2023 Retreat: Reflect, Restore, and Reset

Rhododendron in bloom, Shenandoah Valley, Va.” by Boston Public Library is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

For the first time since 2019, gather with advocates, preventionists, and community leaders around the state to connect, heal, and build skills at the Action Alliance training retreat. Join us at Eastern Mennonite University (EMU) in Harrisonburg from June 21-23, 2023 to…

REFLECT: Honor the challenges in doing this work, especially throughout the COVID-19 pandemic;

RESTORE: Rebuild connections among advocates/preventionists in a comforting, affirming environment; and

RESET: Be inspired to rekindle joy and curiosity for social change work.

We hope all sexual and domestic violence agencies will plan for a group of staff, volunteers, and interns to attend. Allied professionals and community partners are also welcome, since the retreat is an opportunity to strengthen relationships with sexual and domestic violence providers across the state. 

Registration closed on June 12 at 11:59 pm Eastern.

Have questions? Please contact us by phone or email training@vsdvalliance.org.

Details on keynotes, workshops, spaces for care and connection, and caucuses have been added below! In total, the retreat will provide about 16 training hours over the course of 3 days.

Wednesday, June 21

  • 10:00 to 12:30: Welcome, Workshops
  • 12:30 to 2:00: Lunch (Provided)
  • 2:00 to 5:00: Workshops, Caucus Gatherings

Thursday, June 22

  • 9:00 to 12:30: Workshops, Keynote
  • 12:30 to 2:00: Lunch (Provided)
  • 2:00 to 5:00: Workshops, Caucus Gatherings
  • 5:00 to 8:00: Dinner and Fun Night (Provided)

Friday, June 23

  • 8:30 to 11:30: Workshops, Keynote
  • 11:30 to 1:00: Lunch (Provided)
  • 1:00 to 3:00: Workshops, Closing

Single-day registration is $125.00 per person.
Full retreat registration (3 days) is $325.00 per person.

Registration does not include lodging, but does include lunches. Dinner for Fun Night is included for anyone registered for Thursday, 6/22. Click here to register by June 12!

THURSDAY, JUNE 22: Dr. Carolyn Stauffer, Eastern Mennonite University

Headshot of Carolyn StaufferCarolyn’s professional life has focused on amplifying voices of healing justice. She has spent three decades working in the field of sexual trauma on 3 continents. This has included time in the Middle East (17 years) and as a gender violence specialist in sub-Saharan Africa (16 years). Since being in the U.S., Dr. Stauffer served as the co-director of EMU’s Biomedicine program and has taught in the Center for Justice and Peacebuilding. In Virginia, Stauffer has trained DOJ personnel, campus Title IX officers, SART teams, and local safety personnel. She is the lead author of Sexual Harms: Strategies for Trauma Awareness and Resilience, has served on boards working with HIV/AIDs, minoritized communities and the unhoused, and has collaborated on grants from VOCA and JustPax. Carolyn’s research focuses on the intersection of identity and sexual harm, centering survivor counter-stories of critical hope. 


FRIDAY, JUNE 23: V.O.I.C.E.S. Leadership Council: Victim/Survivor Opportunities to Impact Change by Elevating Our Stories 

VOICES Leadership Council Logo in teal and black

V.O.I.C.E.S. is brave space where victims/survivors of sexual and/or intimate partner violence learn, heal, grow, stretch, and share their experiences with other victim/survivors;  

V.O.I.C.E.S. is dedicated time to write and rewrite our stories;  

V.O.I.C.E.S. is a community to contribute to each others’ revisions; 

V.O.I.C.E.S. is a support network to lift those stories off the page. 

Hear from, and be moved deeply by, a panel of experts-by-experience composed of members of the Action Alliance V.O.I.C.E.S. Leadership Council. Through facilitated, authentically-engaged conversation, panelists will share their working-wisdom on the heart-warming and heart-breaking experiences with advocates, shelters, and systems encountered while on their healing journey. Through soulfully-creative and artful survivor-shares (including spoken-word!), this workshop will focus on three complex themes in need of dismantling in the DV/SV field: power, invisibility, and accountability. This force of a panel is sure to inspire reflection, restore hope, and reset advocates’ capacity to continue to walk with survivors towards making meaning out of the mess.


Get ready for creative workshops to build advocacy, prevention, and social change skills throughout the retreat. The following sessions have been confirmed and are listed by day.


  • You + Me = We: Queer Sex Ed Program Facilitators Training
    Scotney Young  (Doorways)  and Jerry St. Louis (Safe Space NOVA)
    Virginia Family Life Education standards leave out the existence of queer youth entirely and current guidance from state government is encouraging further erasure of LGBTQIA+ identities in schools. You + Me = We is a four part comprehensive sexual health education program that was designed to center the experiences and needs of LGBTQIA+ teens that was created by Doorways and Safe Space NOVA. In this facilitators training, you will review the complete curriculum (and get a copy!) and learn best practices for facilitation.
  • Intentional Collaboration: Beyond the MOU
    Judy Casteele and Nick Alexander (Project Horizon)
    Collaboration is not only important, it is essential. Hear about how intentional collaboration is a part of the fabric of Project Horizon’s culture beginning with members of their Leadership Team. Intentional collaboration weaves through all levels of out program from administration to direct services and outreach. Our goal is to be clear and transparent in order to promote healthy growth and healing with clients and allied professionals.
  • The Art of Affirmations & Joy Snacking
    Katie Aplis (Sexual Assault Resource Agency)
    Hearing gentle reminders of our value and finding small moments of joy throughout our day is an important part of self-care. This workshop will explore affirmations and so-called ‘joy snacking’ as a practice and will be followed by creating your own affirmations card deck and/or joy snacking zine.
  • Futuring: Building the World you Want to See
    Cortney Calixte (Virginia Sexual and Domestic Violence Action Alliance)
    In this workshop, attendees will go through the practice of Futuring. We do it all of the time but Futuring is a tool to help us find solutions to social issues. We will workshop a social issue (or 2) and find actionable steps to build the world we want to see.
  • Teen Safety Planning
    Alex Weathersby (Shelter for Help in Emergency) 
    When you think of a survivor, how often does a middle or high school student come to mind? What new pathways open up when we work with unsafe youth? In this session, we will discuss what safety feels like for youth experiencing SV/IPV, brainstorm ways to increase safety within existing resources, and dream what resources are still needed in our communities.
  • Let’s Talk About Death: Giving Ourselves Space to Process End of Life, Grief, and Advocacy
    Linda Winston (Death Doula)
    This workshop will bring advocates together to share experiences with and reflect on death, dying, and grief in the context of our personal and professional lives. We will acknowledge the role that death denial plays in our culture at large and hone our skills in sexual and domestic violence advocacy to understand the ways in which planning and connection can be leveraged as strategies to quell our fears and anxieties about the unknown.
  • Mythbusters: Islamic Perspectives on Gender, Marriage, Divorce, Domestic Violence and the Human Rights of Women
    Rahmah Abdulaleem (KARAMAH) and Sana Ansari (Peaceful Families Project)
    This workshop is designed to educate service providers on the issues of Gender, Marriage, and Intimate Partner Violence from an Islamic perspective, including religious tradition, law, and differential role of culture. Participants will learn modern prevention and intervention methods for addressing intimate partner violence within a Muslim context. Participants will receive information on how to make DV/IPV services more welcoming and culturally appropriate for Muslims seeking assistance, moving towards the goal of creating inclusive spaces where DV victims of any faith tradition may feel welcome and get the needed assistance to move in their journey to safety.
  • Making Our Way: Centering Equity
    Kristi VanAudenhove (Virginia Sexual and Domestic Violence Action Alliance)
    Inspired by bell hooks and the book Feminist Theory: Margins to Center, this workshop explores how we center equity in our advocacy and prevention work. Participants will engage in a process that builds strategies for opening and preserving equity for all of us to give, receive, and participate in caring for ourselves and our communities.


  • Title IX in K-12 Institutions: Policy, Best Practice, and Advocacy
    Venissa White (Eastern Mennonite University)
    This workshop is a quick and dirty look at Title IX in K-12 institutions and covers how our schools can, and should, help our youngest victims/survivors in healing and finding success in school. Learn how we can advocate for better support not only in the day to day lives of victim/survivors, but in helping schools craft and implement student centered policy. This workshop will leave you with the resources, knowledge and confidence to better advocate for K-12 students.
  • IMPROVing Mindfulness
    Liz Timmons (Safe Harbor)
    IMPROVing Mindfulness is all about utilizing the art of improvisational theater to teach and enhance mindfulness skills with survivors as well as hone advocates’ own clinical and self-care skills in a fun and engaging way. This will be a highly interactive workshop. Attendees will first learn the nuts and bolts of improv and mindfulness, then get up and play the games themselves!
  • Cultural Competency Training for Supporting the Latino/a/x/e* Community
    Carolina Lugo (Sacred Heart Center)
    This workshop will provide participants with a basic framework for cultural competency, a snapshot of the diversity of the Latino diaspora, an overview of the Latine community, and an understanding of a few key aspects of Latino and Hispanic culture that may impact relationship-building. We’ll also have some courageous conversation around what all the terms mean and how to navigate the nuance.
  • Supporting LGBTQ+ Youth Towards Healthy Relationships
    Alex Weathersby (Shelter for Help in Emergency)
    Rather than seeing LGBTQ+ identity as a risk factor for experiencing violence, how can we consider the strengths within LGBTQ+ identities, that may act as protective factors towards healthy relationships? This presentation offers an opportunity to rethink how we do prevention with LGBTQ+ youth.
  • Re-Thinking Work/Life Balance: Our Journey to Reset to Promote Hope and Healing In Our Everyday Work
    Gena Boyle and Laurie Crawford (Virginia Department of Social Services)
    The COVID-19 pandemic posed significant personal and professional challenges for those in areas of the workforce serving children, families, and communities. Although some of the challenges, such as difficulties in recruitment and retention, burnout, and vicarious trauma existed among this workforce prior to the pandemic, COVID-19 exasperated those challenges and brought new ones to everyday life. Those who are engaged in the work of serving others, especially anti-violence advocates, often view this work as a significant part of their life and identity. In this presentation, we will present strategies for creating a workplace that promotes hope and healing to support the many advocates who do not see their life and work as separate and tools to enhance healing-centered practice for survivors.
  • The Art of Affirmations & Joy Snacking (offered twice)
    Katie Aplis (Sexual Assault Resource Agency)
    Hearing gentle reminders of our value and finding small moments of joy throughout our day is an important part of self-care. This workshop will explore affirmations and so-called ‘joy snacking’ as a practice and will be followed by creating your own affirmations card deck and/or joy snacking zine.
  • Legal Services for Survivors of Sexual and Domestic Violence
    Jaime Clemmer and Courtenay Schwartz (Action Alliance)
    In this session, we will 1.) analyze the barriers faced by survivors trying access justice, 2.) identify the steps involved in making a referral to the legal assistance program at the VSDVAA, 3.) differentiate between the different services available through VSDVAA Legal Assistance Program and other legal resources available, and 4.) offer input on ways VSDVAA can strengthen the legal assistance program across Virginia.
  • Can SDVAs be the Workplaces we Crave?
    Kristi VanAudenhove (Virginia Sexual and Domestic Violence Action Alliance)
    Healthy, thriving workplaces require practices that keep us on a trajectory to a healthy and thriving world.  We’ll explore the buzzing that is taking place in the business and nonprofit communities around issues like hiring and retention in the wake of the pandemic emergency–and consider the lessons for new practices that might serve us better as we head into 2024.


  • Grief and Growth: Reflections on Your Advocacy Journey
    Joy Ingram (New Directions Center) and Jessica Garcia (Magnolia Rose)
    This workshop focuses on reflecting on our time as advocates, examining both the challenges and successes we’ve encountered. Through visual storytelling exercises and small group discussions, participants will gain insights into their growth as an advocate, identify what or who has helped them grow, and explore what growth looks like for them moving forward. Join us to connect with other advocates and learn from their experiences, regardless of your level of experience.
  • Language Justice is for Everyone
    Tomiko Tamashiro Pardo (Latinos in Virginia Empowerment Center) and Shabana Shaheen (Virginia Sexual and Domestic Violence Action Alliance)
    We will invite monolingual English speakers to think of language access as a fundamental part of event planning and explore WHY we want to center communicative autonomy.
  • IMPROVing Mindfulness (offered twice)
    Liz Timmons (Safe Harbor)
    IMPROVing Mindfulness is all about utilizing the art of improvisational theater to teach and enhance mindfulness skills with survivors as well as hone advocates’ own clinical and self-care skills in a fun and engaging way. This will be a highly interactive workshop. Attendees will first learn the nuts and bolts of improv and mindfulness, then get up and play the games themselves!
  • The Head and the Heart: How Our Heart Responses Can Benefit from Data and Outcomes
    Carol Dunlap and Jana McDermott (Virginia Department of Social Services)
    You’ve got the heart! How can the head (data & outcomes) help balance and keep the heart strong? When we look at the scale and scope of our services, we start to understand how the head and the heart can work together to elevate the meaningful work we do every day. In this workshop we will examine how to develop, measure, and articulate the reasons we show up every day, why funders invest in our work, and how survivors can move to a place of thriving.
  • Innerwork Activism as a Soulcial Justice Practice: Dismantling Dichotomies and Mending the Movement from the Inside-Out
    Kim Flournoy DiJoseph (Hot Mess Work)
    We cannot fully be with survivors if we cannot be fully with ourselves. Period. Whether from ancestral trauma, our own lived-experience with violence, from empathically walking alongside survivors in this work, or in many of our cases a rather tangled braid of all three — the intentional innerwork of dissolving polarities (i.e. shadow/light, grief/joy, abuser/abused) and integrating wounds-to-wisdom is pivotal to the wellbeing of advocates and the anti-violence movement as a whole. Join in solidarity with others in the field who are ready to show up deeply and more (soul)fully. This workshop will offer opportunity to engage in: vulnerable discussion and courageous sharing, a guided meditation experience to bring awareness to barriers and resistance to innerwork, and developing ritual around continued practice after the retreat.
  • Visions of Hope
    Dr. Melody Lewis (Spotsylvania County Public Schools)
    As advocates, we listen to stories of trauma and abuse and accompany clients through financial, medical, legal, and employment systems. How often do advocates remember and reflect on what led them to this work? Do advocates acknowledge their strengths, accomplishments and resiliency as they work to combat violence and abuse? As advocates provide care, encouragement and motivation for our clients we must do the same for ourselves. During this creative, fun workshop, we will discuss self-awareness and self-care in our practice and celebrate us.
  • Advocacy Works: Tools to Prevent Lethal Domestic Violence in Your Community
    Ruth Micklem and Jonathan Yglesias (Virginia Sexual and Domestic Violence Action Alliance)
    Join us for this interactive workshop examining the lethal combination of firearms access and domestic violence in Virginia – and the important role that advocates can play in curbing the rise in domestic violence homicides. We’ll discuss what recent data tells us about root causes of violence, become familiar with the firearms restrictions in Virginia code, and share best practices, tools, and emerging strategies for the effective implementation of the
    protective order and firearms laws in your community. Participants will receive a copy of the 2023 Virginia Best Practices Toolkit: Firearms Restrictions and Protective Orders in Virginia, a product of the Virginia Domestic Violence and Firearms Working Group.

Caucuses are intentional gatherings of people who share a minoritized identity. The Action Alliance is excited to offer space and support for caucuses at the 2023 Retreat. We hope attendees will join caucusing groups to build relationships and uplift issues specific to their lived experience or shared history — and we hope to plant seeds for caucuses to stay connected beyond the retreat.

We are offering 6 caucus groups and will announce meeting locations at the retreat. We know that individual identities are multidimensional! But for the purpose of the retreat, we encourage you to join one caucus space where you hope to connect meaningfully and consistently over a shared identity. The 6 groups are:

  • POC: For folks who are Black, Indigenous, and People of Color.
  • LGBTQ+: For folks who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, or have another minoritized gender/sexual identity.
  • Rural Communities: For folks who are living and/or working in rural areas.
  • Queer and Trans POC: For folks who are Black, Indigenous, and People of Color who are also trans, queer, or have another minoritized gender/sexual identity.
  • Disability: For disabled people and folks with disabilities, inclusive of disabilities affecting body/mind, activities, and participation.
  • Poor and Working Class: For folks whose families have earned a living through wage labor and/or public benefits, rather than using assets or generational wealth.

There are 4 opportunities for each retreat caucus group to gather.

  • June 14, 3:30 to 4:30 PM: Virtual info session and first meeting
  • June 21, 3:45 to 5:00 PM: Day 1 of the retreat
  • June 22, 3:45 to 5:00 PM: Day 2 of the retreat
  • Date TBD — Virtual wrap-up and next steps; each caucus group will decide when to meet.

Excited to build community? Confused and seeking clarity on caucuses? Join us online for our first caucus retreat session on June 14 at 3:30 to learn about caucusing at the retreat and what we will be doing in these gatherings. The Zoom link will be sent to everyone who registers for the retreat, and interactive notes will be shared if you can’t make it!

WELLNESS ROOM: Get grounded before, during, and after workshops by visiting the Wellness Room! Take however long you need to decompress and regulate in this quiet, low-lit space with windows, floor chairs, blankets, and light snacks. Get creative with coloring pages and/or at the planting station. Meditate while listening to white noise and/or taking in aromatherapy. Take a nap! Reflect through tarot and affirmation cards! The Wellness Room is yours to help feel replenished.

GET OUTSIDE: EMU’s campus also offers ample space to fill your cup outdoors. Bring a yoga mat and do yoga on the lawn, hike the five-acre woods and/or arboretum or have a mindful moment under the trees. On Day 2 join Kristi VanAudenhove as she guides a morning Tai Chi practice! 

FUN NIGHT: No retreat is complete without a night of celebration! Fun Night will be on the evening of Thursday, June 22 on the EMU campus. Join us for food, board games, cornhole, outdoor volleyball, and more; there’s space for introverts and extroverts alike.

You may stay at one of these hotels or one of your choosing. The hotels below offer free parking and breakfast.

Recommended Hotels:

Quality Inn Harrisonburg – 1881 Evelyn Byrd Avenue, Harrisonburg, VA 22801, (540) 442-1515

Sleep Inn Harrisonburg – 1891 Evelyn Byrd Avenue, Harrisonburg, VA 22801, (540) 433-7100

Hampton Inn Harrisonburg – 85 University Boulevard, Harrisonburg, VA 22801, (540) 432-1111


The Action Alliance is monitoring local health and public safety requirements, and will follow all current recommendations and guidelines in Harrisonburg at the time of the retreat. Please remember that practicing COVID-19 safety is community care.

Before the retreat, we recommend…

  • Getting vaccinated against COVID-19, with vaccines and boosters completed at least 14 days prior to June 21.
  • Testing regularly for COVID-19, especially if symptomatic, prior to attending the event. The Action Alliance will work with you to issue a refund if you cancel registration due to COVID-19.
  • Wearing a well-fitting mask when in public spaces or using mass transportation.

During the retreat, we recommend…

  • Talking to other folks at the retreat about their COVID boundaries.
  • Wearing a well-fitting mask, especially for indoor events when not eating, drinking, or presenting.
  • Washing hands frequently and using hand sanitizer.
  • Testing regularly for COVID-19.

And if you are feeling sick or have any any COVID-19 symptoms during the retreat…

  • Please notify Action Alliance staff immediately.
  • Please do not join the day’s events until you have tested negative for COVID-19.
  • Look for a nearby Test to Treat location to get medication quickly.

Depending on available data and news, Action Alliance staff may make additional recommendations for COVID safety closer to the date of the retreat.

When registering or submitting a proposal to present, please tell us what you need to participate at the retreat, and be as specific as possible. Having this information as early as possible helps us make arrangements with plenty of advance notice! The Action Alliance will make every effort to meet any accommodation requests made during registration. Please note that we may not be able to guarantee any requests made on site.

LANGUAGE: At this time, our programs and trainings are in spoken and written English. Portable interpreting equipment is available for groups that would like to provide spoken language interpretation.

WORKSHOP MATERIALS: All presenters will be briefed on recommended accessibility practices and expectations prior to the retreat. Workshop materials and handouts will be shared with retreat attendees; however, the Action Alliance may not be able to review all materials for document accessibility in advance.

SCENTS: Many people are sensitive to fragrances and have immediate allergic reactions. Please keep this in mind when preparing for the retreat to be respectful of others! This can look like using scent-free lotion or using products with fewer synthetic ingredients.

FOOD: When the Action Alliance provides food for trainings and events, we strive to meet all dietary needs. When you register, please let us know of any restrictions or food-based allergies you may have so we can make appropriate arrangements and ensure that food is labeled.

The Action Alliance is grateful to the Virginia Department of Social Services (VDSS), the Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS), and the Family and Children’s Trust Fund of Virginia (FACT) for their support of this event.

Logo for Virginia Department of Social Services in blue

Logo for Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services in blue featuring equally weighted scales

Logo for Family & Children's Trust Fund, with a blue heart and black text

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