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February 2023: Letter from the Director

Dear Friends of SARA,

Every winter sexual and domestic violence organizations from around the Commonwealth gather at the General Assembly for Legislative Advocacy Day and the opportunity to meet with Senators and Delegates who are making critical decisions that impact survivors and prevention efforts in Virginia. This year, on February 2nd, SARA staff and I will be in Richmond for this important day. We hope that you will stand with us in this work. Keep Virginia’s Statewide Hotline Ringing!

  • We support $1.2M in annual appropriations to DCJS for the administration of Virginia’s Statewide Hotline for sexual and domestic violence survivors.

In 2021 alone, the Hotline received 77,456 calls resulting in 30,731 adults and children receiving referrals to their local sexual and domestic violence agency for help with healthcare, legal, and housing needs. Here in Charlottesville, we work closely with the State Hotline to provide assistance to survivors in our service area. An annual investment of $1.2M can fully staff the Hotline with sexual and domestic violence advocates and sustain life-saving coverage 24/7, 365 days a year.

Expanding the definition of suffocation in Virginia’s strangulation statute

  • We support amending the strangulation statute to include expanded forms of strangulation

Throughout the pandemic, both frequency and lethality of intimate partner violence has been on the rise. Suffocation is an increasingly used and lethal tactic employed by abusers. However, given Virginia’s current definition of strangulation, the specific act of restricting oxygen to someone’s airways is not captured under current law, allowing many abusers to evade criminal charges and prosecution after committing these incredibly dangerous acts. Emergency contraception to sexual assault survivors to include IUD

  • We support emergency contraception (EC) treatment services to include IUDs for sexual assault survivors to be paid for through the Criminal Injuries Compensation Fund


Global guidance is clear that all forms of EC should be offered to women and girls within 120 hours of sexual violence to prevent the traumatic consequences of pregnancy resulting from rape. Barriers to receiving such care are often financial. Including this care under the already funded Criminal Injuries Compensation Fund helps to eliminate that barrier. Attacks on LGBTQ Virginians

  • We oppose any bills that deny LGBTQ Virginians a right to safety, dignity, and respect.

We believe that ALL Virginians have the right to safe, respectful, and violence free relationships, schools, and homes. Right now, in Virginia and across the nation, trans people are under attack. With bills that seek to restrict public access to facilities and services to “don’t say gay” bills, it is imperative that we advance equality and respect for LGBTQ Virginians. This is integral to creating a Virginia free from sexual and domestic violence. Restrictions on abortion access for survivors


  • We oppose any bills limiting survivor access to healthcare, including abortion, in the aftermath of trauma.

A person’s sexual and reproductive health are directly impacted by experiences of sexual and intimate partner violence. Acts violence serve to remove power and agency making voice and choice imperative in the aftermath of trauma. We support full access to non-judgmental, safe, legal, affordable, and medically accurate sexual and reproductive health care for all survivors of sexual and intimate partner violence. We are grateful to serve a community that understands the responsibilities and power of an informed and active citizen. If you would like to contact your legislators regarding these and other issues, you can find them at Who Is My Legislator. Thank you for supporting us. With kindness,

Renee Branson

Executive Director

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