National Sexual Assault Conference

Wednesday, 1 September 2010 to Friday, 3 September 2010
Los Angeles, CA

The Joyful Heart Foundation was honored to be a part of the 2010 National Sexual Assault Conference that convened in Los Angeles in early September. The conference is an annual gathering of sexual assault advocates, counselors, prevention activists, policy makers, community organizers, government officials and others that make up the diverse sexual assault movement. This year, over 900 people attended the conference that was organized around the theme "Building the world we want to live in."

The Joyful Heart Foundation presented the healing and wellness track of the conference. Using our Heal the Healers program model, Joyful Heart organized a series of workshops that educated participants about self-care techniques and strategies while providing a participatory wellness experience. Various techniques were explored, including: yoga, creative expression, journaling, mindful breathing and meditation, creative movement, massage and core fusion, which was led by our partners at Exhale Spa in Los Angeles.

As participants entered the dedicated room, they were met with the sight of fresh flowers and candles along with soothing music and the opportunity to take a break from the normal conference atmosphere. People were invited to make themselves comfortable, remove their conference nametags and sit in a chair or on the floor. The scene did not look like a typical workshop room. One participant exclaimed upon entering the room, "Oh, I thought we were just going to talk about self care, I didn't know we were going to actually DO it!"

The workshop participants took full advantage of the opportunity to reconnect with themselves and learn techniques that can help them be well their work and in their lives. As people painted and danced, shared and reflected, engaged with each other and made commitments to take care of themselves, they were actively participating in a process to integrate true healing and wellness. This wellness work is integral to a creative, robust and strong movement populated by individuals that able to care for themselves as they care for their communities.

Conference participants could also attend workshops offered on other tracks including: Prevention (sponsored by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), Leadership Development, Intervention and Advocacy, Legal Advocacy (sponsored by Legal Aid Society-Employment Law Center) and Technology and Media, Eliminating Prison Rape (sponsored by Just Detention International) and Sex Offender Management (sponsored by the Association for the Treatment of Sexual Abusers). In these workshops, attendees were able to learn more about subjects such as Facilitating Intimate Partner Sexual Violence Support Groups, Workplace Rights of Sexual Violence Survivors, Adapting Gender-Based Violence Programs to Gang-Affiliated Youth Populations, Holla Back! Using Technology to Combat Public Sexual Harassment and Assault and Choices that Matter: Making strategic decisions to strengthen and sustain your organization.

During a panel entitled, "The Media and the Message: Sexual Violence Storylines on Primetime TV" and organized by The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Hollywood, Health & Society, panelists discussed the innovative use of TV storylines as a vehicle for raising awareness of sexual violence topics, the challenges of portraying sexual violence storylines accurately and sensitively, and the power of educating millions of viewers about sexual assault prevention in entertainment media. Jonathan Greene, writer and co-executive producer of Law & Order, Special Victims Unit discussed this seasons' third episode, which explores the rape kit backlog and the tragedy of untested rape kits. The Joyful Heart Foundation continues advocacy on this issue and launched a comprehensive website in conjunction with other awareness raising activities on the date the episode airs.

On the final day of the conference, Joyful Heart presented the final conference plenary and was able to bring the message of healing and wellness to all conference attendees. During this time a screening of the film, The Joyful Revolution was followed by a panel of speakers that shared their wisdom and presented tips for everyday wellness. Heal the Healers Transforming Trauma participant Sandra Henriquez spoke as a veteran of the sexual assault movement and shared her own experiences with managing trauma exposure and why self-care is so critical to ending sexual assault. Sherisa Dahlgren, therapist and yoga instructor led the group in movement exercises and shared information about how movement is beneficial in healing trauma. Marie Elena Rigo president of MER Life Design presented tips on how to make one's workspace a place of balance and harmony using the principles of Feng Shui and stress management. Kyra Anastasia from the Exhale Center for Sacred Movement in Venice, California led the group in a guided meditation. Joyful heart board member and author Andrea Buchanan moderated the panel and wove the different presentations together into a garment that exemplified how we all can care for ourselves as a way to build the world we all want to live in.

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