By Candice Christiansen, M.Ed., LCMHC, CSAT-S, EMDR Certified, Forensic Evaluator.
Historically, there has been a significant divide in the therapeutic community between professionals working those harmed by sexual violence and those who have caused the harm. However, for one professional, Alison C. Hall, the Executive Director of the Pittsburgh Action Against Rape (PAAR), the importance of understanding the treatment needs of both victims and offenders including the benefits of collaborating between both types of treatment providers has been her lifelong mission and vision.
I recently had the privilege of interviewing Alison about her unique perspective and work with both victims of sexual violence, sex offenders, and bystanders. I was impressed by her dedication to the field of prevention.
Alison spoke passionately about how the movement towards primary prevention is one that revolves around social change. While Alison is a firm believer that rape crisis centers across the United States have indeed reduced sexual violence, she stressed the importance of collaborating with sex offender treatment providers. As she explained, “We can’t do this work alone. It is essential that we partner with others who want to end sexual violence.”
In 2006, Alison’s passion and determination to bridge the gap between treatment providers of sexual assault and sex offenders led to her efforts to establish the first sex offender court in the state of Pennsylvania. She convened a meeting with victim services, prosecutors, police investigators, public defenders, judges and treatment providers to discuss issues pertinent to sexual abuse and to understand each other’s work. She shared, “This was the first time these professionals were in the same room together discussing sexual abuse in Allegheny County.” As a result of that meeting, strong relationships developed and the first Sex Offender Management & Containment (SOMAC) Task Force was formed and continues to meet regularly.
In recognition of her leadership in convening the first sex offender court in Pennsylvania she was awarded the Gail Burns-Smith Award in 2011. As she humbly stated, “It was the strength of the relationships of this task force that led to the creation of the first sex offender court in the state of Pennsylvania.”
Alison has worked at PAAR for 14 years in various capacities; she has been the Executive Director for almost 9 years. PAAR is dedicated to assisting victims of sexual abuse and ending sexual violence in the community. PAAR has served victims in Allegheny County for over 45 years, and is one of the first agencies in the US to serve victims of sexual assault. She shared, “It is the most motivating place I have ever worked.”
Alison was especially proud to share that through PAAR’s on-going outreach, each college in Pittsburgh currently recognizes PAAR as an important partner in the prevention and treatment of sexual abuse, and seeks PAAR’s direction to help develop appropriate responses to victims of sexual violence on their campuses.
As a member of the ATSA Prevention Committee, Alison has decided to run as the prevention representative to the ATSA board. When asked what her vision for ATSA’s future is, should she be accepted, Alison shared, “I believe that when those who specifically treat individuals who have sexually offended collaborate with professionals working with victims, we make greater strides in bringing about the social change required to end sexual violence.”
To learn more about PAAR, visit www.paar.net