RISE and Stand Strong align to form Lumina Alliance

Organization provides support for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault


Pictured are Lumina Alliance volunteers and employees at a Close to Home Event. Photo courtesy of Janae Sargent

Lumina Alliance, created from the recent merge of RISE and Stand Strong domestic violence organizations in July 2021, is working to create a safe and equitable community within SLO County. The organization addresses the prevalence of sexual and domestic violence as one in three women and one in six men are impacted by these issues. They offer many services that hope to aid those affected by sexual assault, rape, or domestic violence and educate people to prevent these issues and create change within the community. 

Lumina Alliance CEO Jennifer Adams has been a part of many efforts to aid women’s struggles, first working as a “beeper” volunteer on the crisis line for the women’s shelter in 1996. As a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, Adams has a passionate belief in helping others affected by sexual assault, rape, and domestic violence. Adams received support from a rape crisis line through counseling services, making her want to be a part of getting help to other victims in her later career at Stand Strong and RISE until the recent formation of Lumina Alliance.

“What we want to do is provide [those who have experienced sexual assault, rape, or domestic violence] with inspiration and hope that there is a healing path for them,” Adams stated.

“Lumina is the Latin derivative of light and we are shining a light on this issue, we are providing a shining light to survivors for their healing path. We’re an alliance because it can’t just be us to end this, we need the whole community’s involvement in ending gender-based violence.” 

Through innovative advocacy, healing, and prevention programs, Lumina Alliance hopes to empower those impacted by sexual abuse and intimate partner violence. Lumina Alliance provides therapy services, group counseling, emergency shelters, and transitional housing for those in need. These services are intersectional, offering services and programs to male and LGBTQ+ individuals who have experienced sexual and intimate partner violence. 

“Our whole prevention department goes out into the community into the schools, working to educate people about these issues and make a change,” Adams said. 

Pictured are members of the Lumina Alliance Prevention and Education Department.
Photo courtesy of Janae Sargent

Prevention and Education Manager, Janae Sargent, oversees the Lumina Alliance Prevention Department, the largest prevention program in California. The department works to stop violence before it happens by changing the social norms within our communities by offering sex education. 

“Lumina Alliance is dedicated to ending sexual and intimate partner violence in our community and we know that we can’t do that if our students are not getting quality sex education,” Sargent said.

Sargent stated that sex education is a necessary form of prevention ”to change the stigma … and view of individuals who have experienced sexual or intimate partner violence.”

Lumina Alliance has worked with many schools, including Arroyo Grande High School, providing a two-week sex education program. The program discusses puberty, sexual development, LGBTQ identities, STIs, birth control and protection, HIV, family planning, healthy and unhealthy relationships, consent, sexual assault, human trafficking, media literacy, and anti-bullying. They provide workshops on trauma-informed care, explaining trauma and how it manifests in survivors of sexual and intimate partner violence. These sex education programs are compliant with the California Healthy Youth Act providing students with medically accurate and empowering sexual health education. 

“People have a lot of misconceptions around sex education. People don’t want sex education to be taught often. And I get it, you know, people say these conversations should be had at home, but it’s not enough for someone to just get one conversation,” Sargent said. “Oftentimes when we get pushback from teachers or parents, and then we actually show them our curriculum, then they say, ‘I’m actually fine with my student doing this’… because it’s not bad. It’s not controversial. It’s scientifically based. It’s medically accurate.”

Sargent also oversees Lumina Alliance’s Coaching Boys Into Men program working with local high schools to educate young men about respect and healthy relationships. Another program, Redefine SLO, works to redefine the perception of sexual and intimate partner violence by opening up a new conversation to address the issues young men face within patriarchal social norms. Redefine SLO achieves this by acknowledging toxic masculinity causing young men to repress their feelings when faced with bullying, sexual assault, and violence in relationships.

Pictured are the Close to Home Youth Team volunteers organizing future events.   Photo courtesy of Arti Kathari

Additionally, Lumina Alliance has developed Close to Home, a county program where community members, both adults, and youth, work to make SLO a safer and more inclusive space. Close to Home hosts art shows at local businesses during “Action Months,” such as Sexual Assault Awareness Month, to start new conversations about social justice and gender-based violence. In February 2020, the “Sock Drawer” partnered with Close to Home and art classes at San Luis Obispo High School for an art show competition to open up a new dialogue about sexual and intimate partner violence. In addition, the youth team has published a healthy relationships Youth Art Zine available online in English and Spanish

Close to Home volunteers collecting responses to a community survey. Photo courtesy of Janae Sargent

Arti Kothari, the Education Program Coordinator of the Prevention Education, leading the Close to Home youth team, stresses the importance of listening to community members to make a change based on community needs. Close to Home youth and adult team volunteers are currently creating a community assessment survey and conducting interviews with community members to discuss experiences with gender-based violence to understand community needs. They will use their results to help inform their future actions to promote change within SLO County. 

Ultimately the importance of working with young people to create a culture that holds up mutual respect is Lumina Alliance’s main goal for the future. 

“Sometimes, the conversations are very frustrating. I’m not going to say they’re not, and I can get myself pretty worked up, depending on the setting and the exact topic….” Adams stated, “…but I care deeply about this. We all do here. We all have these conversations, and we just need to keep working to educate people and help them understand these issues in a different way.”