The Gail Burns-Smith Award recognizes people who have made significant contributions to preventing sexual violence through their work to facilitate effective partnerships between advocates working on behalf of victims and survivors and those working in the area of sex offender management and treatment. This award, named in honor of Gail Burns-Smith, a visionary woman who expanded the thinking and actions of two previously disconnected groups of professionals, is intended to ensure that this important collaboration is continued and expanded by other forward-thinking leaders. The award is jointly sponsored by the Association for the Treatment of Sexual Abusers (ATSA) and the National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRC), two organizations with similar missions and goals; honored to carry on the mission and vision of Gail Burns-Smith.
Gail Burns-Smith (1946-2009):
In 1996 Gail Burns-Smith partnered with the Center for Treatment of Problem Sexual Behavior, creating the first Victim Advocate Program for sex offender treatment. The Victim Advocate in this program is dedicated to 1) working with the intensive sex offender probation unit to initiate and maintain contact with victims and their families, and 2) working to ensure a victim centered approach to sex offender treatment/probation decision-making. This innovative program then became the national model for such programs and Gail provided the vision and the support to make this unique collaboration possible.
Early in her career, Gail was a head nurse and the in-service educator of Nursing Staff at Hartford Hospital. By 1982 to her retirement in 2004, she was the Executive Director of Connecticut Sexual Assault Crisis Services (CONNSACS), where she grew the organization from a staff of just herself to twenty-three. Her accomplishments in Connecticut and nationally over 20 years are incredible.
In Connecticut, her public policy advocacy on behalf of victims resulted in Connecticut 1) passing Anti-Stalking Laws, 2) designating Marriage License Surcharge toward funding CONNSACS member centers, and 3) requiring Mandatory Sexual Harassment training for all supervisors of employers with 50 or more employees. She worked tirelessly to ensure that everyone had access to services they need. Gail ensured that the needs of Spanish speaking victims were met, by implementing a statewide Spanish hotline, one of only two in the country. At the same time, she secured funding to hire bilingual/bicultural Spanish-speaking advocates at six sexual assault crisis centers in the state. To meet the needs of deaf and hearing impaired victims, Gail acquired funding in 1997 to provide TTY machines for each of the sexual assault crisis centers.
Nationally, Gail co-founded the National Alliance to End Sexual Violence, which focuses on public policy advocacy. The Alliance was instrumental in securing passage of the National Violence Against Women Act and the related funding of programs for services to victims of sexual assault and other violence. She was a founding Advisory Council member for the National Sexual Violence Resource Center from 1999-2004.
The Association for the Treatment of Sexual Abusers (ATSA) is an international, multi-disciplinary organization dedicated to preventing sexual abuse. Through research, education, and shared learning ATSA promotes evidence based practice, public policy and community strategies that lead to the effective assessment, treatment and management of individuals who have sexually abused or are at risk to abuse.
The National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRC) was founded by the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape with funding from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Division of Violence Prevention. It serves as an information hub related to all aspects of sexual violence and its prevention, especially designed to support victim advocates, prevention initiatives, and community-based programs. NSVRC provides training and technical assistance, disseminates materials, and coordinates national prevention campaigns.