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Advocate's efforts serving sexual assault survivors nabs national honor

For nearly a quarter-century, Kristine Hall worked to aid healing for sexual assault survivors in a career that included one-to-one support and steering political machines to pass laws and public policies to aid survivors.

Hall, who joined the University of Virginia Medical Center in 2017 as an internal policy director, has received a national award honoring her efforts during a decade with the Virginia Sexual and Domestic Violence Action Alliance.

Hall, who started as a volunteer at Charlottesville-based Sexual Assault Resource Agency in 1993, appreciates the recognition but said she wasn’t the only one working toward the goals.

“I’m humbled that my colleagues would care enough to honor me,” Hall said. “But no one achieves anything in isolation. We really wouldn’t be able to do any of this work if it wasn’t for the survivors coming forward and telling their stories.”

The Visionary Voice Award was given by the National Sexual Violence Resource Center based on information provided by the Virginia organization.

“For nearly a decade, Kristine Hall was instrumental in leading Virginia’s policy efforts to respond to and prevent sexual and intimate partner violence,” the award’s documentation states. “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.”

Hall worked with a governor’s task force on sexual assault and on several pieces of landmark legislation that provided options for sexual assault survivors and those assaulted on college campuses.

The national organization, and her former employer, credit Hall with helping mandatory reporting bills morph into legislation protecting confidential reports and providing services and investigative options to campus survivors.

They also credit her with working behind scenes to resolve an $18 million funding gap for Virginia sexual assault and violence agencies and domestic violence agencies.

“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,” the award reads. “The strong relationships that Kristine built are a fruitful foundation from which our current policy efforts continue to blossom.”

Hall worked with the task force, law enforcement, legislators and lobbyists at a time when lawmakers were looking for new policies and legislation regarding sexual assault, especially on campus.

It was during that time frame that an article in Rolling Stone magazine told the story of a rape on UVa grounds, which was later disproven. Although it made it more difficult, Hall helped bring the variety of interests together.

“I don’t really like the politics in public policy, but it’s fascinating to see what happens you have a diverse group of people come into a room intending to come to some agreement and watch what they do to make something work,” she said.

“You have people trying to balance public safety with privacy, how to create a system that balances the diverse spectrum of needs for survivors. They come at it from different perspectives and diverse backgrounds and work to come up with something that may not be perfect, but works,” she said.

Hall’s career working as an advocate for sexual assault and violence victims began nearly 30 years ago after she saw a play titled “But I Said No.”

“I got into this work like a lot of people. I don’t have my own direct experience but I know enough people that have that I became aware of the importance of those experiences in their lives,” she said. “I thought ‘what can I do? How can I be present?’ I didn’t know the answers so I went looking for them.”

The play was the thing that captured her interest.

“I went up to talk with the actors and one of them volunteered at SARA and she was such a wonderful resource for me and so kind,” Hall recalled. “I thought, ‘if I ever get to Charlottesville, I’ll help them out.’ Then lo, and behold I wound up moving to Charlottesville.”

Hall volunteered with SARA while earning a master’s degree in education from UVa. In 1996 she joined as a paid part-time employee and in 2000 was hired as SARA’s client services coordinator. Five years later she joined the state organization.

“It was time to move away from direct services and work on the macro level, to try and make a difference for everyone,” she said. “Advocacy can be a very emotional and taxing job, although it’s nothing compared to the trauma of survivors. Still, you can’t help but be impacted by it over time. Being able to see the resiliency of the human spirit is something that keeps you going.”

After 24 years, Hall said she had learned to love the policy making aspect of her job and found her new niche at UVa.

“It was a time when I could finally imagine myself doing something different,” she recalled. “What I really enjoyed was the ability to analyze policy, to see an issue in front of you and analyze it. Does it have a police solution? Who do we need to bring to the table to get that done?”

With the global pandemic’s onslaught, policy matters matter more than ever, Hall said.

“We’re looking at who is suffering more due to lack of access to health care and how you can address making that access available,” she said. “It’s great to be a policy wonk and be able to make a difference.”

Source: www.dailyprogress.com

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