Gail Burns-Smith Award

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.

 picture of Gail Burns Smith

About the Award

Learn more about Gail Burns-Smith

About the Sponsors

Make a Nomination

Award Winners 

About the Award

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.


Picture of teardrop shaped award statuteOne award will be granted annually.  Award recipients will receive the following:


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.  


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About 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 U.S. 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.

About the Sponsors
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.
Make a Nomination

2017 nominations are due by February 28, 2017. To nominate a candidate for the Gail Burns-Smith Award:

  1. Submit a biographical sketch/resume of the nominee.
  2. Describe the personal and professional qualities that the nominee brings to their work or efforts and how they exemplify Gail’s efforts 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.
  3. Include at least two letters of support in addition to the nomination letter. At least one of the letters must come from an individual outside of the nominee's work place (e.g. agency, organization, department, institution, practice).
  4. Nominations must be submitted electronically to by February 28, 2017.

Please note: Current Board Members and Employees of ATSA and/or PCAR/NSVRC are not eligible for this award.

Decision and Presentation

Nominations will be reviewed by the ATSA Awards Committee and by the NSVRC selection committee. Recommendations will be forwarded to the NSVRC and the Board of Directors of ATSA, who vote on the award. The recipient will be informed in April and the award will be announced/presented at both the National Sexual Assault Conference sponsored by PCAR/NSVRC & CALCASA and the ATSA Annual Research and Treatment Conference.


Award Winners

2016 Award Winner Joan Tabachnick. Read press release.

Ms. 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 building evidence and capacity to prevent sexual assault on college campuses; as well as strengthening partnerships among federal agencies and with private partners. Tabachnick has also worked the last 10 years with 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.

Mrs. Recktenwald oversees the development and operation of the Kentucky Association of Sexual Assault programs; she provides a structure which promotes collaboration, support, and cooperation for the membership and for allied professionals and groups. Mrs. Recktenwald also administers KASAP funding including monitoring budget 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, Eileen 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 also were convicted sex offenders — was important.





2013 Award Winner Steve Bengis. Read press release.

Bengis is the Director and Co-Founder of the New England Adolescent Research Institute Inc., (NEARI) in Holyoke, Mass. 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 with those working with sex offenders. Thanks to his leadership, MASOC has two victim advocates among its board of directors.  


2012 Award Winner Lindsay Palmer. Read press release.Picture of Lindsay Palmer

Lindsay Palmer began serving as Director of Education for King County Sexual Assault Resource Center (KCSARC) in 1999.  She is responsible for developing and, with KCSARC prevention education specialists, implementing a full range of education and prevention programs for the community. The scope of her department including professional training, community development programs aimed at preventing sexual assault, and system change work with the sex offender management system at the local, county and state level.





2011 Award Winner Alison Hall.  Read press release.


Elizabeth Barnhill, Executive Director of the Iowa Coalition Against Sexual Assault, receives the Gail Burns-Smith Award

2010 Award Winner Elizabeth Barnhill.  Read press release.

Elizabeth Barnhill, Executive Director of the Iowa Coalition Against Sexual Assault, receives the Gail Burns-Smith Award (from Delilah Rumburg, Executive Director of PCAR, and Maia Christopher, Executive Director of ATSA, not pictured) during National Sexual Assault Conference, Sept. 1, 2010 at the Renaissance Hollywood Hotel in Los Angeles, Calif.




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