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Karla Altmayer

Healing to Action

Karla Altmayer is an activist, attorney, and community organizer working at the intersection of poverty, racial, health, and gender equity to address the root causes of gender-based violence. Raised on Chicago’s South Side by a single-mother from Mexico, Karla is driven by her family’s experience with poverty, violence, and incarceration to heal and build the power of survivors to transform individuals, neighborhoods, and broader communities towards ending gender-based violence.

As the co-founder and co-director of Healing to Action, Karla organizes with survivor leaders to achieve gender liberation in their communities. In her community organizing, she practices healing justice and emergent strategy to build the political power of survivor-leaders.  In addition to collaborating with survivor leaders, Karla leads the organization in developing and implementing strategies for individual donor fundraising, organizational finances, and communications.

Karla’s expertise is rooted in her work representing farmworkers in rural Illinois. Upon receiving an Equal Justice Works fellowship in 2012, Karla launched a new project at Legal Aid Chicago (formerly LAF Chicago) to represent farmworker women who experienced workplace sexual violence. As a fellow, she trained hundreds of attorneys, government officials, and community organizations across the Midwest. She also litigated federal and state employment law cases, and developed a trauma-informed, peer-support outreach model to build community around gender violence throughout the state, reaching over 800 workers in two years. Karla also co-founded the Coalition Against Workplace Sexual Violence (CAWSV), a collaboration among sexual assault advocates, attorneys, and labor organizers in Chicago, and co-authored its popular education curriculum and legal guide. Funded by the Department of Justice, she also co-authored and edited a curriculum to train anti-violence advocates across the country on working at the intersection of labor organizing and anti-violence. Karla also has significant expertise representing detained survivors in immigration removal proceedings as a former attorney with the National Immigrant Justice Center (NIJC), with expertise on victims of trafficking and gender-based violence.

Karla has trained, presented, and published on the intersection of gender-based violence and race, poverty, migration, and public health nationally and locally. News outlets like Univision, TIME Magazine, and Aljazeera, have quoted her. Karla has also been published in news outlets like the Chicago Sun-Times and Ms. Magazine. In 2017, the Medtronic Foundation named her a Bakken Invitation Honoree for her cutting-edge approach to combating gender-based violence. 

She is a graduate of Loyola University Chicago with dual degrees in Philosophy and Criminal Justice, and is a graduate of Northern Illinois University, College of Law. Karla is a native of Chicago, IL.

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