

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ACTS makes the impact it does in our community because our staff, volunteers, supporters, faith communities, businesses, and other partners have joined together.  We could not do what we do alone, but together we each do our part, and it adds up to something spectacular. A year ago, I joined a brand-new organization that has taken this concept to a whole new level.  It is called IMPACT Club.  Founded right here in Woodbridge, it has already spread around the world, with local chapters as far away as New Zealand!  The concept is simple: four times a year, individuals commit to donating $100 to a local nonprofit.  Three nonprofits are then chosen at random from a pool of nominees and invited to give a five-minute presentation to the group.  The club votes, and the winner takes home the entire collection. It’s simple.  $100 is a nice donation to a nonprofit.  One hundred...
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Volunteer Spotlight: Joline Doedens-Combs

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Co-written by (listed alphabetically): Tamika Martin, Linda Neice and Gine Ryan. This month’s volunteer spotlight is: Joline Doedens-Combs. Because of her incredible services, she is also the Volunteer of the Year for Domestic Violence Services (DVS). We cannot begin to describe how Joline’s selfless work assists both ACTS and our clients; so I want to describe a day at our offices: Nearly every day at the ACTS Court Office, there is a flurry of activity in brief crisis counseling for walk-in clients who are seeking protection from their abusive family members. Because of the nature of the cases, often it is necessary that we operate within a very short window.  It is a race against time for: preliminary protective order hearings, faxing the client’s paperwork to qualify for pro bono legal aid, finding an attorney who will represent a client for their permanent protective order hearing. Often, we receive pro bono...
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ACTS Partners with Birdies for Charity for Dominion Energy Charity Classic

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From now until October, ACTS will be participating in a charitable fundraising program offered by the Dominion Energy Charity Classic. The program, called Birdies for Charity Presented by TowneBank, will pay us a 10% bonus on the funds that we generate! When you donate through Birdies for Charity, we receive your donation plus the 10% bonus. Birdies for Charity offers the option to gift a flat amount or an amount based on the number of birdies made by PGA TOUR Champions players at the Dominion Energy Charity Classic in October (a birdie is one stroke under par). PGA TOUR Champions players made 789 birdies at the last year’s tournament. So as an example, if you donated $0.10 per birdie in 2017 your total donation would have equaled $78.90, to which the PGA TOUR adds the additional 10% bonus. If you would like to make your donation online, please click here for...
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SAAM VOLUNTEER SPOTLIGHT OF THE WEEK: Edward McGovern

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For the month of April, nationally recognized as Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM), ACTS Sexual Assault Services will highlight the work of several of our program volunteers who give freely of their time and talents to support survivors of sexual violence.  This week’s Volunteer Spotlight features Edward McGovern, ACTS Sexual Assault Services Volunteer of the Year. Ed not only volunteers his time on our hotline, he is also a powerful speaker, which has enabled ACTS to connect with an audience that is typically hard to reach. In addition, Ed serves on the Sexual Assault Awareness Month committee and represents ACTS at community outreach events. According to Terry Swirchak, Community Educator for ACTS Sexual Assault Services; “Ed is kind, humble, gracious, empathetic and willing to put himself out there in an effort to help others. Those who have worked with Ed know him to be a great teammate and someone who can always be...
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SAAM Volunteer Spotlight of the Week: Iris Coleman

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For the month of April, nationally recognized as Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM), ACTS Sexual Assault Services will highlight the work of several of our program volunteers who give freely of their time and talents to support survivors of sexual violence.  It is never easy to hear someone’s story of sexual assault. This is what Iris Coleman has been doing over the last 2 ½ years as a Volunteer Crisis Listener for the ACTS Sexual Assault Hotline. Sometimes, Iris is the first person the survivor tells about their assault. Her job is to let the caller know that she is there to listen, believe them, and provide support. Sometimes support means offering resources, such as how to reach ACTS Sexual Assault Services. Other times it involves helping the person to make their own decision as to whether or not to seek medical attention, or involve the police. But often, listening is the best...
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SAAM Volunteer Spotlight of the Week: Paige Meade

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For the month of April, nationally recognized as Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM), ACTS Sexual Assault Services will highlight the work of several of our program volunteers who give freely of their time and talents to support survivors of sexual violence.  This week’s Volunteer Spotlight highlights Paige Meade. Paige first learned of ACTS Sexual Assault Services in 2006, when she joined a survivor’s support group to help her work through the aftermath of a violent sexual assault that happened in Manassas in 1992.  “I was at my lowest, and the group welcomed me and helped me work though long-buried issues,” says Paige.  “I’m not sure what I would have done without that support, so I believe it’s important for me to give back to my community.”  Currently, Paige volunteers 96 hours per month. She is routinely on call for hospital accompaniment visits to provide support during the sometimes-lengthy forensic exam. Paige...
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#MeToo: 25 years ago in Prince William County

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According to Susan Sullivan, Prevention Campaign Specialist for The National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRC), “With the #MeToo movement transforming the way our society is talking about the issue of sexual violence, the theme of April’s Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM), Embrace Your Voice, feels like a perfect fit.” The voice you will hear below is that of Paige, a former ACTS client and current volunteer.  In 1992 a man followed me home from work and broke into the basement of my dad’s townhouse in Manassas.  I was 19.  It was my dad’s birthday.  These are the facts that are easy to recount.  Harder to tell is what one human being has to do to another to earn two (two!) life sentences in the Commonwealth of Virginia.  But I did tell those things – to the police, and eventually in a courtroom to secure those two life sentences.  Afterward?  I packaged up those awful facts and tried to hide...
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Volunteer Spotlight: Alexis

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Helpline is a free and confidential 24/7 crisis service. Since the Helpline does not close, it is crucial that there are an adequate number of staff and volunteers to cover the Helpline at all times. There are certain times of day that callers tend to call in more frequently and more listeners are needed during those times. The topics of conversation are varied and listeners need to have the ability to discuss different types of crises. Volunteers are always appreciated. Alexis is an intern for the Helpline. She has to complete 120 hours for her internship and is more than halfway done at the time of this writing. Alexis has been willing to do her internship hours based on the needs of the Helpline. Whether that means a shift that begins at 5 AM or at 5 PM. She has a full-time job and she goes above and beyond to make...
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How Police Are Trained to Respond to Domestic Violence

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Last year, ACTS Domestic Violence Services initiated the Lethality Assessment Program (LAP) to help train Prince William County officers how to respond to situations involving domestic violence. The LAP is a multi-pronged intervention program that consists of an evidence-based tool called the Lethality Screen that helps law enforcement more clearly assess a victim’s risk of intimate partner homicide, and an accompanying referral process that proactively connects victims to community-based domestic violence services. The Screen is adapted from Dr. Campbell’s Danger Assessment, a screening instrument used by clinicians and counselors to assess a victim’s risk of being killed by an intimate partner (Campbell, 1986). The LAP aims to translate clinical research on lethality predictors into practical tools that will help first responders respond more effectively to dangerous and potentially lethal incidents of domestic violence.  As seen in:  Domestic violence has been found to constitute the single largest category of police calls in some cities. When police officers respond, they know...
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Volunteer Spotlight: Byron Ross

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In this month's Volunteer Spotlight, we are highlighting the selfless work of Byron Ross, who volunteers with the Children's Program for ACTS' Domestic Violence Services Program. The Children's Program provides a support group to youths ages 5-17, and its focus is on building self-esteem, growing problem-solving skills and exploring one's feelings. April Vandover, who is the Children's Program Specialist, describes Byron as a great asset to her program; "He has volunteered for over a year, working well with youth of all ages but he shines with the teen group. Byron has an effortless way with connecting to youth, his guidance helps those around him open up, share, and feel comfortable. Byron's efforts with the teenagers has not gone unnoticed by ACTS or those in the group.  Any time he is away (which is an extremely rare occasion), his presence is truly missed. Part of the success of the teen's group can...
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Change on the Horizon for ACTS' Housing Program

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By: Denarsha Clarke and Laurel Turay; ACTS' Sustainable Housing Case Managers As ACTS prepares for its 50th Anniversary, one of our longest running programs, the Beverly Warren Emergency Family Shelter, will be experiencing some changes this year. Our organization began at the Emergency Shelter, and during ACTS' history, it has been the site of a thrift store, a hub for families to receive emergency financial assistance, but most importantly, it has been a refuge for all who would otherwise be homeless in our area. The change has already begun. Last year, Valria Martin became the supervisor for the Emergency Shelter as well as the Domestic Violence Shelter. Ms. Martin has been with ACTS for 10 years and her dedication to its residents has been unparalleled. The shelter will also be under renovation soon. While the building has been a beacon for those needing a safe place to stay, 50 years of...
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Life Unlocked

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As seen in: At a recent women’s conference in Phoenix, Ariz., Erin Brockovich was one of the featured speakers—you know, the woman made famous when Julia Roberts portrayed her life story in the 2000 Academy Award-winning film Erin Brockovich. Brockovich was there to talk about how women can overcome even the toughest of situations. “We have to learn to persevere when we want to give up,” she said. During the Q&A that followed, Suzanna Quintana, 49, raised her hand. She had a story to tell about persevering. She had been stalked by her abusive ex-husband, she said, for two years, maybe longer—she couldn’t be exactly certain when it started, or even if it was over. In part, he had used the identity theft protection company, LifeLock to do so. Quintana had explored every avenue to get him to stop—the police, the court system, anyone at LifeLock who would listen. It seemed no...
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Keeping Your Mental Health in Mind

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By: Peter Lineberry It’s been said that not every disability is visible, and this can often be true when it comes to mental health. Some illnesses are readily diagnosed and treated with therapy and medication; others can be vaguer in the minds of those affected and often remain unknown to a person’s loved ones. Anxiety and depression can take many forms, and while sometimes triggered by sad events, might start just because, well, life happens. One reason that symptoms are undiagnosed, or purposefully hidden from the wider world, is the fear of stigma: that the person will become a social outcast at work or at home. Yet, in our county, there are numerous organizations dedicated to fighting this perception and providing needed help. Prince William Living wanted to highlight some of these organizations and show the good they are doing in the community, and share a few self-realized therapies that have made a positive difference for some coping with mental illness. Because, as Cynthia Dudley of Woodbridge’s...
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Volunteer Spotlight: Mark Victorson

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The Volunteer Spotlight is a new, monthly segment where ACTS recognizes the outstanding service by volunteers who go above and beyond the call of duty. In this Volunteer Spotlight, we are highlighting the time selflessly given by those who serve on the Crisis and Suicide Helpline. The Crisis Helpline is a free, confidential telephone service available 24 hours a day. The extensive training for those who answer these calls is 40 hours, but the wonderful thing about this program is you work directly with the lives you touch and after the initial training, you have a very flexible schedule! Last year, our Helpline staff and volunteers answered 8,200 suicide-related calls, over 11,000 Senior Link calls, and over 7,000 calls related to crisis issues.  We want to acknowledge the awesome work of Mark Victorson, who is a longtime volunteer with the Suicide Helpline. In 2016, Mark gave over 836 hours of service...
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A Guide to Volunteering During the Holiday Season

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I want to thank you for donating your time, items and energy; what you do makes a measurable impact for both ACTS and the community. The holiday season is a wonderful time to give back; this is the season for giving and as the year ends we reflect on both the good and bad and how to do something outside ourselves. However, in general, ACTS is not open on federally observed holidays so volunteering is limited at those times. So, what can you do to volunteer? Fill out our individual  or group application. If you are interested in working with a specific program- like the Adopt A Day on holidays you must follow up with the scheduler directly and as far in advance as possible.After filling out an application, schedule yourself, your family and friends to work the days before and following the holidays at departments like the Thrift Store, Food Pantry...
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Celebrate Domestic Violence Awareness Month?!

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“You’re celebrating Domestic Violence Awareness Month (DVAM)?” a friend asked in the midst of a flurry of activities being planned in October for DVAM.  “Isn’t that an oxymoron?”   My only answer at the time was yes of course! We are celebrating the survivors of domestic violence as well as the work going on in our community to combat the epidemic of intimate partner violence.  But his comment got me to thinking. Is celebrate really the best word to describe such a sober subject as domestic violence? The recent church shooting in Texas reminds all of us how dangerous domestic violence-related behavior can be, and how vital it is to remain alert and recognize the signs before violence escalates. Indeed, it is a life and death matter, and not to be minimized.  So, thinking it through, I did what every Millennial would do (even though I am actually a Baby Boomer) – I went...
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#MeToo

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If you are on social media or you’ve turned in to the news this week, perhaps you've seen or heard about the hashtag that’s spreading like wildfire, #MeToo. If, like me, you are a survivor of sexual assault, it can be both empowering and triggering to see SO…MANY…PEOPLE…raising their hands and saying “it happened to me, too.” And yet, I know that there are so many others who are survivors, who are ashamed, or afraid, or pressured to keep their victimization private. I have never spoken of it myself. When I was in elementary school, I had a friend who had a horse. No one else I knew had a horse so I loved going to visit her, and we would groom and ride her horse. She had an older brother who was super cool in my eyes, mostly because he paid attention to me and made me feel special. I...
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Best Ways to Provide Support When One of Your Volunteers Suffers a Loss

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While it can take months or even years to come to terms with the loss of a loved one, most people realize that time doesn’t pause during that period. Life and responsibilities go on and require attention. While some people find returning to a regular routine helpful, it can be extremely challenging for others. This can be a tricky situation for a manager when a volunteer suffers a loss. But with a little planning, you can make the transition easier for your returning volunteer. Why It’s Hard Whether it’s working or volunteering, everyone knows that the first day back with an organization can be a bit of a challenge. Especially when one expects colleagues to react with sympathy and questions. It’s typical for people to have the same automatic, though well-intentioned, reaction of, “I’m sorry.”  They may ask how the volunteer is doing or what happened. Try to anticipate some of...
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IWALK Festival To Enter Final Lap

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We can’t wait for Saturday’s 7th Annual IWALK for ACTS. There’s still time to register for the 5K! Following the 5K, the community at large is invited to join us for a FREE family festival from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. at Stonebridge at Potomac Town Center (14900 Potomac Town Place, Woodbridge). We will be filling the main street with activities and entertainment for the entire family. You won’t want to miss this fun, fall Saturday! We have a few vendor spots still available. Interested in partnering with us? Learn more here. Here is a look at what to expect at the festival: Minecraft activities by Animated ChildBounce House and Bounce House Slide from Castle Bounce LLC Virginia Party RentalsCharacter appearances by: McGruff the Crime Dog, Star Wars characters, Superheroes, Sparky the Fire Dog and moreMeet and Greet with Queen Elsa Science experiments with Chemistry for KidsCrafts hosted by Girls on the RunPainting by Edgemoor Art StudioFace painting by Hope Hill...
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Volunteer Program Blog Introduction

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Welcome all ACTS employees, volunteers and prospects to the Volunteer Program Blog! My name is Tamika Martin, I am the Volunteer Coordinator. My job is volunteer: engagement, recruitment, placement, development, recognition and retention. This blog will feature: ACTS at events and volunteer days, recognition of excellent service from current volunteers by staff and information about programs that have immediate needs or are season specific (like Operation Turkey). With the year winding down and the weather cooling; we know the holidays are right around the corner. This is the time where collectively we think outside ourselves and give to those around us. ACTS can be a great  vehicle for you and you loved ones to make a difference in the community. Here are some of programs available for single or ongoing terms:  Adopt-A-Day Program - Provide breakfast, lunch or dinner and after-school snacks for children staying at the Beverly Warren shelter.Administration - For those...
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What I Have Learned My First Year As A Crisis Listener

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It is amazing to me that whoever calls and whatever time it is, there is always room for compassion, even at 3:00 a.m.  Sometimes the callers at this hour are lonely and cannot sleep, other times the caller is in emotional distress.                                               We have a diverse background for our Crisis Listener team.  Many of my coworkers have past experience with working in the mental health field, serving as an encyclopedia of knowledge and resources.  One of them in particular, who has a calm spirit and years of experience, ended up talking to me about an active suicide I took. He was able to assess the call with me and gave me hope that the caller was talking about the future, so there is a chance the caller did not...
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Helping Seniors Deal with the Loss of a Spouse: Tackling the Paperwork and Understanding the States of Grief

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Photo Credit: vlanka, Pixabay Losing a spouse is unimaginable. It’s one of the hardest things that an individual can go through in life, and watching your loved one suffer with the grief of losing his or her spouse isn’t easy either. If your senior loved one has recently become a widow or widower, your support is important. You can help with paperwork and other tasks. Your loved one will also need your support as he or she goes through each state of grief. When a person dies, there are certain tasks that must be taken care of, such as planning the funeral, contacting the insurance company, obtaining death certificates, and more. While you should offer to help, don’t try to take control of the situation. Handling the planning gives many people in grief a sense of control and a source of distraction. Instead, sit down with your loved one to figure...
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Remembering Chris Cornell and Chester Bennington

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I love Soundgarden, it was one of the first bands I was exposed to. My mom would blast her tape of Superunknown on the way to bringing me to school every day in her 1992 Festiva (I never really figured what the cover was supposed to be of). Chris Cornell’s voice could go from a low growl to a high crescendo in a matter of seconds without missing a beat. My mind was completely blown when he and Tom Morello teamed up when I was 11. When Chris Cornell killed himself a few months ago, it was something you couldn’t ignore. Especially after Chester Bennington killed himself a few weeks ago. It underscored how no amount of money, fame, talent, or power makes you immune from depression and mental health problems. How someone with so much success in their life could still die. Social media was quick to echo this idea,...
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Compton & Duling Supports ACTS in its Work with Domestic Abuse Survivors

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Compton & Duling recently launched a Community Champion project in support of ACTS, which offers counseling and education for community members experiencing crisis. Through its involvement with ACTS, the Prince William-based law firm is bolstering services offered to families affected by domestic abuse. Compton & Duling Partner Maryse Allen recently did a presentation for ACTS' Adult Victim Group, helping group members to better understand the divorce process in Virginia. “While I am unable to give specific legal advice during a presentation, I can provide insight into preventing common pitfalls,” said Allen, who heads Compton & Duling’s family law practice. “Another goal is to demystify the court process. We never want anybody to feel that they are trapped in a domestic violence situation due to lack of information or resources.” Many of those in attendance had questions about their own situations. Often, Allen’s advice was to seek legal counsel. “The laws are...
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Say It Out Loud!

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“Thank you for sharing your story.” “You are so brave.” “You are helping other people by letting them know that they are not alone.” These are some of the most common statements heard from people who have just listened to a survivor tell their emotional story of sexual abuse or assault. In fact, helping others is a huge reason why survivors decide to open up. However, telling your trauma story can be one of the most effective coping strategies for dealing with trauma related stress and a significant step in the healing process. With the support of a professional, shaping and sharing your story helps organize memories and feelings into a more manageable and understandable narrative. Plus, the process of creating the story is in itself beneficial.  Additionally, listeners provide much needed interaction and support with their willingness to hear what the survivor has to say. Not everyone has to tell...
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Self-Injury: Let’s Talk About It

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With the popularity of 13 Reasons Why on Netflix and the announcement of a second impending season, I think talking about self-injury is very relevant. It’s a difficult topic to discuss, but an important one. When we talk about “self-injury”, most people have a stereotypical image come to mind, usually the way Skye Miller talked about. However, this can be an oversimplification of the reality of self-injury. Here are some things to think about (if you aren’t already):   1. It takes a variety of forms  This includes scratching, biting, burning, head banging, and cutting. These things are all done for some form of an emotional release. If you haven’t struggled with something like this yourself, odds are pretty good that you know someone who has. A 2010 study estimated that around 15% of teens engaged in some form of self-injury; this is a conservative estimate at best and is most likely...
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