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Gail Burns-Smith Award

"Gail Burns-Smith Award Honoring Innovative Approaches to Prevention, Nominations Due: June 1, 2024" Animated graphic of three people putting puzzle pieces of a house together. NSVRC and ATSA logos on the bottom.

The Gail Burns-Smith Award recognizes people who have made groundbreaking contributions to preventing sexual violence by bridging the areas of survivor work and those who have caused sexual harm. This award honors those who are creatively and inspirationally doing this much-needed work, and we strongly encourage students and those who are new to the field to apply.

"Gail Burns-Smith Award Honoring Innovative Approaches to Prevention, Nominations Due: June 1, 2024" Animated graphic of three people putting puzzle pieces of a house together. NSVRC and ATSA logos on the bottom.


About the Award

Learn More About Gail Burns-Smith

About the Sponsors

Make a Nomination

Award Winners

About the Award

The Gail Burns-Smith Award recognizes individuals who understand that eliminating sexual violence requires collaboration across the spectrum of prevention and forward-thinking leadership. Individuals eligible for this award will have demonstrated achievements in connecting the fields of survivor advocacy with the field of sexual abuse perpetration prevention and treatment.

New in 2024, NSVRC and ATSA are proud to offer this award to two individuals, one who primarily provides services to those who have been sexually harmed, and another to an individual who provides treatment or does research in the area of treatment or prevention of sexual harm.

Each individual will have demonstrated success in collaborating across the prevention continuum and with their counterparts in survivor or treatment services.

Named in honor of Gail Burns-Smith — a visionary woman who expanded the thinking and actions of two previously disconnected groups of professionals — this award is intended to ensure this important collaboration is continued and expanded by other forward-thinking leaders. The award is jointly sponsored by the Association for the Treatment & 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.

One award will be granted annually to practitioners from each of the two fields of work. Award recipients will receive the following:

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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 became the national model for such programs, and Gail provided the vision and 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. From 1982 to her retirement in 2004, she was the Executive Director of Connecticut Sexual Assault Crisis Services (now the Connecticut Alliance to End Sexual Violence), where she grew the organization from just herself to a staff of 23. Her accomplishments in Connecticut and nationally over 20 years are incredible.

Her public policy advocacy on behalf of victims resulted in Connecticut:
  1. passing anti-stalking laws,

  2. designating Marriage License Surcharge toward funding local centers, and

  3. requiring mandatory sexual harassment training for all supervisors at workplaces with 50 or more employees.

She worked tirelessly to ensure everyone had access to services they needed. Gail ensured 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 (NAESV), which focuses on public policy advocacy. NAESV was instrumental in securing passage of the U.S. National Violence Against Women Act and 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 & Prevention of Sexual Abuse 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.

2024 Nominations

2024 nominations are due by June 1, 2024. 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 the nominee brings to their work or efforts and how they exemplify efforts to facilitate effective partnerships between advocates working on behalf of victims/survivors and those working in the area of management and treatment of those who cause harm.
  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 the nominee's workplace (e.g. agency, organization, department, institution, practice).

Nominations must be submitted electronically to by June 1, 2024.

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 the NSVRC selection committee. Recommendations will be forwarded to 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 and the ATSA Annual Research and Treatment Conference.


Award Winners


JAC Patrissi portrait

JAC Patrissi
2023 Award Winner

JAC Patrissi is the principal and founder of the nonprofit organization, Growing A New Heart, and is also the co-founder of A Call For Change, the nation's first confidential  helpline dedicated to fostering change for people using the tools of dominance and abuse in their intimate partnerships. She is the author of the intervention’s framework. Working among anti-racist, transformative peacemakers for 34 years, JAC‘s heart is filled with the vision of our field co-creating ways of living in community that move us beyond containment and punishment and center compassionate accountability

kim alaburda's portrait

Kim Alaburda
2022 Award Winner

Kim has been Executive Director of the New Mexico Coalition of Sexual Assault Programs (NMCSAP) for a combined total of over 34 years.  She is revered throughout the state for her visionary, brilliant, kind, dedicated, and considerate leadership in a relentless pursuit to end sexual violence.  She brings a highly sophisticated and collaborative approach to her work that has always integrated services for those who have been abused, those who have abused, and anyone impacted by sexual violence, including service providers.  Her expertise includes successful community and statewide program and policy development and implementation, community collaboration, professional training, and fiscal and contract management.

David D'Amora

David D'Amora
2020 Award Winner

David D'Amora is currently a Senior Policy Advisory with the Council of State Governments Justice Center. He is known for building relationships between criminal justice agencies, treatment providers, and victim advocates. David worked alongside Gail Burns-Smith to create the country's first community-based management model that combined victim advocacy and perpetrator treatment.

David Fowers
2019 Award Winner

David Fowers is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker based in Utah. He helped create the Network on Juveniles Offending Sexually and was instrumental in developing an assessment tool for juvenile offenders. Fowers also helped organize an annual, statewide training conference for sexual assault treatment providers in order to ensure that those providing services for victims and offenders can work and train together.

Joann Schladale 
2018 Award Winner

Joann Schladale is the founder and Executive Director of Resources for Resolving Violence, a mental health agency that provides in-home, trauma-informed services. She facilitates trainings for therapists, law enforcement officers, advocates, and other professionals on topics including intra-familial sex offenders and youth with sexual behavior problems. In addition, Schladale has authored numerous book chapters, articles, and publications on trauma-informed approaches for sexual health and violence prevention. She teaches courses nationwide on preventing violence, sexual abuse, and teen pregnancy.

Patty Wetterling
2017 Award Winner

Patty Wetterling co-founded the Jacob Wetterling Resource Center with her husband Jerry after their 11-year-old son Jacob was abducted in 1989. The resource center serves families of missing children and supports prevention programming in Minnesota. Wetterling also co-founded Team H.O.P.E., a volunteer group that provides support and resources for families with missing or exploited children. She 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. 

Joan Tabachnick 
2016 Winner

Joan Tabachnik is a nationally recognized expert in child sexual abuse prevention, celebrated author of award-winning educational materials, and DOJ Fellow. Her fellowship with the DOJ’s SMART Office 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 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.

Eileen Recktenwald 
2014 Winner

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.

Steve Bengis
2013 Winner

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. 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 survivors with those working with sex offenders. Thanks to his leadership, MASOC has two victim advocates on its board of directors.  

Lindsay Palmer
2012 Winner

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 KCSAC 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.

Alison Hall
2011 Winner

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. 

Elizabeth Barnhill
2010 Winner

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.  

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"Gail Burns-Smith Award Honoring Innovative Approaches to Prevention, Nominations Due: June 1, 2024" Animated graphic of three people putting puzzle pieces of a house together. NSVRC and ATSA logos on the bottom.