Letter from Andrea

The ALLY Institute at RAND will be the first centralized resource in the nation dedicated to the implementation of evidence-based research to advance the prevention of sexual violence.

THE PAST

Let me share a little background about the odyssey that has led us here; why we are personally so determined to make effective systemic changes in the fields of sex offender policy, law and management, while creating a heightened national awareness of the issue and its profound impact on our culture.

In late June of 2002, we received a call from our daughter Alexandra informing us that she wanted to quit her job in Newport, R.I. to go to New Zealand to take a job with the America's Cup. Adventurous since childhood, I had become accustomed to Alexandra's desire to experience new opportunities, and had always found her to be responsible when making such plans.

Her tickets were purchased for three days after her 31st birthday. Alexandra would come home from Newport and spend time with her family in Oregon and then depart the end of August for Auckland. My husband Steven purchased new laptops for us so we could communicate with the same frequency as we had by telephone - multiple times a day. She was so excited to begin this new chapter in her life.

It was just weeks before Alexandra was prepared to leave, early on the morning of July 18, 2002, I received a call from a friend and former employer of Alexandra's asking if I knew where she was...it was a bad connection and we lost contact. I was disturbed.

Shortly after, I received a call from the Massachusetts State Police saying that there had been an "incident". As my heart sunk, I screamed into the telephone, "Is she dead?" A hesitant reply came back, "Yes". I handed the phone to my husband and took the first breaths of a horrible new world I had only read about....that of the "other" people.

DISCOVERY PROCESS

Alexandra, our beautiful daughter was murdered by a repeat sex offender. Her death was brutal and protracted. It was also preventable. Her murderer was in the community through loopholes in the law; he was untreated, and unsupervised. He worked in an inappropriate job and took advantage of unsafe architecture in his cruel mission.

The uninformed patchwork nature of the law took her life, and devastated ours as so many others before and after us. It also gave us a blueprint we have devoted our lives to.

Alexandra was intelligent, beautiful, passionate, and gave back to her community with unbridled generosity. Her family and the world lost someone whose desire to make a difference has gone beyond the boundaries of her life. She has set the pace for us at The ALLY Foundation.

Nathan Myhvold, founder of Microsoft Research observed, "Sometimes a lack of knowledge is an advantage because you do not know what is possible."

My husband and I knew nothing of the criminal justice system. We just knew that we wanted to change things for the better.

With the caring support of our family and Alexandra's friends, we moved to Boston, launched our research and sought out the most credible professionals in the vast fields of criminal justice and sex offense management and treatment. They were generous with their knowledge and their candid discussions fueled our search for facts in the unknown.

April 8, 2003, we successfully helped pass Massachusetts Sexually Dangerous Person Law. The changes made in this law were well reasoned and intelligent and would have saved our Alexandra's life.

However, this success shortly gave way to the realization that this was only one small piece of an entire continuum that needed to be systematically linked and borne of evidence-based knowledge.

THE PROBLEM

The problems are many but the most critical is that laws are often passed in response to high profile crimes with no foundation in evidence based research. We misallocate finite human and fiscal resources and send off to the unsuspecting public, laws that simply do not work.

March 10, 2009, Chairman Bobby Scott’s House Judiciary Committee held hearings on “Barriers to Timely Compliance” regarding the Adam Walsh Act, passed in 2006, which was receiving an onslaught of resistance from the States. Five well-informed field experts, representing a broad spectrum of the criminal justice system on sexual violence testified, that day.

Not amazingly, all five of the field experts testified that the legislation was not evidence based. The wide body of research available to guide the legislators had not been accessed in the drafting of the Adam Walsh Act, (AWA).

As of January 2013, the Justice Department reports that 16 states, three territories and 36 tribes had substantially implemented SORNA (Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act) requirements of the federal Adam Walsh Act.

Adam Walsh was a beautiful little six year-old boy who was abducted, murdered and decapitated. His family worked very hard to create an Act that would respond to and prevent the violence that took their son.

Retroactively, adjustments are being sought. Such a waste of finite resources, tax payers money, intellectual resources, lives and time, when knowledge-based research would have yielded a more valuable outcome.  http://www.justicepolicy.org/images/upload/08-11_BRF_WalshActRegistries_JJ-PS.pdf

Ignoring the facts is another problem. Unlike Canada who has a uniform criminal code, the United States has and should have criminal codes as the province of individual states. This fact was a major impediment to acceptance of the AWA, that should have been recognized as such, and taken into consideration when drafting the law.

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Imagine a world without 39 million adult survivors of sexual abuse. Imagine a world where laws actually create a more intelligently safe community. We believe it is absolutely possible with a change in how we approach this problem.

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THE SOLUTIONS

We have always been committed to working tenaciously to promote intelligent and effective solutions in the field of sex offender law and policy.

Silence is not an option

Part of the solution is to break out of the silence surrounding sexual violence. We need to be able to speak about it as we now do about Breast Cancer, HIV and AIDS. We also need to voice a demand of our lawmakers that they access relevant research before and during the drafting of sexual violence law.

Empirical data is THE option

The ALLY Foundation now has the unique opportunity to partner with The RAND Corporation. This highly respected international think- tank, whose mission is, “To help improve policy and decision making through research and analysis, will collaborate with us to develop the ALLY Institute at RAND. http://www.rand.org/about/glance.html

The ALLY Institute at RAND will be the first centralized resource in the nation dedicated to the implementation of evidence-based research to advance the prevention of sexual violence.

Currently, no organization provides this resource that makes this critical information easily available to lawmakers and the public.

The ALLY Institute at RAND is the platform that informs all other endeavors of the ALLY Foundation. With accurate information, we are able to develop a 360 degree view of the issue of sexual abuse.

Our work now is not only about Alexandra. It is about how her brutal death can help prevent others the anguish of sexual violence. The ALLY Foundation has opted to build something for the long term.

TRANSITION AND EVOLUTION

We are at a major turning point in our evolution.

To date our fabulous events have allowed us to create awareness of the sexual abuse and supported our research.

It is now time to link together the many accomplished advisors, practitioners, victims, supporters and like- minded organizations to become "the driver of the movement" to communicate the magnitude of sexual violence, the significance of evidence based research, and the need for the public to demand taking research into practice.

Our strategy is to create a centralized organization that will align evidence based research and programs with our ability to heighten awareness and greatly expand our ability to raise funds to support both research and public awareness.

We know there is low hanging fruit for significant improvement in the prevention of sexual violence and greater promise for our children and our communities.

More than anything, we need your continued support, you reaching out to those in your sphere of influence to turn this opportunity into a reality.

To open the doors of The ALLY Institute at RAND, we need to raise $300,000.

Please go to the home page now and make your critical contribution to our mission and its challange to make our communities safer.

THANK YOU

An enormous thank you is owed to those of you who have stood with us over the years, and I am pleased to welcome those who are new to our mission.

We have not been alone in our efforts, and its important to also acknowledge Alexandra's sister, Caroline and her brother Clark and their families, who have given great portions of their lives to this work so there will be hope for others.

A dear friend of Ally's wrote about her. "Ally was trying to save the world but I don't think she even knew it. I think she would be so honored and grateful that her life is making a lasting impression on others. Her legacy is such a clear representation of the woman she was. She will forever be remembered as strong, compassionate, fun and meaningful. She will forever be remembered as a woman trying to make a difference. In short, she will be remembered as ALLY."

Ally, the woman who wanted to make the world right will have her day and bring hope and accomplishment to the world by helping to end sexual violence.

Thank you for your time and intelligent consideration.

Andrea M. Casanova
Ending Sexual Violence through Science and Innovation

 

Ending Sexual Violence Through Science and Innovation
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