2020 Visionary Voice Awards | National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRC) Skip to main content
Get Help Escape
English Spanish

2020 Visionary Voice Awards

Visionary Voice Awards

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.

ColoradoPicture of a Ribbon

Kelsey Lansing
Nominated by: Colorado Coalition Against Sexual Assault

As the Cultural Outreach Coordinator II at Sexual Assault Services Organization in Durango, Colorado, Kelsey Lansing focuses on connecting survivors from the Southern Ute Tribe and surrounding communities with services. She also builds awareness about the high rates of sexual violence that Native American women experience and the epidemic of missing and murdered Indigenous women in Colorado and North America. Kelsey has created an extension of the national Sing Our Rivers Red earring exhibit/movement, provided workshops in her local community, and arranged a multi-day exhibit at the Durango Arts Center. At the workshops, Kelsey encourages participants to make or donate one earring to the exhibit that represents an Indigenous woman who has been murdered or gone missing. Since 2018, Kelsey has worked with the Center of Southwest Studies at Fort Lewis College to host an annual symposium on violence against Native American Women. Kelsey is a member of the Navajo tribe from the Near the Water clan and is born for the Salt clan.

DCPicture of a Ribbon

Rolanda C. McCall 
Nominated by: D.C. Rape Crisis Center

Rolanda has been passionately involved in the movement to end sexual violence for over a decade. Rolanda's commitment and dedication to survivors of sexual violence is matchless. As a therapeutic counselor, she is on the front lines of sexual violence. She bears witness and holds space for survivors of sexual violence during their most challenging times, as well as during their good times. She reminds them that hope and healing is possible, and that there is victory in victimization. Rolanda is someone who comes around once in generation. She has the energy of a woman in her 20s, the confidence of a woman in her 30s, the experience of a woman in her 40s, and the grace of a woman in her 50s. She is timeless; her combination of poise, kindness, and intelligence is matchless. For a time such as this, she is the one. We are lucky to have her at the DC Rape Crisis Center.

DelawarePicture of a Ribbon

Cheri W. Will 
Nominated by: Sexual Assault Network of Delaware

Cheri Will was the Coordinator of the Beebe Healthcare Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) Program. She was a champion for victims of sexual assault, domestic violence, child abuse, and human trafficking and developed working relationships with key stakeholders to combat these areas of abuse. Cheri assisted in creating wellness centers in local churches and anti-abuse programs in schools, and she facilitated a multidisciplinary monthly meeting to bring agencies together to discuss responses to human trafficking. Cheri responded first-hand or provided guidance to SANEs 24/7 when victims presented to the emergency department in need of a sexual assault examination. She was compassionate with victims and made sure each was treated with dignity and respect. Cheri was diagnosed with cancer in 2017, but that did not stop her — while undergoing weekly chemotherapy sessions, Cheri continued to support victims. Sadly, on April 21, 2019, Cheri Will passed away peacefully at home surrounded by her loving family. She is deeply missed and will always be remembered for her advocacy and dedication on behalf of crime victims. 

FloridaPicture of a Ribbon

Susan Rubio Rivera
Nominated by: Florida Council Against Sexual Violence

Susan Rubio Rivera — social activist, survivor, and former migrant farmworker — has used her life experiences to create culturally and linguistically appropriate services for survivors of sexual violence and child abuse in migrant communities in South Miami Dade. In 1994, Susan founded Mujeres Unidas en Justicia, Educacion y Reforma (MUJER), a non-profit dedicated to promoting safety, emotional wellness, and family stability. MUJER's work is focused on improving the quality of life for women and children who have been victimized and creating a safe place where they can experience hope. For more than 30 years, Susan has worked diligently to end sexual violence, including child sexual abuse, and change the social conditions that perpetuate victimization.

KentuckyMelissa Gilpin

Melissa Gilpin
Nominated by: Kentucky Association of Sexual Assault Programs

Melissa has been a Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner for 19 years. For nearly six years, she served as the Kentucky Association of Sexual Assault Program’s (KASAP) SANE/SART Coordinator. In that time, she trained innumerable registered nurses, law enforcement officers, prison personnel, and hospital staff regarding victim response services. She excelled at collaboration and building relationships and has improved medical and law enforcement responses to victims of sexual assault. Perhaps one of her greatest achievements in this work is that Melissa solved the long-term problem of revising Kentucky legislation to allow pediatric SANEs to provide services. Her eloquent and brilliant solution resulted in forward movement on this issue after over a decade of trying to get traction. In 2019, Melissa left the coalition to work as an Education Manager at her regional hospital; however, she continues to assist KASAP, and she still works as a SANE in her own hospital, training and modeling trauma-informed interactions for that region.

LouisianaLt. Darren Zachary

Lt. Darren Zachary 
Nominated by: Louisiana Foundation Against Sexual Assault  

Lt. Darren Zachary is a phenomenal ally in the fight to end sexual violence. Through Lt. Zachary’s collaboration with Project Beloved, he garnered a soft interview room for the University of Louisianan at Lafayette, making it the first university in the state with a soft interview room for victims of sexual violence. Through the use of the soft interview room, Lt. Zachary advocates for trauma-informed interviews for survivors of sexual assault. Lt. Zachary has been a law enforcement officer for over 20 years. He has served his community well by consistently providing a victim-centered approach to survivors of sexual assault. Lt. Zachary serves on the FBI’s Joint Child Abduction Rapid Deployment Team and Joint Terrorism Task Force, and he serves as a member of the Sexual Assault Response Team with Hearts of Hope Sexual Assault Center. He is a member of the Louisiana Homicide Investigators Association and Louisiana Association of Crisis Negotiators. 

MainePicture of a Ribbon

State Senator Erin Herbig
Nominated by: Maine Coalition Against Sexual Assault

State Senator Erin Herbig is a fierce advocate for survivors’ rights in Maine through her diligent work at the statehouse and her vocal support of essential survivor services. In the last legislative session, she sponsored a bill to increase the statute of limitations for felony sex crimes from eight to 20 years, a huge win for survivors. She also spearheaded the first funding increase, although temporary, for services in 20 years. Further, Senator Herbig cosponsored multiple bills that impact the justice system related to sexual violence, such as expanded time for anonymous kit storage from 90 days to eight years and new sexual assault reporting requirements. With her leadership, these bills became laws in 2019. She continues her work in 2020, speaking out in support of a long-term sustainable funding increase for services. At the Maine Coalition Against Sexual Assault, her partnership and support is pivotal, essential, and deeply valued.

MarylandHeather Hanline

Heather Hanline
Nominated by: Maryland Coalition Against Sexual Assault

Heather Hanline has spent the past 22 years as the Executive Director of the Dove Center, a sexual assault and domestic violence program in rural Western Maryland.  With passion and perseverance, she has led the agency in overcoming many challenges. Under her leadership, community attitudes and knowledge about domestic violence and sexual assault have positively shifted.  A state-of-the-art counseling and shelter facility, on-site indoor pet kennel (the first in the state of Maryland), and most recently, four transitional housing units have been constructed.  School and campus counseling and prevention programs were developed and expanded.  She began JEWELS, a counseling group for women experiencing co-occurring trauma and addiction. She also created a community initiative called Healing Garrett, through which she passionately works to encourage and implement trauma-informed care in the community by providing adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) education and awareness. She constantly strives to improve and expand the agency’s existing programs and to create new and innovative ones.

MinnesotaNicole Matthews

Nicole Matthews
Nominated by: Minnesota Coalition Against Sexual Assault

Nicole Matthews is the Executive Director for the Minnesota Indian Women’s Sexual Assault Coalition (MIWSAC), a statewide tribal coalition for American Indian sexual assault advocates. The coalition’s mission is to strengthen the voices of American Indian women to create awareness, influence social change, and reclaim the traditional values that honor the sovereignty of American Indian women and children, thereby eliminating the sexual violence perpetrated against them. Nicole is a member of the White Earth Band of Ojibwe. Prior to being the Executive Director of MIWSAC, Nicole worked in Mille Lacs County, Minnesota as the Sexual Assault Services Coordinator for Pearl Crisis Center. Nicole was one of five researchers who interviewed 105 Native women for their report, Garden of Truth: The Prostitution and Trafficking of Native Women in Minnesota. She is one of the primary organizers of the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women March.

MissouriPicture of a Ribbon

Lisa Saylor
Nominated by: Missouri Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence

Lisa Saylor is a survivor of domestic and sexual violence. It is because of Lisa’s courageous public testimony that Missouri’s felony rape laws were revised and redefined. The changes add elements to felony rape crimes that include a victim’s incapability/incapacity to consent. Lisa’s abusive ex-husband evaded hospital security and staff and sexually assaulted her while she was unconscious in a hospital bed. Ultimately, he was convicted of sexual assault, adult aggravated stalking, and violations of an order of protection. In 2012, Lisa testified before a Senate committee on changing the criminal code, and in 2013, Governor Nixon signed into law that portion of the criminal code that makes lack of consent a factor. A few months later, Lisa remembers hearing of someone being charged with the new wording "incapacitated or inability to consent." That moment for her made all of her pain, shame, and embarrassment worth it. “I had helped at least to make a difference for the next victim.” Lisa continues to devote her time to survivor-centered criminal justice reform efforts at the local and state level.

NebraskaSydney Brun-Ozuna

Sydney Brun-Ozuna
Nominated by: Nebraska Coalition to End Sexual and Domestic Violence

Sydney is a student at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL) studying journalism and an opinion columnist at The Daily Nebraskan. She is also a member of Dear UNL, a diverse group of undergraduate and graduate students, alumni, faculty, and staff seeking systemic and cultural reform of the Title IX Office. Sydney has been an integral member, bringing accountability, transparency, and a trauma-informed approach to UNL’s Title IX administration. Sydney has bravely used her experience of sexual assault and institutional betrayal as a way to change a broken system for other students. In an opinion piece, Sydney writes, “Too often, institutions minimize victims’ and survivors’ pain, marginalize their voices and use bureaucratic measures to deny them the justice they deserve. The University of Nebraska-Lincoln denied me justice…my greatest hope is that others will not have to go through what I went through. We cannot allow this to continue.” Sydney embodies the definition of the Visionary Voice Award as she has worked tirelessly, in conjunction with Dear UNL, to make campus safer and to end sexual violence.

NevadaCristina Hernandez

Cristina Hernandez
Nominated by: Nevada Coalition to End Domestic and Sexual Violence 

As a queer feminist Latina, Cristina Hernandez believes it is crucial to play an active role in her community. She entered this work through the local rape crisis center, where she volunteered and worked for five years. She was the director of the Jean Nidetch Women’s Center from 2012-2019. In her tenure, she established a peer advocacy and education program regarding sexual assault, domestic/dating violence, and stalking; coordinated a campus interpersonal violence Response Team; advocated for campus advocates to have privilege and confidentiality; and began programs to increase access for child birth education and parenting resources. Most recently, she has begun infusing her passion of birth work into her work within the anti-violence movement through the Las Vegas Doula Project, which offers doulas and childbirth education to victims/survivors of sexual assault and dating/domestic violence. Cristina became a doula in 2017 and was certified as a childbirth educator in 2018. She is currently training to become a full-spectrum doula.

New Hampshire
New HampshireDavid Berry

David A. Berry Jr. 
Nominated by: New Hampshire Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence

Dave Berry, Superintendent of the Sullivan County Department of Corrections in New Hampshire, has dedicated a large portion of his time over the past three years to introduce and expand the VINE Victim Notification System. He worked with the Department of Justice to secure a grant to implement the system in nine counties that did not have a victim notification system at their departments of correction. Dave was a strong advocate of the system and made sure law enforcement and departments of corrections were aware of its advantages. He also collaborated with the Victim Witness Program and the New Hampshire Coalition Against Domestic Violence and its member programs to educate advocates about the system. Most recently, he worked with the Department of Justice to obtain a grant to ensure the system remains in place until the individual counties can sustain its operation. It is through Dave’s efforts that victims of sexual violence feel safe and prepared when perpetrators are released from custody.

New York
New YorkPicture of a Ribbon

Jonel Beauvais
Nominated by: New York State Coalition Against Sexual Assault

Jonel Beauvais is an Indigenous sister, Mohawk woman, a witness of imprisonment, adversity survivor, spirit lover, working to end violence, and living for the next generation. She is a descendant of women of the wolf clan lineage, and is rooted in the community of Akwesasne, where she works with the Seven Dancers Coalition as a community outreach worker. Through her work at Seven Dancers Coalition, Ms. Beauvais encourages us to get to the roots of violence prevention — disrupting oppressive systems, addressing intergenerational trauma, and helping young people learn about healthy, joyful, and pleasurable sexuality. She works diligently to empower and induce healing within all Native/Indigenous communities in order to prosper in the Haudenosaunee teachings of good medicine and good minds. Ms. Beauvais is also a member of the Neh Kanikonriio Council, a restorative justice initiative that integrates Indigenous ways of mediation to reduce incarceration and provide a more interpersonal approach to healing and accountability for all parties.


Amy LaGesse
Nominated by: Ohio Alliance to End Sexual Violence

Amy is the Northwest Regional Grant Coordinator for the Look Beneath the Surface Grant, a federal grant through the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Amy partners with direct service providers in Northwest Ohio to provide training, outreach, and direct services to survivors of all forms of human trafficking. With her guidance, local programs have identified and served hundreds of survivors who, without her hard work, may still be entrapped in the sex and labor trafficking industries. Amy has also been the Secretary for the Lucas County Human Trafficking Coalition and worked on the University of Toledo Human Trafficking and Social Justice Institute’s PATH (Partners Against Trafficking in Humans) Program. Amy is an incredibly passionate advocate for and ally to survivors and at-risk populations. Many young leaders in the field consider her a mentor — a shining example of a social justice warrior in the fight against all forms of sexual violence.



Erika Brosig
Nominated by: Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape

Erika B. Brosig, LCSW, is the Clinical Director of Victim Services Inc. in Cambria and Somerset Counties, where she oversees all services provided to survivors, the education department, program development, and grant writing. She also provides trauma therapy to clients as well as clinical supervision for other therapists. She’s been with the agency since 2003 and is a proud advocate in the fight against sexual violence. Erika is an EMDR Certified Therapist, Certified Trauma Treatment Specialist and Diplomate with the American Academy of Experts in Traumatic Stress. Erika has been instrumental in the formation of the Cambria County Sexual Assault Response Team which developed and sustains a model SART protocol and has been featured nationally and internationally. Serving as the Coordinator, she has been the glue to maintaining and sustaining the county SART.  Erika also played a key role in building accessibility to evidence-based trauma therapy in the two-county area. Erika is a survivor of sexual abuse by former pediatrician Johnnie Barto and has channeled her own trauma into advocacy and endless passion for helping others find their way to healing.  


Puerto Rico
Puerto RicoLuisa Seijo Maldonado

Luisa Seijo Maldonado 
Nominated by: Coordinadora Paz Para La Mujer

Luisa Seijo Maldonado is a professor at the University of Puerto Rico, Mayaguez Campus. For over forty years, Luisa has been a community activist and advocate in defense of survivors of sexual violence, intimate partners, and staking. Luisa has founded more than eight organizations focused on working with under-served populations. In 1997, Luisa started the Siempre Vivas project at the University of Puerto Rico in Mayaguez, a service organization for university survivors of gender-based violence, specifically domestic violence, stalking, and sexual assault. It provides support to women and their children who are survivors of gender and sexual violence with a community-based approach and focus, aimed at promoting integral development and empowerment. Women participate in weekly support group meetings to develop awareness of the structural, sociocultural, and intrapersonal factors that affect acts of violence towards them and develop strategies to promote and live a life without violence.

Rhode Island
Rhode IslandFelicia Smith

Felicia Smith
Nominated by: Day One 

Felicia is a vociferous advocate on the Helpline through Day One, serving on call to meet with victims around the state. She supports survivors of sexual and domestic violence in the hospital immediately following an assault, and her ability to connect with people is unparalleled. Survivors have said that Felicia is compassionate, calm, knowledgeable, and empathetic. Her presence during those critical moments makes survivors feel safe, heard, and empowered. Felicia has tirelessly supported victims of human trafficking through Day One’s Be Program, visiting the group often to donate necessary items and encourage a sense of self-worth. On a regular basis, Felicia contributes full meals, heartfelt gifts, and inspiring speaking programs to offer guidance to survivors. This includes creating Thanksgiving and Christmas gatherings with thoughtful touches to make the girls feel not only worthy, but confident as they seek healing and move forward. Serving high school advisory groups, Felicia connects students and schools to sexual abuse resources and support networks.

South Dakota
South DakotaTim Reed

Representative Tim Reed 
Nominated by: South Dakota Network Against Family Violence and Sexual Assault

In 2017, Representative Tim Reed, from District 7 in the South Dakota House of Representatives, met with a board-certified Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE). During this meeting, Rep. Reed intently listened to the SANE’s concerns regarding gaps in the care of victims who receive medical forensic examinations. He was deeply moved by the pitfalls the SANE described. Immediately after this meeting, Rep. Reed started studying national best practices and drafting legislation to help remedy the gaps. Rep. Reed has introduced victim-centered bills the past three legislative sessions, where 100% have been made into law. He has introduced legislation that assures victims are not billed after a forensic examination and stores anonymous sexual assault kits with law enforcement rather than the hospital. In 2020, he has bills to decrease the age of consent for a medical forensic examination and extend the length of time anonymous kits are held. Rep. Reed has been a voice for positive change, and he works hard to eliminate barriers for victims.

TexasAnnette Burrhus-Clay

Annette Burrhus-Clay
Nominated by: Texas Association Against Sexual Assault 

Annette has over 25 years of experience working in the sexual assault and domestic violence fields as a service provider, trainer, and administrator in Texas and California. Annette led the Texas Association Against Sexual Assault (TAASA) for over 15 years. Her retirement from TAASA did not slow her down; she mentors young and emerging leaders and supports TAASA through her work with Sexual Assault Services Formula Grant Program (SASP) grantees. Annette mentored many women in the anti-sexual violence movement, most of whom went on to lead local, state, and national organizations. Her profound impact on countless lives is numbered not only by the survivors served, but also by the people she elevated through her leadership. She continues to speak and consult on sexual violence, workplace violence/sexual harassment, working with special populations, and reaching out to closed communities. Although Annette’s presence in the work has changed, her undying commitment to survivors and professionals continues to contribute to anti-sexual violence work in Texas. 

VirginiaKristine Hall

Kristine Rae Hall 
Nominated by: Virginia Sexual and Domestic Violence Action Alliance 

For nearly a decade, Kristine Hall was instrumental in leading Virginia’s policy efforts to respond to and prevent sexual and intimate partner violence. As the former Policy Director for the Virginia Sexual and Domestic Violence Action Alliance, Kristine successfully championed and shepherded bills to integrate consent education into Virginia’s education curriculum and ensure evidence recovery kits are processed in a trauma-informed way. In 2015, Kristine helped transform potentially harmful mandatory reporting bills into legislation that protects confidential reports and ensures campus survivors be informed of available services and options for investigation. Kristine also led the charge to close an $18 million funding gap for Virginia’s sexual and domestic violence agencies. Beyond Kristine’s expert ability to speak plainly and convincingly on complex legislative issues, we are most in awe of her knack for building powerful relationships in order to move forward policy that protects the safety and well-being of all Virginians. The strong relationships that Kristine built are a fruitful foundation from which our current policy efforts continue to blossom.

Virgin Islands
Virgin IslandsMervin Mills

Mervin T. Mills
Nominated by: Virgin Islands Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Council

Chief Mervin Mills is the Vice President of the St. Croix Cycling Federation and has partnered with the VI Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Council for several years to bringing awareness to our community with the Annual Ride Out Against Sexual Assault event. Although it's a fun activity for all age groups and abilities, the mission is to educate the public. He goes above and beyond to ensure this event is well promoted by reaching out to other members, groups, and families. He ensures that all participants are escorted along the biking route. This event and the energy that Chief Mills projects attracts a healthy and well-informed generation.

WashingtonLorena Ault

Lorena Ault
Nominated by: Washington Coalition of Sexual Assault Programs

Always an activist for women, girls, and animals, Lorena is a vibrant and inspiring advocate. She is known for her deep advocacy knowledge, "can do" strategies, and for making advocacy fun. Lorena is an expert in Washington state on issues of sexual violence in immigrant communities, working in the anti-sexual violence movement here for 18 years. She is currently employed at API Chaya, a Seattle-based organization, empowering survivors of gender-based violence and human trafficking. Lorena’s expertise comes from a deep understanding of cultural barriers and her many years in Crossing Borders, a statewide cohort of bilingual advocates in farm working communities. Lorena is certified as an Immigration Law Advocate, and she is a member of local and statewide workgroups with agencies working to eliminate barriers for immigrants and increase access to U-Visa certification. Lorena’s unique mix of humor, heart, and passion to make the world better have made her a dedicated advocate and dynamic trainer.

West Virginia
West VirginiaMike Woelfel

Senator Mike Woelfel
Nominated by: West Virginia Foundation for Rape Information and Services

Mike Woelfel’s path crossed with the West Virginia Foundation for Rape Information and Services when the U.S. Department of Justice asked the coalition about reports of sexual misconduct to incarcerated victims in a specific facility. In pursuing answers, the coalition found that attorney Mike Woelfel was helping incarcerated victims seek relief from unsafe situations — resulting in justice and increased offender accountability. As a former assistant prosecuting attorney and community volunteer, Mr. Woelfel has filed civil actions and won awards of monetary damages for more than 100 women who were sexually abused by correctional staff. In 2014, he was elected to West Virginia’s state senate, and in 2019, he sponsored the Sexual Assault Victims Bill of Rights that was enacted into law and ensures sex crime kits are tested and victims can secure support. Senator Woelfel’s tireless efforts to create systematic changes make him an invaluable leader to the movement against sexual violence in West Virginia.