Visionary Voice Awards

The National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRC) Visionary Voice Awards are presented in conjunction with Sexual Assault Awareness Month in April. Every year, NSVRC invites state, territory, and tribal coalitions to nominate survivor activists, community partners, advocates, policy makers, and other outstanding individuals who have worked to end sexual violence. The Nebraska Coalition celebrates their nominee as Nebraska's Visionary Voice Award recipient. 

Award Recipients

OutNebraska (2024)

OutNebraska believes in a Nebraska that embraces and celebrates the full spectrum of LGBTQIA2S+ people. They are advocating for reform, connecting with local and state representatives, encouraging civic engagement and making investments for the betterment of our communities. At a time when LGBTQIA2S+ communities face disproportionate rates of sexual and domestic violence, OutNebraska is a leader working toward ending violence in our communities.

Example of their work includes:

  • Partnering with the Nebraska Coalition to provide a Learning Community training series to educate sexual and domestic violence programs.
  • Being an active and contributing member of the Coalition’s Sexual Violence Prevention Collective since its inception.
  • Advocating for statewide health standards curriculum that included comprehensive and inclusive sex education and sexual violence prevention. In addition, they have advocated for housing and public accommodations protections, voting and civic engagement, banning the “panic defense,” opposing the abortion ban, and debunking sexual violence myths around bathroom safety.
  • Building a community of support for LGBTQ+ youth and families across the state and offering a variety of spaces for folks to gather together. OutNebraska offers numerous learning opportunities for churches, campuses, and communities to learn more about LGBTQ+ issues, violence. They are laying the groundwork for community mobilization through education and awareness with a strong lens towards equity.

Candias (Candi) Jones (2023)

Candi Jones uses her voice to support the healing of others. She shares her perspective as a survivor of sexual trauma and domestic violence to offer guidance around how to prevent sexual violence and promote healing for survivors. Jones continuously elevates the voices of Black and Brown communities to create effective and culturally specific strategies that support statewide anti-violence work. Jones created Coaching with Candi, LLC, to support survivors of trauma, offer personalized life coaching, and guide organizations on how to engage the communities they serve. A skilled keynote speaker and leader, she brings her real, lived experiences into every space, using storytelling to promote change.

In addition to her coaching practice, Jones serves as the Executive President of Human Resources at Community Health Development Partners, an organization focused on providing equitable access to healthcare and wellness services. In this position, Jones offers HR leadership and develops racial equity initiatives. 

Jones offers grace to everyone she meets. She promotes accountability by calling in those who have caused harm, especially to Black and Brown survivors, and inspires them to do better. Jones strives to improve how society proactively responds victims of rape, sexual violence, and domestic violence. We are honored to nominate her for this award. 

Kirby Williams (2022)

Kirby Williams is an enrolled citizen of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma. She holds master’s and bachelor’s degrees in Clinical Psychology from Missouri State University. Since 2014, she has worked in her professional and personal life to raise awareness and promote prevention of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, human trafficking, and stalking. She currently focuses the majority of her work on serving Native American survivors of these crimes. Kirby has conducted numerous trainings addressing violence dynamics, including for the Missouri Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner Training (SANE), Nebraska State Patrol, the Nebraska Victim Assistance Academy (NEVAA), the Mayor of Omaha’s Native American Advisory Board, and other agencies and organizations throughout the United States. She is a Class 5 graduate fellow of the National Human Trafficking Leadership Academy (HTLA), in which she and 11 other Indigenous fellows addressed how culture can be used as a protective factor in the trafficking of all Indigenous youth. For her work in violence prevention, she was named an inaugural recipient of the Cherokee Phoenix’s Seven Feathers Award. 

In addition to her understanding of violence against Native Americans, she has a background of knowledge and training in psychological diagnostics, statistical analysis, the impact of trauma from a physical and psychological perspective, healing from a culturally relevant perspective, and yoga teaching. She currently serves on the board for the Nebraska Commission on Indian Affairs (NCIA). 

Suzannah Rogan (2021)

Suzannah Rogan (she/her) is the Director of the Campus Advocacy, Prevention, and Education (CAPE) Project and a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Specialist at Doane University. Suzannah holds a Master of Science in Gender, Media and Culture from the London School of Economics and Political Science, where she focused on Masculinities Studies and Violence, to better influence her work engaging men in violence prevention. As the CAPE Project Director, Suzannah has been instrumental in leading violence prevention efforts across Doane University’s three campuses. Her work has been successful due to the rigorous training program for, and the subsequent work of, her peer educators, an influential group of students creating and implementing prevention programs.In November 2020, Suzannah completed the Executive Program in Leadership Strategy for Violence and Abuse Prevention at the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Social Policy and Practice, the Ortner Center on Violence & Abuse, and the Center for Social Impact Strategy.

Sydney Brun-Ozuna (2020)

Sydney is a student at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL) studying journalism and an opinion columnist at The Daily Nebraskan. She is also a member of Dear UNL, a diverse group of undergraduate and graduate students, alumni, faculty, and staff seeking systemic and cultural reform of the Title IX Office. Sydney has been an integral member, bringing accountability, transparency, and a trauma-informed approach to UNL’s Title IX administration. Sydney has bravely used her experience of sexual assault and institutional betrayal as a way to change a broken system for other students. In an opinion piece, Sydney writes, “Too often, institutions minimize victims’ and survivors’ pain, marginalize their voices and use bureaucratic measures to deny them the justice they deserve. The University of Nebraska-Lincoln denied me justice…my greatest hope is that others will not have to go through what I went through. We cannot allow this to continue.” Sydney embodies the definition of the Visionary Voice Award as she has worked tirelessly, in conjunction with Dear UNL, to make campus safer and to end sexual violence.

Christine Torres (2019)

Christine Torres is the Cuming County/Spanish Speaking Services Coordinator at The Bridge, a sexual assault/domestic violence program in Nebraska. She is fluent in Spanish and Portuguese and works with battered immigrant victims/survivors and their children in all five counties. In her role, she works with some of the most vulnerable victims, including undocumented immigrant victims of sexual violence, both adults and children. In many cases, the victim does not speak English or have legal status in the United States, and therefore the barriers to seeking help through an advocate or the criminal justice system are far greater. Torres serves as a guide to her clients in navigating a complex system in another language, as well as a source of comfort, referrals for legal and medical assistance, and support. Torres continuously seeks to improve her knowledge and skills in order to better serve her clients, and she is always seeking out new training opportunities.

Shir Smith (2018)

Shirlene “Shir” Smith is an Incarcerated Victim Advocate for The Rape and Domestic Abuse Program (R/DAP). Incarcerated survivors are often overlooked or dismissed by the community and frequently do not get the help and support they need. She emphasizes the personhood and individuality of incarcerated individuals, and encourages the system to do the same. Her passion and commitment to survivors is obvious in the spark you see when she talks about her work. She is recognized as non-judgmental and accepting; she incorporates her own life experiences into her work, offering herself to her clients in the most genuine way. Survivors’ comments about Shir have common themes: “Shir keeps it real”; “Shir is amazing”; “[The class] has helped me realize I am worthy. I didn’t deserve to be treated that way. I am starting to feel my self-worth.” In addition to her work at R/DAP, Shir belongs to The Salvation Army and volunteers for the Prison Inmate Ministries.

Lindsey Spaulding (2017)

Lindsay Spaulding is a victim’s advocate at Voices of Hope in Lincoln, NE, where she has worked since August, 2015. Spaulding currently holds the positions of Campus Advocate, Rural Advocate, and Prevention Advocate. In her role as Campus Advocate for Nebraska Wesleyan University, she provides advocacy for victims of sexual assault on campus and provides training and education to students, faculty, and staff. In her role as Rural Advocate, Spaulding provides advocacy and support to rural victims and survivors and acts as a liaison with rural churches, rural community leaders, and the Lancaster County Sheriff’s Office. In her role as Prevention Advocate, Spaulding works specifically with Middle Schools in Lancaster County, Nebraska. She collaborates with middle school staff and faculty to address their needs relating to sexual assault, dating violence, stalking, sexual harassment, and family violence. Social Change and efforts to end violence and all forms of oppression have been a constant focus and passion of Spaulding’s.

Though she is relatively new to her agency, Spaulding has already implemented WAVE (Wesleyan Advocates for Violence Education), a student activist group at Nebraska Wesleyan University where she is the Campus Advocate.

Jamie Manzer (2016)

Jamie Manzer is Executive Director of the Spouse Abuse Sexual Assault (SASA) Crisis Center, a rural program providing services to survivors of sexual violence, domestic violence, dating violence, stalking, and human trafficking. As an executive director of a rural program, Jamie fills many roles, from administrator and grant manager to supervisor to victim advocate. As an administrator, Jamie has made sexual assault services a priority. She continues to find innovative ways to use available funds to expand or implement services for sexual assault survivors in her service area. She understands the importance of implementing sexual violence prevention efforts in her community and has made this a priority for her program as well. Jamie provides mentoring and role modeling as well as opportunities for reflection, ensuring that advocates feel challenged yet supported and have opportunities to grow. Providing this kind of guidance and support to staff is important to ensure advocates are providing competent and appropriate services to survivors.

Finally, Jamie has made great efforts to implement trauma-informed principles at every level of her agency. Not only does she emphasize advocate self-care, but she also emphasizes the importance of addressing the holistic needs of survivors, including their physical and mental health needs. With this in mind, Jamie has expanded services and forged collaborations in her community in order to provide more comprehensive services to survivors. When providing direct services, Jamie does not hesitate to give her full attention and energy to every survivor, no matter how complex their needs. When a survivor’s needs exceed what the agency can provide, Jamie seeks out and provides referrals, but she also then works to improve her program’s capacity to meet those needs in the future.

Jamie is the Executive Director for SASA Crisis Center in Hastings, NE. Prior to joining SASA in 2013, Jamie was the Program Manager for a community-based care agency in Key West, FL, specializing in child abuse prevention, domestic violence, missing children, and human sex trafficking. Jamie holds a BA in Anthropology with an emphasis on Social Policy and an MA in Public Policy with concentrations in Economics and Public Management.

Robin Phipps (2015)

Robin Phipps has an intense passion for safety and violence prevention and has always remained active in her community. As a sister, mother, grandmother, and friend, she has been personally affected by interpersonal violence and strives to help others address these issues through intervention, prevention, and education. 

Robin currently works in Kearney, NE as the Education and Prevention Coordinator at The S.A.F.E. Center. In addition to her prevention work, Robin runs her own landscaping business and volunteers for the Merryman Performing Arts Center and other organizations in the community. 

The DOVES Program (2014)

The DOVES Program is a dual domestic violence and sexual assault program in rural northwestern Nebraska and is celebrating 35 years of service. The organization serves a nine-county area. In an area with limited community resources, it has been creative in its approach to services and community partnerships. DOVES provides immediate, ongoing, and long-term support for primary and secondary victims of sexual and domestic violence, dating violence, and stalking. Hilary Wasserburger is the current Executive Director and has worked at DOVES for more than 10 years.

Cari Emerson (2013)

Cari joined Hope Crisis Center in Fairbury, Nebraska, in 2007. She began as a Victim Advocate, serving victims of domestic violence and sexual assault. Since assuming her role as Sexual Assault Advocate in 2010, Cari has enhanced services for sexual assault victims in her agency and within the community. She has made strides in the development of collaborations in her community and provides holistic individual advocacy and support to victims. Prior to joining Hope Crisis Center, Cari gained experience as a Criminal Justice Advocate with the S.A.F.E. Center in Kearney, Nebraska, and then as an Integrated Care Coordinator at Region V Systems in Nebraska.

Marla C. Sohl (2012)

From 2004 to 2006, Marla served as the Sexual Violence Program Coordinator for NDVSAC. From 2006 to the present, she has been the Sexual Assault Services Coordinator for Voices of Hope, a local domestic violence and sexual assault program. With Voices of Hope, her primary projects have included direct services with survivors, outreach to campus communities, Sexual Assault Response Team (SART) initiatives, systems advocacy, awareness events, prevention activities, and the training of other organizations.

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