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Sisterhood Spotlight

(En Español)

2022 sisterhood-Carmen Williams
Carmen Williams
Department of Juvenile Justice

During Domestic Violence Awareness Month, Carmen Williams shared about her passion for advocating for and supporting victims of domestic violence. In this Sisterhood Spotlight, Carmen Williams shares about her many years of work in this area and her recent appointment by Governor Youngkin to the Department of Juvenile Justice. Read below to learn more about the issue of domestic violence, ways to serve and resources that are available to help.

Tell us about your work for the Virginia Sexual and Domestic Violence Action Alliance.

I was responsible for creating and implementing the Project for the Empowerment of Survivors (PES).  PES provides trauma-informed legal information, advice and referrals to callers throughout Virginia who are experiencing sexual or intimate partner violence, dating violence, human trafficking and hate crimes. PES also connects victim/survivors to pro-bono or low bono legal services … I provided legal advocacy to Hispanic and Latino immigrant survivors in their own language.  Through the language line, I provided legal support to other immigrant survivors with limited English proficiency.

I managed the statewide toll-free Family Violence and Sexual Assault Hotline for 9 years. The Family Violence and Sexual Assault Hotline is answered by trained staff and volunteers 24/7. The Hotline assists callers who are victims and survivors of sexual and domestic violence, their families, friends, and the community in general. I was [also] responsible for managing the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) hotline and the LGTBQ + Partner Abuse and Sexual Assault Helpline.

Additionally, I worked in the Immigration Advocacy Technical Assistance Project in collaboration with immigration victim services providers in Virginia, including the Tahirih Justice Center and the Virginia Poverty Law Center to expand support and resources available to Sexual and Domestic Violence Agencies (SDVAs) and communities. I used my knowledge of immigration law and provided information to victims and survivors of sexual and domestic violence and human trafficking on immigration remedies available to them.

I worked at the state, federal and international levels for laws that protect victims of Domestic and Sexual Violence in the United States and Central America, such as the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) and the International Violence Against Women Act (I-VAWA). I participated in the filming, editing and translation of the Virginia Protective Order DVD with Attorney General Bob McDonnell (Hispanic version). I traveled to Guatemala as part of the U.S. Human Rights Delegation to investigate violence against women and girls in Guatemala.

You were appointed by Governor Youngkin to the Department of Juvenile Justice.  Tell us a little more about your work here.

First, I would like to thank Governor Youngkin and Director Amy Floriano for their confidence and trust in me. With the new leadership at the Department of Juvenile Justice, we just created the Victim Notification and Assistance Victim Liaison to make sure victims of juvenile offenders are properly notified upon the release of a serious offender. We made this process very simple. Victims can email the DJJ Victim Liaison at Also, we created a list of important information or community resources to support victims and families, including those with limited English proficiency or disabilities, who have been impacted by violent crime. All this information can be found on the DJJ website and it is available in English and Spanish.

We are currently working on implementing the DJJ Language Access Plan because DJJ recognizes that providing meaningful language access is a critical function of ensuring safety and security for juveniles or parents and legal guardians who do not speak English as their primary language and who have a limited ability to read, speak, write or understand English.

We are participating at multicultural events organized by community partners to build trust and relationships between law enforcement and the community in general … We believe in second chances, but we must hold youth accountable for their actions by ensuring they receive the services they need to be productive citizens, in order to create the greatest likelihood of success when they are no longer under our care so we can have healthier and safer communities.

Why are you passionate about this issue area?

I think I was born to be an advocate. I always felt and had the desire to help other people in need, which is a desire I first saw in my parents and older sisters.

When I came to the U.S., the first place I looked for was the church. The church allowed me to connect with other members of the Hispanic and Latino community. I got involved in St. Augustine Church in Richmond and became vice president of the Hispanic committee. I had the opportunity to speak with many women who trusted me and fearfully told me about their problems of abuse from verbal, psychological, physical, mental, economic and even sexual abuse.

I realized that this topic was more sensitive than I thought and I really didn't know much about it.  I wanted to learn more about how I could help and what resources there were in the community to provide support. For this reason, I applied for a job in the Virginia Sexual & Domestic Violence Action Alliance to learn and to work with victims of domestic and sexual violence. I received extensive training through which I realized how important it is to listen to victims and not to judge them. I learned to meet them where they are and let them know we were there to help and support them.

I will never forget my first call from a Hispanic survivor who said “Spanish” and I immediately answered in Spanish: “Hola, como puedo ayudarla?” Hi, how can I help you? Even if I couldn’t see her face, I felt how happy and comfortable she was to tell me her story in her own language. When I was the Hotline Manager, I always reminded our hotlines advocates how important was to answer each call with compassion and respect because sometimes the first call could be the last call.

Personally, I felt that it was very important to help victims to empower themselves so they could move forward in their lives despite the trauma they were going through. It felt good to help victims during the healing process.

I will always be an advocate wherever I am. We all need each other and we must help each other to build better world for ALL. We all can be advocates.

What do you want Virginians know about domestic violence and how it’s affecting Virginia families and communities?

Domestic violence is a pattern of coercive, controlling behavior that can include physical emotional, psychological, verbal, sexual and financial abuse with the intention to exert control. All types of abuse are devastating to victims. Unfortunately, domestic violence affects millions of individuals across our country and our Commonwealth of Virginia. Domestic Violence doesn’t discriminate; it happens in every community, and victims are of all genders and races and every socioeconomic status. A victim can be our own mother, sister, friend, someone in our own job, a neighbor, co-worker, etc., and because it affects all of us, all of us can and must be a part of the solution.

We should be having conversations in our own homes, jobs, faith communities, neighborhoods, etc. about what a healthy relationship is. We should share information on available resources in the community if someone is experiencing abuse. We never know that perhaps that person who needs help may be someone we love or know.

It is important for victims and survivors to understand and know that the abuse is not their fault, and that they are not alone. There is always hope and help available to those who are experiencing this evil called domestic violence. We all deserve to live in a home or place where we can enjoy peace and happiness, and no one deserves to be abused in any way, and this includes children, adults and pets.

Remember, we all have the same rights, protections and responsibilities and we all deserve to be safe, respected and treated as an equal in our own home and community. It is up to us to make Virginia a better place to live. No matter if you are a victim, survivor or an abuser, always ask for help. 

It is important to get involved in your community.  You can call on your public officials to support domestic violence services and hold perpetrators accountable. Educate yourself, learn more about this issue and what you can do to protect yourself and people in your family and in your community. Remember, domestic violence is a public health crisis that impacts everyone. One in four women and one in seven men experience severe physical violence in their lifetimes. Let’s work together to end intimate partner violence and all forms of violence. Together we can make a better world for all of us. We all deserve that, and I remember Governor Youngkin always says that we want Virginia to be the best place to live, work and raise a family. This is exactly what we all need.

Other than the Family Violence and Sexual Assault Hotline, what resources are available to Virginians?

No one wants to see more families experience domestic abuse and separations from their children, much less someone’s death because of the abuse.  Peace starts at home. If you are a victim or survivor, you have many options, from obtaining a protection order or move to a safe shelter. If you are an abuser, try to find help and don’t hurt your love ones.

Your safety and the safety of your children and family in general is a priority.  Call your local domestic violence program hotline to get legal help, counseling, help with a safety planning if you want to stay – or not stay – in the relationship and information of other resources available in your community.

See several resources to help below:

  • Virginia Victim Assist Helpline – 1-855-443-5782. Available Monday – Friday from 8:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.
  • Virginia Statewide Hotline (Voice/TTY) – 1-800-838-8238. Available 24/7, free & confidential.
  • Virginia Child Abuse and Neglect Hotline – 1-800-522-7096. Available 24/7.
  • Virginia Adult Protective Services Hotline – 1-800-832-3858. Available 24/7.
  • Latinos in Virginia: Empowerment Center Helpline – 1-888-969-1825. Available 24/7.
  • 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline.
  • National Domestic Violence Hotline -  1-800-799-7233. Hours 24/7/365.
  • More resources can be found at the Virginia Department of Juvenile Justice at:

About Carmen Williams

Carmen is Peruvian and holds a law degree from Peru and a master’s degree in International Legal Studies from American University – Washington College of Law. Carmen states that the loves of her life are her daughters, Michelle and Jeanette. Carmen is very proud to be a U.S. citizen and states that she votes in every election because it is not only a privilege to vote, but also a responsibility to exercise her civic duty. Carmen is Catholic and believes in God. Her faith in God gives her wisdom and guides her to do the right thing in anything she does in life. Carmen has two brothers in Peru and one sister who lives also in Richmond.

Carmen is a member of the Midlothian Rotary Club and the Board of Directors for the Asian Latino Solidarity Alliance. Carmen was a member of the Virginia Indigent Defense Commission appointed by the Speaker of the House of Delegates; member of the Governors Latino Advisory Board during Governor McDonnell’s administration; member of the Board of Directors of the Virginia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce Foundation; member of the Board of Directors of the American Red Cross-Richmond Chapter, and member of the Public Policy for Esperanza United formerly Casa Esperanza, a national Latino Organization whose mission is to mobilize Latinas and Latina communities to end gender-based violence.

In 2021, Carmen received an award from Radio Poder 1380AM during their 15th anniversary recognizing people who contributed over the past 15 years to the advancement and development of Virginia’s immigrant and Latin American Communities with their example, word and action.

In 2009, Carmen received the Women of Color Scholarship Award to attend the National Lobby Conference and Lobby Day on Sexual and Domestic Violence in Washington, D.C.

In 2004, Carmen received the Ambassador Award – The American Red Cross Greater Richmond Chapter. This award was given for creativity and leadership in outreach efforts, programs and services with the minority community. Recognition is given to volunteers whose achievements reflect the understanding of diversity to include awareness, inclusiveness, sensitivity and specificity.

In 2004, Carmen also received the Northeast/Mid-Atlantic Region Pride Award in recognition of commitment and dedication to the success of the programs and services of the American Red Cross.