The RVAAM offers a rare opportunity to live, work, study and interact with victim service providers from all areas of advocacy. While it is assumed that students have had previous training in their area of specialization, the Academy provides a fundamental overview of the entire field of advocacy including victimology, victim rights, and victim assistance for residents in Maryland. Sessions are led by recognized leaders and practitioners in the field of victimology, criminal justice, and victim rights, and focus on skill-building and best practices. Throughout the week, participants are provided with a variety of resource material they can take back to their agency, including a comprehensive RVAAM curriculum text that covers more than thirty subject areas. The Academy’s curriculum has been approved for selected professions (e.g. law enforcement, corrections, probation/parole, and social work), thus participants may earn Continuing Education Units (CEUs). Additionally, undergraduate and graduate level academic credits in criminal justice are available through the School of Criminal Justice, University of Baltimore for an additional fee.
While the information garnered in the classroom during the Academy provides valuable knowledge for participants to draw upon when they leave, an even greater resource they take with them are the professional networks they build while attending the Academy. By having participants remain on-site for the entire week, they are afforded an opportunity to network with their fellow colleagues and to lay the foundation for collaborative relationships. As several alumni eloquently summarized their experience:
“I have been a mental health professional for over 20 years and a victim advocate in law enforcement for the past three years. During that time, I have attended much professional training. However, this one stands out as being far better than any of the others. The presenters were incredibly skilled and knowledgeable in their areas of expertise. Moreover, the carefully planned program allowed me to develop personally as well as professionally. I look forward to using my new skills to better assist victims of crime in becoming survivors of crime. I especially appreciate the opportunity to stay connected to the academy as well as give something back in my role as an alumnus.”
–Suzy Boisclair, Ph. D., Victim Advocate, Frederick Police Department
“I had the privilege to participate in the June 2004 RVAAM. An assembly of academics and professionals from a variety of disciplines and professions embarked upon a week of full itinerary. We concluded with an unbreakable bond of wisdom, resources and friendships. The forum provided an opportunity to dialogue, expand and heal. To those brave men and women who found the strength to disclose their personal testimonies of how they evolved from victims to become victors; and to those who dedicate a full time work week to provide support, assistance, and knowledge, I thank you. Thank you for allowing me to be in the midst of your growth.”
–Cherie N. Peay, Maryland Department of Correction, Jessup Maryland
“I am a better social worker, trauma clinician, and client advocate for having attended the RVAAM in 2010. My week there may have only lasted 5 days, but I will take with me what I learned for a lifetime. The speakers and trainers truly have a vast range of knowledge, wisdom, and creativity. Not only do I know that I can call any of my former classmates to network at programs or advocate for my clients, but I want to call them, as I know they share the same passion. I am enormously grateful for the new extended family I have as a graduate.”
-Naomi Taffet, MSW, LCSW-C, Assistant Director of CHANA and Shofar Coaltion Therapist, The Jewish Response to Domestic Violence, Child Abuse and Trauma
“After becoming appointed as the Victim / Witness Coordinator for the University of Maryland Police Department, I was very fortunate to attend and complete the 2008 Roper Victim Assistance Academy of Maryland (RVAAM). As a twenty-five year law enforcement veteran, the Academy provided me with the knowledge, skills, and resources to help assist my agency in becoming current with the services that are provided to crime victims throughout Maryland. The Academy had a monumental impact on my life by nurturing my professional needs in order for me to better aid victims. Beyond any doubt, the Academy experience provided me with critical information that helps me to share and educate other professionals. This is truly an experience of empowerment that will support any advocate who has serving victims in mind.”
–Corporal William A. Griffin Retired Police Officer, Executive Board Member (R.A.D.) Rape Aggression Defense Systems, and Co- Chair of the RVAAM Alumni Association’s Executive Board
To date, the RVAAM has hosted fifteen Academies, which have been attended by over 614 victim service professionals and victim advocates from all across the state of Maryland, Washington, DC, Virginia, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Tennessee, Texas, and China. In addition to its annual Academy, RVAAM has also provided alumni the opportunity to attend advanced trainings on topics such as, Victims’ Rights, Integrating Victims into the criminal Justice process, Trauma Responses, Domestic Violence, “Forensic Interviewing,” “Mental Health and Substance Abuse,” “Illuminations: Victimization through the Eyes of a Child,” “Cyber-Victimization,” “Workplace Violence,” “Vicarious Traumatization,” “Interviewing and Communications Skills.”
Maryland has one of the largest Academy Alumni Associations in the country. Recently renamed the Victim Service Providers Network (VSPN), the VSPN provides professional and social opportunities to network with colleagues and to take an active role in supporting the Academy.