About the Awards
NSVRC offers the Visionary Voice Awards, in conjunction with Sexual Assault Awareness Month each April, to recognize the creativity and hard work of individuals around the country who have demonstrated outstanding work to end sexual violence. Each year, state, territory, and tribal coalitions select an outstanding individual to nominate for the awards. Nominees may be partners from a local community or other outstanding individuals that have worked to end sexual violence.
Kesha Boen, Advocacy Services Coordinator at the Ozark Rape Crisis Center (ORCC), joined the organization in 2012 as a sexual assault advocate providing crisis intervention and advocacy services to survivors of sexual assault in seven counties in Arkansas. She began her career working within the criminal justice system, and after working for a prosecuting attorney, switching roles to that of an advocate was an eye opener that she says she never expected. She is very skilled in navigating what can be a dizzying array of services and/or obstacles for victims. From law enforcement and judicial systems (including immigration assistance) to hospitals and psychological care to transitional support, relocation, and housing, Boen has a gift for helping survivors return to normalcy as quickly as possible. She is also exceptionally adept at recognizing and addressing the needs of survivors with disabilities, including matters of guardianship, social security, and disability benefits.
Mily Treviño-Sauceda is the Executive Director and co-founder of Alianza Nacional de Campesinas, Inc. and has been the founder of the campesinas’ movement in California since 1988. She worked in the agricultural fields since age eight. She co-founded and was the first Executive Director of Líderes Campesinas, a unique grassroots organization that became a statewide movement of campesina leaders advocating on behalf of campesinas. In 2011, Treviño-Sauceda co-founded Alianza Nacional de Campesinas, Inc. to unify the struggle of its campesina member organizations/groups and promote campesinas’ leadership in a national movement to create broader visibility and advocate for changes that ensure their human rights. Her work brought awareness with public services to learn to work within the cultural context of her community. Treviño-Sauceda worked with campesina leaders to develop and present culturally specific skits that demonstrated their hard work and raised the visibility of sexual harassment and abuse in the fields.
Senator Faith Winter
In 2014, Faith Winter was elected to the legislature, representing Colorado House District 35. She was re-elected in 2016, and then in 2018 was elected to represent Colorado’s Senate District 24. As a state representative, Winter was a strong ally for survivors of sexual violence. In November 2017, she went public with sexual harassment allegations against a fellow lawmaker. Her efforts emboldened others to come forward and brought to light a culture where sexual harassment and misconduct were widespread and rarely reported. Throughout her time at the state capitol, Winter has sponsored numerous bills to increase protections for survivors and hold offenders accountable. In 2018, she was a prime sponsor for a bill to create a fair and consistent response to sexual misconduct in higher education settings. Now as a state senator, she has pledged to continue to work to ensure that every worker is safe in the workplace.
Melinda L. Johnson
Melinda L. Johnson is the Leading Lady of Urban Hope Refuge Church in Hartford, which is the basis of much of her work. She is also the YWCA Hartford Region Director of Community Engagement and Advocacy. She is an appointed member of the Permanent Commission of the Status of Hartford Women and board member of Interval House. In 2016, she founded the RIVERS Women's Initiative to combat sexual violence, human trafficking, and domestic violence. Using this platform, she has engaged followers throughout the world through Change Talk Wednesday, a social media broadcast devoted to empowering women by promoting positive thinking and powerful living. A community partner and survivor, Johnson has worked to center the needs of survivors in her community through the use of cable access programming, public forums and trainings as well as within her church and the larger Black faith community. Johnson has strengthened our work with Black faith leaders and survivors of color by creating safe spaces to have tough conversations centered on thoughtful solutions to visibility and community healing.
District of Columbia
Angela L. Taylor
Angela L. Taylor was born and raised in Washington, D.C. She found a passion for helping others early in life. She is currently a hotline advocate at the DC Rape Crisis Center, and she has served survivors of sexual violence in an unprecedented way under the #MeToo era through the operation of the center's 24-hour hotline.
Angela DiNunzio Seguin
Angela DiNunzio Seguin, M.Ed., CA, DVS is the Assistant Director for Victim Advocacy in the office of Student Wellness and Health Promotion at the University of Delaware. She became a volunteer victim advocate with Sexual Offense Support at the University of Delaware in 1991. Through her advocacy, DiNunzio Seguin has helped students and faculty by providing individual advocacy and crisis counseling, helping victims and survivors through the university’s Title IX process, as well as civil and criminal courts, and more. DiNunzio Seguin also engages in many prevention efforts on campus. Along with her direct service, she creates programming to implement on campus, either for specific groups or campus-wide initiatives, to address both issues surrounding sexual violence or to address root causes of the widespread issue. She also is the coordinator of a volunteer group on campus called Sexual Offense Support (SOS). Through SOS, DiNunzio Seguin coordinates and trains student volunteers while managing a 24/7/365 rape crisis helpline on the university’s campus.
Jennifer Heard has served as the program therapist for Alachua County Victim Services & Rape Crisis Center since 2012. She is known in her community and at the state level for her creativity and passion for building LGBTQ+ inclusive spaces and services. Starting in 2013, she was the first practitioner in her three-county service area to offer support groups to LGBTQ+ survivors of sexual assault. She has been a leader in promoting LGTBTQ+ inclusion in Florida, working with Florida Council Against Sexual Violence (FCASV) on a number of projects. She has co-facilitated webinars on trauma-informed care for LGBTQ+ survivors and presented on this topic at FCASV’s 2016 statewide conference. In 2018, she was selected to present at FCASV’s conference on holistic and empowerment-based therapy for all sexual assault survivors.
Robert A. Underwood
Robert A. Underwood is a former member of the U.S. Congress and recently retired as the president of the University of Guam. He is both a professor emeritus and president emeritus and has the distinction of being the longest-serving president in the University’s history. As a lifelong teacher, he has served as a high school teacher, curriculum writer, administrator, dean of the College of Education, and Academic Vice President. He served as the congressional delegate from Guam in the 103rd-107th Congresses (1993-2003) during which he sponsored major legislation for Guam, played an active role in Department of Defense authorization bills, and was a forceful advocate for political development for insular areas. He also played a national leadership role in Asian Pacific American issues, especially in educational opportunities and legislation.
Kathy Williams has dedicated her professional career to ending sexual violence. In 1989, she was hired as the Coordinator of Victim Services at the Wichita Area Sexual Assault Center (WASAC) and worked in that position until 1994. She returned to WASAC in 1999 as Executive Director. Her leadership at the Wichita Area Sexual Assault Center places her in the largest urban area of a rural state. Her commitment is to serve the entire community, focusing on directing programming to underserved populations throughout the city. Williams also developed services for the more rural areas near Wichita when a dual program shut down.
Originally from Chicago, Faith Fountain has made eastern Kentucky her new home and has embedded herself in her community. She juggles many responsibilities, including her full-time position as Prevention Educator at Pathways Rape Victims Services Program, attending classes for her master’s program in mental health, and being a single parent to her four-year-old son. As the Prevention Educator, Fountain has zealously advocated for prevention education in her area and built relationships with key stakeholders. As a woman of color in a predominately white area of rural Kentucky, she has overcome many barriers to engage with her community and build an effective prevention network. Fountain is the sole educator at her agency, yet, undaunted, she has increased her number of Green Dot and Shifting Boundaries schools by 400% since starting at Pathways, implementing in more schools than any other individual educator in the state, and she consistently volunteers for additional projects and responsibilities.
Meredith M. Smith
Meredith M. Smith, JD, MS Ed, is the Assistant Provost for Title IX and Clery Compliance at Tulane University. She is a founding member of the Administrator-Researcher Campus Climate Consortium and has participated in an Office on Violence Against Women roundtable on sexual assault adjudication; additionally, she is an Office on Violence Against Women grant consultant for the National Victim Rights Law Center. Smith administered Tulane's campus climate survey and supports survivors as they go through the campus's reporting process. This survey provided information about the rates of sexual violence on Tulane's campus and had an outstanding participation rate of 47%. Tulane gained national attention for being one of only a handful of universities to release the rates of sexual violence on its campus.
Mary E. Shine
Mary E. Shine worked for over 24 years with Montgomery County Health and Human Services, where she served as a Child Welfare Supervisor. She is a graduate of the Boston University School of Social Work. When Shine was working with Montgomery County Child Welfare Services, one of her clients had become pregnant from rape. Shine learned the rapist had the same parental rights as other fathers. She brought this issue to the Maryland General Assembly and tirelessly advocated for a bill to allow survivors to ask the court to end rapists' parental rights. In 2018, after a dozen years, the Rape Survivor Family Protection Act was enacted into law.
Hema Sarang-Sieminski, Esq. joined the VRLC in 2017 as a Senior Attorney. Her areas of expertise include representing survivors of sexual assault with a focus on immigrant and LGBTQ communities, as well as training and mentoring attorneys representing SA survivors to challenge institutional bias and oppression in the legal field. Since their early days as an activist through current work with survivors of partner abuse and sexual violence in the LGBTQ communities and her legal advocacy for immigrants and survivors, Sarang-Sieminski brings focused, skilled, and passionate leadership to uphold the dignity of all survivors. She does not shy away from the hard conversations and complex and complicated work that is required to work at the intersections of violence, trauma, and oppression. In addition to advocacy for individuals, Sarang-Sieminski is having an influence more broadly in terms of the field’s work with LGBTQ survivors and immigrant survivors.
Sue Snyder has long been a supporter of Michigan’s families. As Michigan’s first lady, she has dedicated herself to causes focused on the health, safety, and overall wellness of the state’s women, children, and students. In 2015, Snyder launched the “Inform. Empower. Prevent. Let’s End Campus Sexual Assault” initiative with the goal of changing the culture surrounding this issue in Michigan. In 2017, the First Lady convened a workgroup of topic experts to create a resource handbook and website for sexual assault survivors, family, and friends. Snyder was also instrumental in launching a website that streamlines the state of Michigan’s resources related to sexual assault and abuse into one easy-to-navigate location.
Jennifer Bjorhus, Brandon Stahl, MaryJo Webster, Renée Jones Schneider
Jennifer Bjorhus, Brandon Stahl, MaryJo Webster, and Renée Jones Schneider of the Star Tribune are the primary reporters of "Denied Justice," an eight-part investigative series detailing Minnesota's failed rape investigations. The series provoked intense responses from readers and unprecedented pledges of action and change by statewide leadership, lawmakers, and law enforcement. Among the critical responses: The state’s Attorney General formed a task force to make recommendations for changes in the laws; the Minnesota Peace Officer Standards & Training Board convened three working groups (in which MNCASA participated) to develop recommendations regarding investigation policy, peace officer training, and continuing education rules; and MNCASA and a collaborative of leaders in sexual assault response/prevention and the broader community are exploring a statewide campaign to raise awareness, change attitudes, support victims/survivors, and re-shape policies and practices.
Matthew L. Huffman
Matthew L. Huffman has worked in domestic and sexual violence prevention since college. In his current position as the Public Affairs Director for the Missouri Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence, he serves on the technical advisory group for the Heartland Project, a regional effort to increase sexual violence policies and prevention efforts on campuses in Missouri, Kansas, and Nebraska. He also serves on the Missouri Higher Education Subcommittee of the Homeland Security Advisory Council within the Missouri Dept. of Higher Education. Huffman was instrumental in creating the first website specifically directed to college students entering the workplace through internships and other educational placements. His work has resulted in the website being a key point of partnership with almost every university in Missouri. Much of Missouri's domestic and sexual violence prevention efforts, as well as the promotion of healthy sexuality and sexual health, are a direct result of Huffman’s work.
Nichole Griffith began working at Victim-Witness Assistance Services (VWAS) in Great Falls in 2007 and became the Executive Director in 2008. Since then, she has worked diligently to mend and build strong working relationships with local law enforcement agencies and prosecuting attorneys to ensure better collaborative services for crime victims. Griffith and staff provide 24-hour crisis response and spend countless hours in the ER with sexual assault survivors to provide support during the rape kit examination and continue to be that support throughout the criminal justice process. Griffith is currently working with a local sexual assault response team (SART) to try to build upon the existing program and the coordinated response to sexual assault survivors. She also speaks at the SANE trainings for nurses to reinforce the importance of having an advocate present at the time of the exam and how VWAS can continue to help once the survivor leaves the hospital.
Christine Torres is the Cuming County/Spanish Speaking Services Coordinator at The Bridge, a sexual assault/domestic violence program in Nebraska. She is fluent in Spanish and Portuguese and works with battered immigrant victims/survivors and their children in all five counties. In her role, she works with some of the most vulnerable victims, including undocumented immigrant victims of sexual violence, both adults and children. In many cases, the victim does not speak English or have legal status in the United States, and therefore the barriers to seeking help through an advocate or the criminal justice system are far greater. Torres serves as a guide to her clients in navigating a complex system in another language, as well as a source of comfort, referrals for legal and medical assistance, and support. Torres continuously seeks to improve her knowledge and skills in order to better serve her clients, and she is always seeking out new training opportunities.
Clarice Charlie-Hubbard is the Director of the Family Violence Program for Inter-Tribal Council of Nevada (ITCN). Charlie-Hubbard is Western Shoshone, a member of the Battle Mountain Band of Te-Moak Tribes. She feels that working with Nevada tribes is where her heart is and plans to continue her efforts in aiming to end family violence and sexual assault in Native American communities. Native women have one of the highest rates of sexual violence, and the services offered by ITCN, led by Charlie-Hubbard, are critical in providing safety and referrals to sexual assault victims. Charlie-Hubbard is active in meeting with members of the community to provide education about the incidence of sexual violence in Indian Country, the lack of resources for services, and best practices for providing services to tribal victims. She is a strong collaborator and brings tribal members together to discuss the unique challenges faced by each tribal nation.
Liza Draper started her work with TLC Family Resource Center in February 2013 as a community health educator with the SHINE (Sexual Health Information Network & Education) program. Draper runs the SHINE program, which works to end sexual violence by teaching youth about healthy relationships and how to build them, how to practice safety when in sexually intimate relationships, and the importance of distinguishing consent from coercion or force. Draper also acts as the Rural Outright liaison for TLC (Teach Loving Connections), working to not only include the LGBTQIA+ community in the conversation about sexual violence, but also helping to connect members of society from both in and outside of that community. Liza combines her passion to end sexual violence with her dedication to support gender/sexual orientation equality.
Maggie-lou Mari is the Assistant Unit Head for the New Jersey State Police Victim Services Unit. In her role, she is responsible for overseeing both the administrative and personnel functions of the unit. Mari has been a critical partner in ensuring New Jersey's first responders are trained to appreciate and navigate the complexities of sexual violence cases. Mari oversees the unit’s progress with their “Improving Criminal Justice Responses to Sexual Assault, Domestic Violence, Dating Violence, and Stalking” project. In addition, Mari was a crucial partner in revising New Jersey's Sexual Assault Response Team Standards to strengthen implementation of this program throughout the state. NJCASA has come to rely on Mari's survivor-centered approach to model for others in the law enforcement community the importance of this philosophy to their work.
Julianna D. Koob
Julianna D. Koob has fought to advance the rights of women and children for more than 25 years, beginning as a domestic violence shelter crisis advocate and later becoming a legislative advocate fighting for the rights of girls and women to be safe, free from sexual and domestic violence, to receive equal pay, and to make personal decisions about accessing abortion without the government interference. Koob has represented the NM Coalition of Sexual Assault Programs, Inc. and all sexual assault service agencies in New Mexico as the legislative liaison for nearly a decade. She has successfully requested state general funds every year on behalf of sexual assault service programs. More importantly, Koob works alongside communities of color and disenfranchised communities, incorporating their direction and perspectives into every ask, every conversation, every legislative testimony. Koob keeps sexual violence prevention and services at the forefront of legislators’ priorities.
Mariame Kaba is an organizer, educator, and curator whose work focuses on ending violence, dismantling the prison industrial complex, transformative justice, and supporting youth leadership development. Kaba is the founder and director of Project NIA, a grassroots organization seeking to end youth incarceration; she runs the Prison Culture blog; and she is a founding member of the Just Practice Collaborative. As a co-organizer of #FreeBresha, a defense committee to demand the freedom of Bresha Meadows, a teen survivor of domestic violence, Kaba coordinated and publicized a petition to drop all charges, a mass letter-writing campaign, raising money for legal experts and emergency family support, and court support for Meadows’s hearings. Kaba also co-founded and is currently organizing with Survived and Punished, a national coalition working to de-criminalize efforts to survive domestic and sexual violence; support and free criminalized survivors; and abolish gender violence, policing, prisons, and deportations.
Kristen Gibbons Feden
Kristen Gibbons Feden has championed the prosecution of people who commit sexual abuse throughout her career as an attorney for Montgomery County and Stradley Ronon. Notably, she played a key role during both Bill Cosby trials as a prosecutor for Montgomery County. She provided the opening statement during the first trial and delivered a compelling closing argument in the re-trial which resulted in a conviction. Feden brilliantly helped the jury understand common victim behaviors though skillful questioning of witnesses and an expert witness, and called out defense attorney Kathleen Bliss for her characterizations of the women testifying against Cosby as fame-seeking, promiscuous party girls. During her time as Assistant District Attorney in Montgomery County, she served on the Sex Crimes Unit and as the captain of the Elder Abuse and Domestic Violence Unit. Feden also helped train a group of new expert witnesses to testify in sexual assault-related cases in collaboration with the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape.
Iris Beth Rodriguez Quiñones
As a sexual assault survivor, Iris Beth Rodriguez-Quiñones has been a defender of sexual violence survivors’ rights by denouncing the lack of protection and access to justice in the country. As part of her commitment to sexual violence survivors, Rodriguez-Quiñones developed support programs for victims and survivors in different programs and shelters in Puerto Rico. She also worked in the Violence Victims Help Center and collaborated with the establishment of the emergency line for survivors of gender violence in the Municipality of San Juan. As a psychologist and advocate in community organizations, Rodriguez-Quiñones has focused her work to provide cutting-edge, holistic, comprehensive, and therapeutic services to sexual violence survivors. Most recently, she founded a community organizations for survivors of sexual assault called Space for You.
Erica J. Hardy
A practicing physician, Erica J. Hardy, MD, MMSc, currently serves as Director of the Women’s Infectious Disease Consult Service at Women & Infants' Hospital. Dr. Hardy has served as a member of Rhode Island’s Adult Sexual Assault (SA) Task Force since 2016 and leads the Medical Subcommittee. As chair of the Medical Subcommittee, Dr. Hardy has been helping the Task Force meet its objectives by offering expertise from a medical standpoint on how to provide trauma-informed care to victims of sexual assault. Dr. Hardy also supervises Day One’s collaboration with Brown University’s medical school to train all first-year students in victim-centered, trauma-informed care. The aim of this approach is to help victims feel heard and supported throughout the medical process. The more a victim feels supported, the more victims will opt to get checked medically. The more sexual assault evidence collection kits done, the more forensic evidence to prosecute a case.
Gayle Thom is a 28-year veteran of multiple roles in the criminal justice field. She has worked both in law enforcement and victim advocacy for federal and state agencies. Thom has been called to respond to critical incidents such as 9/11, Hurricane Katrina, school shootings, and many more. She has helped develop programs locally, statewide, and nationwide to improve the services for victims in our communities. She was critical in the development of the victim services for the Native American tribes in South Dakota and was the driving force for the South Dakota Highway Patrol Crash Assistance Program. Despite fighting a tough battle against cancer in 2018, Thom remained dedicated to improving victim services. Throughout her treatment, surgery, and recovery, she continued to work with the state officials and Office of Victims of Crime (OVC) to bring better resources to communities and improve the ease and accessibility of these resources by the victims in our state.
Angela Benefield began working with the Family Resource Agency's Family Violence Program in 1993. Approximately a year later, she became the Director of the Family Violence Program. In 2000, the Family Violence Program became a dual-issue program when funding became available to begin serving victims of sexual assault. Benefield applied for the grant through the Office of Criminal Justice Programs and was awarded funding to begin providing shelter, crisis counseling, hospital accompaniment, advocacy, hotline, and support groups to victims of rape/sexual assault. Benefield provides most of the crisis counseling for victims of sexual assault and has developed and assisted with groups that focus on self-care, education on the effects of trauma, and assisting clients with developing coping mechanisms for those effects. She also assists with presentations on dating violence, date rape, and other forms of sexual assault to high schools and the general community.
Monica Urbaniak began her career over 18 years ago as a clinician and therapist (LMFT) in Los Cruces, New Mexico where she worked at an in-patient mental health facility for youth. After finding her way to Texas, she started working at a local nonprofit in Dallas, providing counseling and advocacy to victims of all crimes. She worked alongside others to develop the Dallas County Sexual Assault Coalition and built deep-seeded relationships and started conversations centered around the fact that Dallas lacked a stand-alone rape crisis center, a SANE Program, and a SART. In 2007, Urbaniak and others founded the Dallas Area Rape Crisis Center (DARCC) – the first ever stand-alone RCC in Dallas. Her leadership at DARCC as the clinical director allowed the program to grow and expand, ensuring that Dallas was finally able to meet the needs of survivors, their loved ones, and the community as a whole by offering comprehensive, quality, trauma-focused, and survivor-centered programs.
Dahlia Stridiron-Felix is the Director of Counseling Services at the University of the Virgin Islands, St. Thomas Campus. Stridiron-Felix has been critical to raising awareness on sexual assault on campus and in the community. In addition to being an active member of the Virgin Islands Domestic Violence & Sexual Assault Council (DVSAC) and supporting our work on and off campus, she coordinates all of the Sexual Assault Awareness Month (and Domestic Violence Awareness Month) activities on campus. She engages students, is genuinely passionate about the cause, and is a positive example of what a marriage between advocacy, education, and awareness looks like. We could not do our work without her and recognize her service and commitment!
Rebecca Weybright has worked in the sexual and domestic violence field since 1988 and joined the Sexual Assault Resource Agency in Charlottesville, Virginia as the Executive Director in 2012. Weybright successfully navigates that balance between supporting and compassionate direct services and evidence-informed and effective prevention, recognizing that both parts of this field need our attention. As a director, she is a true professional and genuinely cares about her staff. She doesn’t hesitate to answer the phone or serve a walk-in client. Weybright leads by example and is respected by her community partners for having a strong vision for the agency while creating a voice for survivors in the community. She is proud to be a part of a team of dedicated staff, board, and volunteers and pleased to support the work of her state coalition.
Collin Veenstra (pronouns: they/them) is a sexual violence preventionist, youth educator, advocate, visual artist, and director of the Peer Education Empowerment League (PEEL). Veenstra has developed and managed a variety of youth programs over the past 10 years, including leadership development, sexual violence prevention, LGBTQ youth support, sexual health, and after-school programming. In 2015, Veenstra developed and piloted Oasis Youth Center’s Project 13 Middle School Program, a first-of-its-kind sexual violence prevention program for LGBTQ middle school youth. In June 2017, they founded PEEL, a youth program which offers ongoing, prevention-focused leadership development for local high school students and peer-led community prevention workshops to area middle and elementary after-school programs. Veenstra sees any project they take on as an opportunity for education around sexual violence prevention and believes in embedding a culture of everyday consent in all youth development work.
Terence C. Ahern, Ph.D.
Terence C. Ahern, Ph.D., was an Associate Professor of Instructional Design and Technology at West Virginia University from 2005 until his death in 2018. Dr. Ahern recognized the barriers in training service providers and first responders to sexual violence in West Virginia and enthusiastically embraced the challenge of designing the coalition’s eLearning resource, the Sexual Assault Services Training Academy (SASTA). Because of Dr. Ahern’s expertise and shared vision, the course created a venue for an in-state SANE training program, the standardization of training for the state’s rape crisis center advocates, and increased the capacity for serving previously unserved victims. Dr. Ahern passed away unexpectedly in September 2018, still working on yet another course for SASTA. His legacy will be the impact that SASTA will have on improving services to sexual violence victims for many years to come.
Throughout L’Dawn Olsen’s life, she has primarily served as a community organizer and educator. In most recent years, she has worked in service to the people of the Wind River Indian Reservation. Olsen’s heritage, as a federally recognized descendant of the Eastern Shoshone tribe, has afforded her with a unique perspective to work toward the correction of institutionalized oppression through the reclamation of non-violence and peacemaking. Olsen currently works with the Wyoming Coalition Against Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault as the Equity & Inclusion Specialist. The depth of her connectedness is reflected in her work to end sexual violence through deep community relationships. Some of this has included building SAFESTAR programming on the Wind River Indian Reservation; organizing gatherings to address childhood sexual assault using Circle Process and restorative justice tenants; providing technical assistance to tribal members, the justice system, and social organizations; and by providing technical assistance to the Reclaiming Shoshone Ancestral Food Gathering Project.