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The Rhode Island State Victim Assistance Academy (RISVAA) provides foundation-level training for professionals in the field of victim services. The Academy was designed over a decade ago to bring service providers together in an interactive, educational setting to encourage creative thinking about ways to best help victims of crime and to build collaborative partnerships within the victim services community.  


This year, in light of COVID-19 restrictions and recommendations regarding social distancing, we have converted the Academy to a virtual training series through which you can choose as many or as few trainings as you can fit into your schedule.  


Over 25 hours of training are offered.  Professional Ethics, Cross-Cultural Practice, and standard continuing education credits (CEUs) are available for select trainings (CEU approval pending due to COVID19 processing delays).  Discounts available for those registering courses totaling $100 or more combined.

Week 1

Week 2

February 10th, 9:00 a.m.-12:30 p.m.


Ethical and Risk-Management Issues in the Delivery of Services to Victims of Crime

$503 Professional Ethics CEUs

February 12th, 10 a.m.-12 p.m


Trauma Across the Lifespan

2 Standard CEUs

February 16th, 2-3:30 p.m.


Elder Victimization

February 17th, 3-4 p.m.


February 19th, 10-11 a.m.


The Rhode Island Parole Process


Week 3

February 23rd, 1-3 p.m.


Healthcare Initiatives for Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking in Rhode Island

1.5 Standard CEUs

February 24th, 1-3 p.m.


Creating Safer Spaces for LGBTQQIA* Victims of Crime

2 Cross Cultural CEUs

Instructed by:

Kayla David, MA, LMFT

February 25th, 9:30-11 a.m.


Immigration Options for Victims of Crime

1.5 Cross Cultural CEUs

Instructed by:

Cecily Zeigler, JD

February 26th, 1-3 p.m


Victimization in the Deaf, Hard of Hearing, and DeafBlind Community

2 Cross Cultural CEUs

Week 4

March 1st, 1-3 p.m.


Victimization and Substance Use

2 Standard CEUs

March 2nd, 10:30 a.m. - 12 p.m.


Cybersecurity 101 – What to Think About When Protecting You and Your Clients Online

Instructed by:

Meghan Martinez, MS 

March 3rd, 1-3 p.m.


Critical Issues in Addressing Domestic Violence

March 4th, 10 a.m. - 12 p.m.


Restorative Practice

Instructed by:

Julia Steiny, MA

March 5th, 1-3 p.m.


Secondary Traumatic Stress – Caring for Ourselves

2 Standard CEUs

Erin Albanese, LCSW, LCDP

Erin Albanese, LCSW, LCDP is the Family Service of Rhode Island Project Director for the Office for Victims of Crime funded Project SOS (Support Ocean State) dedicated to supporting children and youth impacted by the opioid epidemic.  She has worked with populations struggling with addiction and symptoms of PTSD for over 20 years. Erin began her work in Wilderness Therapy, guiding struggling teens on seasonal expeditions and facilitating clinical interventions through group therapy, experiential education, team building and expressive arts.  Erin has worked professionally as a Licensed Chemical Dependency Professional using the similar interventions such as group therapy and expressive arts to guide residents in detox and residential programs into early recovery activities, supporting families and continuing care systems. Erin is also a trainer of Screening, Brief Intervention and Referral to Treatment for community health workers throughout the state of Rhode Island, and a certified PeaceLove expressive arts facilitator.  albaneseer@familyserviceri.org


Kayla David, MA, LMFT

Kayla David, MA, LMFT is the Clinical Director for Outpatient, Emergency, and Intake Services at Family Service of Rhode Island.  Utilizing evidence based practices, Ms. David works with children and their families who have experienced traumatic events, and contributes to the development of national policies and practice standards for LGBTQQIA* children across our nation.  Ms. David has served as an adjunct professor in Rhode Island College’s Gender and Women Studies Department and is a regular columnist for Providence’s GET Magazine, an LGBTQQIA* Inclusive community publication.  She holds a Master’s Degree in Marriage and Family Therapy from Antioch University of New England and a Bachelor’s Degree in Gender and Women’s Studies from Rhode Island College.  davidka@familyserviceri.org


Mathew Degnan, BS

Mathew Degnan, BS has been the Administrator of the Rhode Island Parole Board since 2008.  His duties include supervising personnel, arranging meetings of the board in each facility for inmates, and summarizing collected data on each applicant for parole.  Lists are generated monthly and supplied to the Attorney General’s Office and all local Police Departments.  This position includes conferring with the Director of Corrections on all matters relating to the activities of the board.  Previously, he was the Domestic Violence Coordinator/Transitional Housing Coordinator for Bridgemark Addiction Recovery and served for three years as a Parole Officer with the State of Rhode Island, Division of Adult Probation and Parole assigned to the Electronic Monitoring Unit supervising approximately 30-50 parolees.  He also served as a Probation Officer assigned to the Kent County Courthouse with a caseload of approximately 225-275 felony offenders.  He was responsible for court coverage in both Superior Court and District Court.  Finally, he served as a Juvenile Program Worker with the State of Rhode Island, Rhode Island Training School.  He is a member of the Association of Paroling Authorities International and received the 2004 Community Corrections Award in recognition of his commitment to the betterment of community corrections.  He holds his BS from Rhode Island College.  matthew.degnan@doc.ri.gov


Mickaela A. Driscoll

Mickaela A. Driscoll, Elder Abuse Investigator with the United States Attorney General's Office for Rhode Island. Mickaela was recently recognized by St. Elizabeth Haven for Elder Justice on World Elder Abuse Awareness Day with an award to recognize her work advocating for elder victims of crime.  driscoll@riag.ri.gov


Sara Eckhoff, MA

Sara Eckhoff, MA currently works as the Law Enforcement Training Coordinator for the Rhode Island Coalition Against Domestic Violence (RICADV).  Utilizing her past experience in victim advocacy, she coordinates training opportunities for law enforcement and other criminal justice professionals throughout Rhode Island on topics related to domestic and sexual violence.  Prior to joining the RICADV, Sara served in multiple roles at Day One, a sexual assault and trauma resource center located in Providence and oversaw the daily functioning of Rhode Island’s 24-hour statewide Helpline advocate program, which provides in-person support and advocacy to victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, and hate crimes at hospitals and police departments.  Sara’s background also includes time as a Law Enforcement Advocate with four Rhode Island police departments. With a Bachelor of Arts in History from the University of Rhode Island and a Master of Arts in Holocaust and Genocide Studies from West Chester University of Pennsylvania, Sara strives to combine her knowledge of the past, especially regarding the dynamics of power-based violence and trauma, with her passion for violence prevention and systems change in order to create a lasting, positive change within her community.  Sara@ricadv.org


Meagan Fitzgerald, MS, CCLS

Meagan Fitzgerald, MS, CCLS earned her master’s degree in Child Life & Family Centered Care from Wheelock College in Boston in 2010. She completed clinical internships at Boston Children’s Hospital and Hasbro Children’s Hospital. As a Rhode Island native, she was excited to take a position prior to graduation as a child life specialist at Hasbro Children’s Hospital in 2009. In 2010 she began her work at the Lawrence A. Aubin Sr. Child Protection Center. As a Certified Child Life Specialist Meagan provides developmentally appropriate interventions including therapeutic play, preparation and education that reduce fear, anxiety, and pain for children in the medical setting.  Utilizing the foundational principles of child life, Meagan has adapted her expertise to work with children who have been victims of abuse and neglect. Meagan has particular interest in helping children transition into foster care and working with victims of domestic minor sex trafficking. Meagan has developed a protocol for the Aubin Center that helps to transition children into foster care more therapeutically. Meagan led the first peer support group in Rhode Island for trafficking prevention utilizing the My Life My Choice curriculum, and has expanded this service into group homes and the Rhode Island Training School. After recognizing the significant need for the same prevention amongst adolescent males, Meagan has partnered with the Rhode Island Training School to develop a new curriculum that serves male youth. Additionally, Meagan believes that law enforcement plays a significant role in the long-term healing for victims, therefore has collaborated with Cranston Police-Detectives Division, to create a support group for victims of sexual abuse, which has successfully been running for 2 years. mfitzgerald@Lifespan.org


Candace Johndrow, MPA

Candace Johndrow, MPA serves as Director of Victim Services and Victim Services Training Director for Family Service of Rhode Island.  She administers the Office for Victims of Crime Discretionary Training Grant on behalf of the Rhode Island Public Safety Grant Administration’s VOCA Office.  Ms. Johndrow administers the Rhode Island State Victim Assistance Academy and co-chairs the Rhode Island Crime Victim Service Provider Steering Committee.  She also coordinates that annual Victim’s Grove Ceremony. She previously served as the Rhode Island Parole Board Victim Advocate. Previously, she served as FSRI’s Director of Resource Development project managing the development of a diverse portfolio of federal, state, city, private, and corporate foundation funding proposals resulting in over $47M in new and institutional returns largely focused on trauma, victim services, adoption, and systems change within child welfare. She is a licensed foster parent, holds her Bachelor of Science from the Pennsylvania State University and her Master of Public Administration from the University of Rhode Island.  johndrowca@familyserviceri.org


Bonnie Kaplan, BA

Bonnie Kaplan, BA was born Deaf to hearing parents. Her younger sibling is also Deaf.  Bonnie was mainstreamed at the age of 11 after attending a school for the Deaf in Massachusetts for several years. Bonnie was the first Deaf student at a small all girls’ private school in Chestnut Hill, MA. Bonnie has been a passionate advocate since she first started her career with VSA Massachusetts (VSAM) (formerly known as Very Special Arts) in 1996. At VSAM Bonnie advocated for accessibility in the cultural arts for people with disabilities. Even though the ADA was created in 1990, creating and educating cultural organizations about accessibility under the ADA was very challenging. A lot of progresses and achievements were made during her 17year tenure at VSAM.  Besides being a fearless advocate, Bonnie also presented at conferences relating to communication, disability awareness and accessibility. Bonnie is a proud graduate of Northeastern University and holds a B.A. in Business Management and a Graduate Certificate in Non-Profit Management. Prior to joining the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Victims VOCA Program at Tri County Community Action, Bonnie first became acquainted with the VOCA program as a Deaf Navigator under the Massachusetts Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing’s VOCA program.  Tri County Community’s Deaf VOCA program is the first program in the whole state of RI that focuses exclusively on Deaf, Hard of Hearing and Deaf/Blind victims.  bkaplan@tricountyri.org


Molly Kapstein Cote, JD

Molly Kapstein Cote, JD earned her Bachelor of Arts from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor and her Juris Doctorate from Suffolk University Law School.  She began her career as Rhode Island Superior Court Justice Michael Silverstein’s first law clerk on the Providence Superior Court Business Calendar.  After completing her clerkship in 2002, Ms. Cote joined the Rhode Island Department of Attorney General where she prosecuted cases ranging from child molestation to homicide.  In 2010, Ms. Cote departed the Attorney General’s Office to join Lynch, Lynch & Friel where her practice focused on domestic relations and criminal defense.  She opened her own office in 2016.  She also served as an Adjunct Professor of Law at Roger Williams University School of Law where she taught Trial Advocacy and developed and directed the Prosecution Externship Program. Ms. Cote joined the Law Offices of Howe & Garside in 2018 where her practice continued to focus in the areas of criminal defense and domestic matters.  During her time in private practice, Ms. Cote served as one of the two CJA lawyers court-appointed to represent litigants before the H.O.P.E. Court in the United States District Court for the District of Rhode Island.  The H.O.P.E. Court is this jurisdiction’s first re-entry court designed to prevent high-risk criminal defendants released from Federal Custody from re-offending.  Ms. Cote also served as a Bail Commissioner for the Rhode Island District Court and as a member of that Court’s Criminal Rules Committee advising the Court on issues relating to Criminal Procedure.  Ms. Cote was part of the Rhode Island Child Advocate’s Child Fatality Review Panel.  She twice presented at the annual Rhode Island Bar Association meetings on topics relating to criminal practice.  Ms. Cote recently left private practice to return to work at the Rhode Island Office of Attorney General as the head of the Elder Abuse Unit.  mcote@riag.ri.gov


Anish Raj, MD

Anish Raj, MD is currently working through Brown University’s Triple Board Residency Program in Pediatrics, Adult Psychiatry, and Child Psychology, expected completion 2020, after receiving his Doctorate of Medicine from the Florida State University College of Medicine in 2015.  He is currently a resident with Hasbro Children’s Hospital’s Lawrence A. Aubin Sr. Child Protection Center. Anish is an Adjunct Lecturer in Pediatrics at both Johnson and Wales University and Bryant University. He has received numerous honors, awards, and scholarships for his work, research, and excellence in teaching, and has published and presented regionally and nationally on Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking specifically. Anisharaj8904@gmail.com


Sarah Kelly-Palmer, LICSW, MSW

Sarah Kelly-Palmer, LICSW, MSW is Family Service of Rhode Island’s Vice President for Healing.  She has over 18 years’ experience providing trauma, intake and emergency services for vulnerable populations. Previously, she served as Clinical Administrator, Project Director of the Rhode Island State Victim Assistance Academy, Project Director of Providence Safe Start, a federal initiative that was funded by the Office of Justice and Juvenile Delinquency Prevention.  Ms. Kelly-Palmer is an expert at identifying and implementing evidence-based models to deliver high impact services to people in need.  She has launched and effectively managed several federal initiatives, including SAMSHA’s National Child Trauma Stress Network “Category III site program” at FSRI.  She has presented nationally, regionally, and locally on trauma evidence-based practices and child welfare system of care reform.  She is adjunct faculty with Rhode Island College and holds her BA from LeMoyne College and her Master of Social Work from the University at Albany during which time she was a Fellow in the Hartford Internships in Aging Program. Ms. Kelly-Palmer specializes in trauma informed care and crisis intervention. She has been trained in a number of trauma-informed and evidence-based practices such as Child-Parent Psychotherapy, Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and is a certified Trainer in NCTSN’s Child Welfare Trauma Training Toolkit. kellysa@familyserviceri.org


Aimee LaBossiere-Slezak

Aimee LaBossiere-Slezak was born Deaf to a hearing family.  Aimee attended RI School for the Deaf at age three until five, then she was mainstreamed from kindergarten to her junior year.  In her senior year she was mainstreamed for academics and attended RI School for the Deaf for electives and to have the opportunity to relearn her native language while being immersed into Deaf culture with her peers.  Aimee attended Gallaudet University for a year and a half.  Currently, she is a student at Bay State College obtaining her degree in Criminal Justice. Aimee is a mother of four children, her oldest is on the Autism Spectrum.  Aimee has worked with children and adults with intellectual disabilities for eleven years.  She also worked at Pathways Strategic Teaching Center for three and a half years to learn how to advocate for her child’s education and additional services.  During this time, she started advocating for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder and privately supported parents by teaching them how to navigate through the education system.  Aimee instructed ASL classes at Perspectives Corporation prior to working for Tri County Community Action Agency Deaf and Hard of Hearing VOCA Program.  aslezak@tricountyri.org


Meghan Martinez, MS

Meghan Martinez, MS currently works on the Digital Forensics and Incident Response (DFIR) Team at MassMutual where she is responsible for leading cybersecurity incident investigations.  Previously, she served as  an Information Security Analyst with FM Global Information Security Services and Cyber Terrorism Program Manager with the Rhode Island State Police where she was responsible for organizing the Rhode Island Joint Cyber Task Force (intelligence and incident response group), including increasing awareness of cybersecurity related concerns and building relationships with public, private, and government sectors to harden critical infrastructure and the State's overall cyber posture. She was also charged with tracking the threat landscape across multiple Rhode Island sectors, facilitating initial investigation of cyber breaches and disruptions, and serving as the JCTF/RI State Police liaison for Cyber Intelligence Network (CIN) national level intelligence group. She holds her MS in Marriage and Family Therapy and her MS in Cybersecurity/Intelligence both from the University of Rhode Island. Ms. Martinez is passionate about cybersecurity education and workforce development and elevating minority and marginalized voices within the industry.  MMartinez56@massmutual.com


Tricia P. Martland, Esq.

Tricia P. Martland, Esq., is a Professor of Legal Studies with the School of Justice Studies, Roger Williams University (RWU) and Director of the University’s Legal Advocacy Clinic.  Ms. Martland previously served as a hearing officer with Rhode Island Family Court, served in an administrative capacity on the Family Treatment Drug Court calendar, and served as Special Assistant to the Attorney General and Prosecutor in the Family Court/Juvenile Unit during which time she handled all cases with jurisdiction in the Family Court and was responsible for arraignments, pre-trials, trials, violation hearings, probable cause hearings and jury trials. She also handled cases before the Juvenile Drug Court and supervised paralegals assisting with cases in the Unit. Early in her career, Ms. Martland worked as a legal advocate for victims of domestic violence.  She sits on the board of directors of Lucy’s Hearth, a homeless shelter for women and their children located in Middletown, Rhode Island.  She received her MA from Georgetown University and her JD from Roger Williams University.  tmartland@rwu.edu


Cheryl Patnaude, MSW

Cheryl Patnaude, MSW is an Elder Justice Advocate with St. Elizabeth’s Haven for Elder Justice, Rhode Island’s only short-term shelter for elderly victims of abuse. Cheryl has 30+ years in the field.  In 2018, the received the  Attorney General Richard Israel Justice Award for Senior Protection for her lifelong dedication to providing services and advocacy for older Rhode Islanders.  In 2016, on Elder Abuse Awareness Day (June 15th), she received the Elder Justice Hero Award for going “above and beyond” in her service to an elder abuse victim.  She has served as Adjunct Faculty in Human Services at Community College of Rhode Island and holds her Master of Social Work from Rhode Island College. cpatnaude@stelizabethcommunity.org


Frederic G. Reamer, PhD

Frederic G. Reamer, PhD is a Professor in the graduate program of the School of Social Work at Rhode Island College, where he has been on the faculty since 1983.  His research and teaching have addressed a wide range of human service issues, including mental health, health care, criminal justice, public welfare, and professional ethics.  Dr. Reamer received his Ph.D. from the University of Chicago and has served as a social worker in correctional and mental health settings.  Dr. Reamer has served as Director of the National Juvenile Justice Assessment Center of the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention; as Senior Policy Advisor to the Governor of Rhode Island; and as a Commissioner of the Rhode Island Housing and Mortgage Finance Corporation, the state housing finance agency. Dr. Reamer served on the State of Rhode Island Parole Board from 1992 to 2016.  He also served as Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Social Work Education and has been involved in several national research projects.  He has published 21 books and more than 140 journal articles and book chapters.  Dr. Reamer has lectured extensively nationally and internationally on the subjects of professional ethics and professional malpractice and liability.  He chaired the national task force that wrote the National Association of Social Workers Code of Ethics and served on the code revision task force.  He chaired the international commission sponsored by the Association of Social Work Boards to develop Model Regulatory Standards for Technology and Social Work Practice and the national task force sponsored jointly by the National Association of Social Workers, Association of Social Work Boards, Council on Social Work Education, and Clinical Social Work Association to develop Technology Standards in Social Work Practice. He has served as an expert witness and consultant in 103 court and licensing board cases addressing professional ethics. In 2016 Dr. Reamer was named a Social Work Pioneer by the National Association of Social Workers for his "commitment and dedication to the social work profession and to the improvement of social and human conditions at the local, state, national, and international levels."  freamer@ric.edu


Julia Steiny, MA

Julia Steiny, MA Youth Restoration Project (YRP) Founder, is a writer, education consultant, and unparalleled advocate for children having made it a personal mission for the over 20 years to cultivate strong families, healthy schools and lively communities so that, ultimately, children will experience greater opportunities and better life outcomes.  She founded the YRP in 2009 to promote Restorative Practices and Restorative Justice as a means of improving the mental and social health of our Rhode Island communities. YRP's first project began in the Central Falls schools in 2009.  In the fall of 2014, the National Institute of Justice awarded a $3.68 M grant to the Central Falls School District, YRP, and two research organizations to implement and evaluate a Restorative Justice Conferencing system in several RI public schools.  Julia served Project Manager for the grant, and also provided training and consulting services to help organizations become high-functioning Restorative communities. Prior to her involvement in the Restoration movement, Julia served on the Providence School Board, and for 16 years wrote a weekly education column for the Providence Journal.  She also worked as Communications Director for the National Center on Public Education and did consulting for the DataSpark team at the Providence Plan, regarding the data collected about Rhode Island’s schools.  She is currently Vice President of the RI Mental Health Association and a council member of Senior Agenda.  She received the 2011 Bank of America Neighborhood Excellence Initiative “Local” Hero award.  juliasteiny@gmail.com


Cecily Kerr Ziegler, JD

Cecily Kerr Ziegler, JD received her BA from Yale University and her JD from University of Connecticut School of Law.  Following a federal clerkship in the District of Connecticut, she spent her first five years of practice at a private firm in Connecticut doing criminal defense/government investigations work.  She spent the next five years working at Connecticut Legal Services where she practiced special education law, ran a clinic to help immigrant workers recover unpaid wages, and practiced immigration law on behalf of victims of domestic violence and other crimes.  She is currently a Staff Attorney at Dorcas International Institute of Rhode Island where she manages the Immigrant Victims’ Rights Project and continues to advise and represent immigrant victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, trafficking and other crimes.  Ms. Ziegler received the Domestic Violence Program of Crossroads’ 2017 Advocacy Award and the Women’s Resource Center’s 2017 Wild Women Victim Advocacy Champion Award for her work in this area.  She also serves as Co-Chair of the RI Adult Human Trafficking Work Group, and sits on the Advisory Board of the Roger Williams Law School Pro Bono Collaborative.  CZiegler@diiri.org