Our instructors are experts in the field of Victim Advocacy and most are credentialed advocates through the National Organization of Victim Assistance.
Leanne Graham, MA, CA – Victim Assistance Program
Leanne Graham, President & CEO of Victim Assistance Program, was named the successor of founding director, Dr. Robert Denton, in August of 2012. Leanne obtained a Bachelor's degree from Suffolk University in Sociology with a certificate in Criminology and Law after completing a Massachusetts Legislative Internship. Leanne then moved to Ohio, where she obtained her Master's in Justice Studies from Kent State University. Throughout her career, she worked with victims of all types of crimes and held numerous administrative positions with multiple victim service agencies. Leanne's experience allowed her to receive the highest victim advocate credentialing status, Comprehensive Crisis Intervention Specialist, from the National Accreditation Certification Program of the National Organization for Victim Assistance (NOVA.) Leanne continues to use knowledge and skills gained throughout her career to professionalize victim advocacy and to provide guidance to her employees while ensuring that the agency has all the resources needed to carry out its mission.
Dana Zedak, L.S.W., CA – Victim Assistance Program
Dana Zedak began her career amidst the anti-rape movement in 1988 while attending the University of Akron. Dana’s proficiency in both direct services for victims of trauma and administrative leadership roles across Northeast Ohio has allowed her to become a nationally credentialed advocate with advanced standing through the National Organization for Victim Assistance. Dana, a licensed social worker and an expert witness for prosecuting domestic violence offenders, was provided the Dr. Denton Outstanding Victim Service Award for her continued dedication to the victim service arena. Dana currently provides on and offsite training to victim advocates, student interns, first responders, and other professionals who encounter victims in their day to day work. She thrives on teaching others to become better crisis workers and she loves the idea of helping young professionals advance in their careers. Dana also values the emotional demand put on first responders and social workers and thrives on educating these helping professionals to prevent burn out, compassion fatigue, and most importantly, vicarious trauma. Dana, herself lives to help others inside and outside of the classroom. Dana recently received the status of a Senior Alpine Patroller with the National Ski Patrol after years of volunteering with this robust organization.
Larry Richard, CA – Victim Assistance Program
Larry Richard is a graduate of Kent State University where he obtained a Bachelor of Science degree. He moved to California in 1996 and worked for a few municipalities in various roles. His final stop was working with the City of Santa Cruz, CA where he retired as a Police Lieutenant in September 2014. He served as Commander for various special teams including the Peer Counseling Team and Emergency Services Unit-Hostage Negotiations Team. His partner and he were given one of the highest honors from Santa Cruz PD, which is the Lifesaving Award, for pulling an unconscious teenage girl from a van that was fully engulfed in flames. In addition, he was deemed a nation-wide expert on Gang Stalking. He moved back to his home in Ohio and joined the Victim Assistance Program family in October 2015 serving as the Intake advocate at the Harold Stubbs Justice Center. He soon later obtained his National Credential from NOVA in February 2016. Larry currently holds the position of Supervisor of Advocacy Services and sits on the Marsy’s Law implementation committee. This committee is charged with ensuring recent legislation amendments are being implemented appropriately across the state of Ohio.
Jan Apisa, CA – Victim Assistance Program
Ms. Apisa is currently the Director of Community Education, Victim Assistance Program in Akron, Ohio. Jan Apisa joined Victim Assistance Program as a Human Trafficking Public Education Specialist, under a grant from the Ohio Office of Criminal Justice Services. In this position, she was instrumental in: assisting the startup efforts of the Summit County Collaborative Against Human Trafficking (SCCAHT) and other collaboratives; increasing the public awareness of local sex and labor human trafficking; and coordinating a 3-month collaborative quantitative Backpage.com research project of sex trafficking in NE Ohio. In the recent past, she served as Executive Committee Chair of the SCCAHT. In addition, she assisted the Summit County Health District in creating a departmental-wide human trafficking policy. She is frequently asked to share her expertise and routinely conducts human trafficking (HT) educational programs for allied professionals and the community. Past HT trainings that she conducted, include but are not limited to: Homeland Security, ILO Officers; Cleveland Clinic Akron General Hospital; Western Reserve Hospital; the Northeast Ohio Regional Library System; Summit County Emergency Management; Community Legal Aid; First Responders; Parole Officers; Summit County School Counselors; Universities; Community Groups; and Schools. In addition to her expertise in human trafficking, she is well versed in all types of victimizations, crisis intervention and advocacy. In 2019, she became a certified instructor for the Bridges out of Poverty curriculum. She has a Bachelor of Science Degree from The University of Akron.
Alexandra Potter, CA, MA - Victim Assistance Program
Alexandra Potter currently serves as the Supervisor of Crisis Services with Victim Assistance Program, and ensures victims receiving crisis services via phone, online, or in person are provided with superior trauma informed services. Before assuming this role, Alexandra spent the first 5 years of her professional career as a victim advocate for various victim service agencies, including the Rape Crisis Center & Battered Women’s Shelter of Summit and Medina Counties and Victim Assistance Program. Alexandra has dedicated her career to fiercely advocating for accessible, trauma informed services for victims of crime in Summit County- most notably through co-founding the Summit County Sexual Assault Response Team and her vital role in establishing a Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner Unit (now known as The PATH Center at Cleveland Clinic-Akron General) in 2015. Her tireless work towards these efforts resulted in national recognition, where Alexandra was one of five individuals across the country presented with the Honored Victim Advocate Award through the National Organization for Victim Assistance in 2017. Alexandra holds a B.A. in both Psychology and Justice Studies and a M.A. in Criminology, all from Kent State University. Alexandra is a Credentialed Advocate with Intermediate Standing through the National Organization for Victim Assistance and a Registered Advocate with Advanced Standing through the Ohio Advocate Network.
Becky Cool - MSW, LSW, CA
Becky Cool currently serves as Supervisor of Community Services at Victim Assistance Program. In her role, she mentors and oversees Victim Assistance Program's robust internship program as well as overseeing the 3 victim advocate satellite offices in Akron, Barberton, and Stow municipal courts. Becky holds a Master's Degree in Social Work from the University of Akron. Additionally, she is a credentialed advocate through the National Organization for Victim Assistance and is a licensed Social Worker (LSW). Becky began her career at Battered Women's Shelter of Summit and Medina Counties, where she held several positions serving adults and children residing in emergency shelter. Becky has dedicated her career to advocating for the expansion of trauma-informed care and to providing exceptional victim services.
Crystal Baker, MA, RA - Summit County Prosecutor's Office
Crystal Baker has a Bachelor's Degree in Political Science/Criminal Justice and a Master's Degree in Justice Studies. She is a Registered Advocate with Senior Standing (RASS) and went through training to become a Volunteer CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate). Ms. Baker has worked in the field of victim advocacy for over fourteen years, formerly as Director of Services at Battered Women’s Shelter of Summit and Medina Counties. Currently, Crystal Baker is the Director of the Victim Services Division at the Summit County Prosecutor’s Office. Ms. Baker is a recognized expert on domestic violence and victims’ rights. She is the Chair of the Ohio Victim Witness Association Public Policy Committee. Ms. Baker served with a group of professionals dedicated to the development of the Ohio Crime Victim Justice Center’s Crime Victims’ Rights Toolkit. Ms. Baker is also a member of a state-wide group that drafted language implementation legislation for Marsy’s Law, a constitutional amendment that was passed in Ohio in November 2017 to ensure victims’ rights are protected and upheld.
Lt. Christopher White - Barberton Police Department
Lt. White is graduate of the University of Akron with a BA in Secondary Education and a Master of Public Administration degree and a graduate of the police academy. Additionally, he is a graduate of the Police Executive Leadership College and the Certified Law Enforcement Executive Program through the Law Enforcement Foundation of Ohio. He has been a police officer for over 21 years. During that time he has been a patrolman, patrol sergeant, and lieutenant, detective sergeant, a critical incident negotiator on the SWAT team. Lt. White is currently the patrol commander for the Barberton Police Department. He states that he became a police officer to help people and feels that it is a true privilege to have the opportunity to do so. His most beloved and rewarding role is that of being a father.
Dodie Sacia, CA, RA- Rape Crisis Center of Medina and Summit County
Dodie serves as the Court Watch Coordinator/Advocate for the Rape Crisis Center of Medina and Summit Counties. She has attended court hearings and trials since 2008 to offer free and confidential services to survivors of sexual violence she meets in court. As a Registered Advocate – Senior Standing with the Ohio Advocate Network, and an Advanced Advocate through the National Organization for Victim Assistance, she has volunteered over 17,000 hours with RCC. Dodie actively participates in the Summit County Sexual Assault Coalition as the secretary and served as a member of the planning committee for the annual Summit County Sexual Assault Symposium (2009-2015). She also is an active member of the Ohio Alliance to End Sexual Violence, Guardians Advocating Child Safety and Protection (GASP) and the Summit County Sexual Assault Response Team. Her awards include the “Visionary Voice Award” from the National Sexual Violence Resource Center and the “Model of Justice Award” from the Ohio Crime Victim Justice Center.
Mark J. Zemba - Attorney General's Office
Mark currently serves as an Assistant Attorney General in the Crime Victims Services Section of the Ohio Attorney General’s Office. While working his way through law school, Mark started his career in Ohio Attorney General’s Office in 1981 as an investigator in the Charitable Foundations Section. In 1983, Mark was requested to assist the Crime Victim Services Section as an investigator. In his tenure in the section from 1983 until 1997, Mark rose from investigator to – after graduating from law school and passing the bar exam - Assistant Chief and was Acting Chief for a period of time. In 2007, Mark was again contacted to once again assist the Crime Victims Services Section where he happily serves. Mark obtained his Bachelor of Arts degree from John Carroll University in 1979 and received his Juris Doctor degree from Capital University in 1984.
Rev. Sandra Selby, D.Min., MBA
Rev. Dr. Sandy Selby is Associate Pastor of Furnace Street Mission and Senior Community Chaplain of Tough Work Outreach, which serves people in crisis and those who work with them. She serves as an on-call chaplain at Akron Children’s Hospital and as Chaplain Associate at Akron General Medical Center. Her doctoral research was on addressing compassion fatigue in individuals who work with people who are in crisis. She received a B.A. in history from Bucknell University, an MBA from the Darden School at University of Virginia, and a Master of Divinity and Doctor of Ministry from Methodist Theological in Ohio. A graduate of Leadership Akron, Sandy received the Bernard Rosen Community Service Award from Victim Assistance and the Women of Achievement Award from Women’s Network of Northeast Ohio. She is a member of the Summit County Social Services Advisory Board, where she co-chairs the Health and Human Services Committee and is Chair of the Board of Visiting Nurse Service of Akron General Health System.
Tia Payne is Executive Director of Legacy 31 with 12 years of successful experience advocating on behalf of others who have experienced Intimate partner violence. Legacy 31 was founded to begin breaking the silence on intimate partner violence that happens in the faith community. Legacy 31’s mission is founded in the scripture Proverbs 31:25 “She is clothed in strength and dignity, and she laughs without fear of the future”. Tia released her first book “Reflections of a PK” breaking the silence on growing up with a father who was a Pastor but also an abuser. Tia is a strong believer that speaking louder and breaking the silence will begin to bring light to hidden issues of intimate partner violence.