Gooditis Holds Child Abuse Roundtable with Experts, Legislators

Loudon Times • April 3rd, 2019

By Patrick Szabo

It’s National Child Abuse Prevention Month and Del. Wendy Gooditis (D-10) put the spotlight on the difficult topic during a policy roundtable Tuesday night at the Leesburg Town Hall.

Eleven child abuse experts from the county, state and other organizations participated in the forum, which focused on child abuse prevention and responses and aimed to give lawmakers recommendations to better protect children, along with state Sen. Jennifer Boysko (D-10), Del. Karrie Delaney (D-67) and Del. Kathleen Murphy (D-34) also participated in the conversation.

Better training and more access to affordable childcare services were two issues raised frequently during the discussion.

Buta Biberaj, a Leesburg attorney who is running for commonwealth’s attorney, pointed out that many cases of sexual abuse involve individuals that children trust, and not necessarily strangers.

John Walker, the Loudoun County Public School System’s director of Student Support Services, said that kids are more vulnerable to sexual abuse today because of their access to social media. He said it was important for school personnel to connect with parents and help to make kids comfortable when reporting sexual abuse.

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Gooditis to Introduce Four Bills to Combat Child Abuse

Winchester Star • January 5th, 2019

By Josh Janney

WINCHESTER — Del. Wendy Gooditis, D-Clarke County, said she will introduce legislation to combat child sexual abuse when the 2019 General Assembly legislative session begins Wednesday.

During a press conference in Leesburg on Friday, Gooditis said she will introduce four bills that would:

• expand the definition of sexual abuse,

• require the clergy to report suspected abuse,

• retain records of complaints about child sexual abuse for a longer period of time,

• enforce a harsher penalty for those who commit domestic violence in the presence of a minor.

Gooditis said her brother, at the age of 11, was raped multiple times by the leader of a children’s activity. Her brother later attempted suicide multiple times, and suffered from PTSD and alcoholism. He was found dead in March 2017, shortly after she announced her candidacy for the House of Delegates. Gooditis hopes to protect other children from a similar fate.

“My grief and loss have created an energy in me,” Gooditis said. “I couldn’t help my brother. I couldn’t fix it for him. If I can do anything to save that one child from being abused right now ... then I will do it.”

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Truman Braslaw
Del. Gooditis Announces 4 Bills Aimed at Combatting Child Abuse

Loudoun Now • January 4th, 2019

By Patrick Szabo

Less than a week ahead of the 2019 Virginia General Assembly, Del. Wendy Gooditis (D-10) is striving to tighten Virginia’s laws to protect children from sexual abuse.

Gooditis today announced a slate of four bills aimed to combat child abuse that she’s filed ahead of this year’s General Assembly session, which begins Wednesday. Those bills would change Virginia’s definition of child sexual abuse, make clergy of all religious denominations mandated reporters of child abuse, maintain records of child abuse investigations for three years and penalize those who expose children to domestic violence.

“If I can do anything to save that one child who is being abused right now…then I will do it,” Gooditis said.

Alongside Gooditis in the Leesburg Town Council chambers were Commonwealth’s Attorney Jim Plowman; Loudoun County Chairwoman Phyllis Randall (D-At Large); Leesburg Mayor Kelly Burk; Judy Hanley, the executive director of the Loudoun Abused Women’s Shelter and the director of the Loudoun Child Advocacy Center; and Ian Danielsen, an assistant professor of social work at Longwood University.

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Truman Braslaw
Del. Gooditis Announces Bills to Fight Child Abuse

Loudoun Times-Mirror • January 4th, 2019

By Veronike Collazo

State Del. Wendy Gooditis (D-10th) on Friday announced four pieces of legislation aimed at combating child abuse, specifically sexual abuse.

During a press conference in Leesburg, Gooditis shared that her brother developed PTSD after being sexually abused as a child by the leader of an after-school activity.

The lawmaker's brother died in 2017 days after she announced her House of Delegates candidacy, and now Gooditis said she wants to make sure what happened to him doesn’t happen to anyone else.

“My grief and loss have created an energy in me,” Gooditis said. “... I couldn’t help my brother. I couldn’t fix it for him. If I can do anything to save that one child who is being abused right now, with the help of the people in this you and all of you watching, then I will do it.”

Longwood University Assistant Professor of Social Work Ian Danielsen commended Gooditis and her team for doing research and speaking with stakeholders to find the gaps in the system and propose bills to better help child abuse victims.

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Truman Braslaw
Gooditis Outlines Legislative Priorities in 2019

Winchester Star • November 30th, 2018

By Onofrio Castiglia

WINCHESTER — Renewable energy, farmland preservation, and a broader statutory definition of sex abuse are among Del. Wendy Gooditis’ legislative priorities for the upcoming General Assembly session, she said on Wednesday.

The 2019 legislative session convenes on Jan. 9 in Richmond for 45 days.

Entering her second year as a legislator, Gooditis, D-Clarke County, said she’s also concerned with appropriations for Interstate 81, political support for renewable energy, rural broadband, and legalizing testing strips for Fentanyl, a powerful opioid narcotic.

The definition of sex abuse in the Code of Virginia does not sufficiently protect children under 13 who are in effect “groomed” for sex by psychologically abusive predators, Gooditis said. She plans to sponsor a bill that would change the statutory definition requiring that abuse entail touching “intimate parts” to instead cover any part of the victim’s body. Prosecutors would still have to prove sexual intent, Gooditis said, but they would have a broader definition of abuse.

For example, Gooditis said, as the law stands a kiss must involve the tongue to be considered sex abuse. “It shouldn’t be,” she said. Unwanted or inappropriate kissing or touching should be a crime regardless of what body parts are involved.

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Truman Braslaw
Looking for Solutions to Rising Suicide Rate Among Virginia Women

WVTF • July 20th, 2018

By Michael Pope

Suicide rates are on the rise in Virginia, especially among women.Lawmakers are trying to figure out ways to reverse the trend. Since 2010, the suicide rate among women in Virginia has increased 24 percent.

Freddy Mejia at the Commonwealth Institute says a number of factors may have contributed. “Making sure that mental health is accessible to this population is crucial. We also know that increased access to lethal means, such as illicit and prescription drugs as well as firearms, may have contributed to this rise.”

Earlier this year, Delegate Wendy Gooditis, a Democrat from Northern Virginia, introduced a bill that requires the state to issue an annual report to lawmakers about suicide prevention. “My family was horrifically affected by the loss of my brother this year following a couple of years of suicide attempts, so in my personal and professional opinion anything we can do to spread the word and help these people is really important.”

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Truman Braslaw
Op-Ed: Redistricting in Virginia remains partisan

Loudoun Times-Mirror • May 9th, 2018

By Wendy Gooditis

A decade is a long time. Enough to cover five Olympic games, two presidential elections and 10 county fairs. That’s how long the new congressional and state house districts will last when the General Assembly redraws them following the 2020 census. Virginia’s leaders have taken steps to make sure the process is fair, but we must do more. We must enact clear prohibitions against gerrymandering: the practice of drawing political boundaries to favor one particular candidate or political party, or to minimize the voices of minority communities. In addition, we should consider other, fairer processes used by states around the country.

Delegate Chris Jones (R-Suffolk) introduced HB 1598 this year, a bill that requires districts to be compact, contiguous, and respectful of existing communities. I voted for HB 1598 because it is a step in the right direction. The bill does not, however, prohibit partisan gerrymandering. In fact, the House of Delegates missed an opportunity to enact just such a prohibition in April. Gov. Ralph Northam (D) suggested amendments to HB 1598 that would have stopped legislators from drawing lines “for the purpose of favoring or disfavoring any political party” or “to restrict or deny the ability of any racial or language minority to participate in the political process.” Sadly, these amendments were not approved by the House.

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Truman Braslaw
New Law Puts Focus on Suicide-Prevention Efforts in Virginia

AP • April 5th, 2018

By Scott Malone

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — As suicides have risen in Virginia - including a 29 percent increase among children in 2016 - Gov. Ralph Northam has signed legislation calling on state officials to report how they are addressing the problem.

House Bill 569, introduced by Del. Wendy Gooditis, D-Clarke, requires the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services to report annually its progress and activities on suicide prevention. The report will go to the governor and General Assembly.

The bill is of special significance to Gooditis, who was elected in November to represent the 10th House District, which includes parts of Clarke, Frederick and Loudoun counties. During the first two weeks of her candidacy, Gooditis lost her brother to alcoholism and post-traumatic stress disorder.

"He had a number of suicide attempts. It was part of the reason I was running in the first place. I found him dead two weeks after I announced my candidacy," Gooditis said. "At that point, I don't think anyone would've penalized me for quitting. But I had met so many who needed help, I couldn't quit. I had to run and try to get the seat to try to speak for people who need someone to speak for them."

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Truman Braslaw