Mayor’s Office

Burlington Survivors of Sexual Violence Are Not Alone



May 4, 2016
Contact:  Anneke Hohl
                 Community Justice Center and Parallel Justice Project Director


Burlington Survivors of Sexual Violence Are Not Alone
Parallel Justice Commission Releases Videos for Survivors of Sexual Assault
and Celebrates Collaborative Efforts


Burlington, VT – Mayor Miro Weinberger today joined members of the Burlington Parallel Justice Commission in recognizing the collaborative efforts of the Commission to break down barriers for survivors of sexual violence. Since 2006, the Commission has provided a formal venue for victims of crime to share their stories and has undertaken collaborative work to address systemic changes needed to better meet victims’ needs. Commissioners are local and state leaders, victim advocates, survivors of crime, social services providers, health care providers, and other organizations who often work with victims of crime, and are appointed by Mayor Weinberger (a complete list of current Commissioners is included below).

“Survivors of sexual violence in Burlington are not alone,” said Mayor Weinberger. “Thank you to the Parallel Justice Commissioners and community partners who work hard and quietly every day to provide this critical support and to create positive change for victims in Burlington.”

“Parallel Justice is about supporting victims of crime and addressing their needs through a coordinated community response,” said Kelly Dougherty, Executive Director of Women Helping Battered Women and Commission Chair. “The efforts we are recognizing today exemplify the Commission’s commitment to ensuring that victims of crime know that they have the support of the Burlington community behind them.”

Chittenden County State’s Attorney and Parallel Justice Commissioner, TJ Donovan, framed the work of the Commission: “This is community justice. We’re all in it together, we all have the same goal of a safe and vibrant community, and we work together where we can.” In the interest of reversing the trend of underreporting of sexual assaults, this collaborative approach led to a written policy of the State’s Attorneys’ Office, informed by advocates and law enforcement, to make best efforts not to charge people who report sexual assault with false information to a police officer.

The latest example of the collaboration supported through the Commission, which was announced today, is a series of web videos highlighting services available to survivors of sexual assault. The common theme of the videos and message at the end of each is “You are not alone. You have a whole community on your side.”

Based on the facts that survivors of sexual assault frequently do not report to law enforcement nor seek medical care following an assault, the video series explores three topics: working with law enforcement, working with medical services, and working with an advocate. The fourth video is a 30-second public service announcement. Service providers interviewed include the Chittenden Unit for Special Investigations (CUSI), University of Vermont Medical Center forensic nursing staff, and HOPE Works advocates.

The objectives of the videos are to raise awareness of free services available after assault, provide easy-to-access resources for adult survivors seeking services, dispel myths around services available, and demonstrate collaboration among service providers. Today’s partners hope that the videos will help foster a better understanding of the continuum of services and care, increase access to services, and increase use of necessary health care services for survivors of recent sexual assault.

“By creating and then showcasing the videos together and collaboratively, we hope to demonstrate how service providers work together and provide wrap-around services to those who seek our assistance after a sexual assault,” said Cathleen Barkley, Executive Director of HOPE Works. “This project contributes to a desired seamless continuum of care, as a collaboration of multiple organizations working together to provide outreach and education to our community. By focusing on the principle of building community capacity, we work together to tell the story of how we coordinate our response to survivors after a sexual assault.”

"Every person deserves to be able to come forward and present their story. They should be able to do this without concern about confidentiality, financial burden, or stigma," said Vickie Poulin, RN, BSN, SANE with the Forensic Nursing Program at the University of Vermont Medical Center. "The UVM Medical Center provides specialized emergency nursing care for sexual assault victims 24 hours a day, seven days a week."

"It is imperative that we continue to collectively focus on ways to provide the best services possible to the victims of sexual violence,” said Sgt. Christopher Nadeau, Director of CUSI.

The members of the Parallel Justice Commission’s Healthcare Subcommittee have been collaborating to improve the system of care of survivors of sexual assault for the past several years and worked together on the video project. Members of this subcommittee include representatives from HOPE Works, University of Vermont Medical Center, Vermont Department of Health, and Community Health Centers of Burlington. The videos were two years in the making, from conceptualization to finished products. Funding was provided through the University of Vermont Medical Center’s Community Health Investment Fund, which allowed for production work by Matt Dugan and his team at Shadow Productions, resulting in professional, incredibly high-quality finished products.

The Burlington Parallel Justice Commission currently includes the following representatives:

  • Cathleen Barkley, HOPE Works
  • Deputy Chief Bruce Bovat, Burlington Police Department
  • Anne Burmeister, Planned Parenthood
  • Alison Calderara, Community Health Centers of Burlington (Vice Chair)
  • Selene Colburn, Burlington City Councilor
  • Heather Danis, Vermont Department of Health
  • TJ Donovan, Chittenden County State’s Attorney
  • Kelly Dougherty, Women Helping Battered Women (Chair)
  • Jane Helmstetter, Vermont Agency of Human Services
  • Armina Medic, Chittenden Unit for Special Investigations
  • State Representative Barbara Rachelson, Lund
  • Judy Rex, Vermont Center for Crime Victim Services
  • Sarah Robinson, Vermont Network Against Domestic and Sexual Violence
  • Joe Speidel, University of Vermont
  • Beth Steckel, University of Vermont Medical Center
  • Debbie Thibault, Vermont Department of Corrections
  • JoAnn Winterbottom, Laura K. Winterbottom Fund


The Commission is staffed by the Burlington Community Justice Center (a division of the City of Burlington’s Community & Economic Development Office). It is a counterpart to the Parallel Justice for Victims of Crime Project, which is a partnership of the Burlington Community Justice Center, the Burlington Police Department, and the Vermont Center for Crime Victim Services. Parallel Justice offers support, validation, and resources to victims of any crime that occurs in Burlington, including property crimes like vandalism or theft, regardless of whether a perpetrator is ever caught, and regardless if the crime is reported to the police.

Please visit this link to view the series of web videos.



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