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 and Prevention of Sexual Abuse (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 focused 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.
2017 Award Winner Patty Wetterling. Read press release.
Patty Wetterling is the co-founder of the Jacob Wetterling Resource Center, along with her husband Jerry, after their 11-year-old son Jacob was abducted in 1989. The Jacob Wetterling Resource Center provides services to families of missing children and support for prevention programming throughout the state of Minnesota. In addition, Wetterling co-founded Team H.O.P.E., a volunteer group that provides support and resources for families with missing or exploited children. She has also served in leadership roles with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and served as the Director of Sexual Violence Prevention for the Minnesota Department of Health until she retired in 2015.
2016 Award Winner Joan Tabachnick. Read press release.
Joan Tabachnik is a nationally recognized expert in child sexual abuse prevention, celebrated author of award-winning educational materials, and DOJ Fellow. Recently, her Fellowship with the DOJ’s SMART Office has contributed to significant resources being committed to preventing sexual assault on college campuses and strengthening partnerships among federal agencies and with private partners. Tabachnick has also worked the last 10 years with the New England Adolescent Research Institute Inc. (NEARI) Press in Holyoke, MA, providing webinars, books, monthly newsletters, and other resources to professionals working with adult sex offenders and adolescents who have sexually abused or children with sexual behavior problems.
2014 Award Winner Eileen Recktenwald. Read press release.
Eileen Recktenwald oversees the development and operation of the Kentucky Association of Sexual Assault programs (KASAP). She provides a structure that promotes collaboration, support, and cooperation for the membership and for allied professionals and groups. Recktenwald also administers KASAP funding including budget monitoring and long-range financial planning. Under Recktenwald’s guidance, Kentucky established the State Prevention Team that created a statewide sexual violence plan. When the Prison Rape Elimination Act passed in Kentucky, Recktenwald served on committees, testified in front of legislators, provided extensive trainings on sexual assault in prisons, and convinced 13 of the state’s rape crisis centers that working with inmates who have been victimized — many of whom were also convicted sex offenders — was important.
2013 Award Winner Steve Bengis. Read press release.
Steve Bengis is the Director and Co-Founder of the New England Adolescent Research Institute Inc., (NEARI) in Holyoke, MA. NEARI offers books and online courses to professionals working with sexual assault victims and/or sex offenders. In addition to Bengis’ work with NEARI, he also is the President of the Massachusetts Adolescent Sex Offender Coalition (MASOC). Through his work with MASOC’s conferences, Bengis has helped bridge the divide between individuals working with sexual assault victims/survivors with those working with sex offenders. Thanks to his leadership, MASOC has two victim advocates on its board of directors.
2012 Award Winner Lindsay Palmer. Read press release.
Lindsay Palmer began serving as Director of Education for King County Sexual Assault Resource Center (KCSARC) in 1999. She is responsible for developing and implementing a full range of community education and prevention programs with KCSARC prevention education specialists. The scope of Palmer's department including professional training, community development programs aimed at preventing sexual assault, and systems change work with the sex offender management system at the local, county, and state level.
2011 Award Winner Alison Hall. Read press release.
Alison Hall, Executive Director of Pittsburgh Action Against Rape (PAAR), has been with PAAR since 2004, where she continues to build effective partnerships. Hall's accomplishments include establishing the Allegheny County Sex Offender Management and Containment Program (SOMAC) and being the driving force behind Pennsylvania's first sex offender specialty court.
2010 Award Winner Elizabeth Barnhill. Read press release.
Elizabeth Barnhill has been the Executive Director of the Iowa Coalition Against Sexual Assault for over 20 years. She also serves on numerous state boards and committees related to victim advocacy and sex offender management. Barnhill is a founding member of the Iowa Board for the Treatment of Sexual Abusers and provides leadership for the National Sexual Assault Coalition Resource Sharing Project. She is also a past president and founding member of the National Alliance to End Sexual Violence.