Friday, December 2, 2016

Developing a Prevention Perspective: Discussing the work of Joan Tabachnick

Prior to 2009, many of us working in the field of sex offender research and treatment never considered our work as “prevention” work. In 2010 ATSA and the National Sexual Violence Resource Center joined together to present an award that 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 prestigious award is in honor of Gail Burns-Smith who was a radical idealist, who believed we could have a world free of sexual violence. 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. While Gail has a storied passion demonstrated throughout her career, she always wanted others to continue her work, knowing that it would take all of us working together to fulfill her vision.

It is with great honor as a colleague, friend and champion in the challenge to prevent sexual violence that I introduce Joan Tabachnick as the 2016 Gail Burns Smith Award recipient in recognition of her outstanding leadership and tireless efforts in raising awareness about the necessity of preventing sexual violence, in promoting the dissemination of information about prevention strategies, and in helping every person to engage in prevention at whatever level possible.

At ATSA the term “prevention” has become synonymous with Joan Tabachnick. She is the first person who comes to mind when prevention is mentioned. She has championed all things prevention, not only highlighting for us the important contributions to prevention that we as clinicians and researchers make, but also broadening our perspectives to realize we can do more, that our work of preventing the next abusive sexual act should be expanded to stopping any sexual violence from ever occurring. She has provided us with a frame for the picture of our work that couches it in the broader perspective of prevention, encouraging us always to see that developing a prevention perspective and supporting and generating prevention programs will ultimately be the path to ending sexual violence altogether.

Joan possesses many personal and professional qualities that distinguish her and elevate her to a status comparable to Gail Burns Smith. She is warm, engaging, genuine, and passionate in everything that she does. Despite the long line of people waiting for the opportunity to engage her on multiple issues, Joan nonetheless, finds time for everyone, and when she sits face-to-face with each person she manages to communicate to each that this is the most important activity she could be doing at this moment.  She is truly supportive and helps all she encounters to hone their ideas, focus their communications, and fashion their presentations so that others will listen and hear.

Joan has served two terms on the ATSA Board of Directors and has chaired the Prevention Committee during her tenure on the Board.  It is largely because of her creative energy and tenacious efforts that this committee has been so productive. She has also been instrumental in helping ATSA develop a strategic plan, and she has mastered the ability to keep many people on track through the length of the plan. This is only a small part of the work she does.  She has worked tirelessly in the state of Massachusetts on numerous public policy issues, and as part of her work at NEARI Press she has helped us all to stay current on the best evidenced-based practices.

What is, however, most impressive about Joan is that the efforts of one person can truly make a substantial difference in addressing the need for prevention perspectives and programs. Joan has made many contributions to moving prevention into the public consciousness. In addition to all the work I  have just described, Joan has also co-authored A Reasoned Approach: Reshaping Sex Offender Policy To Prevent Child Sexual Abuse, (2011) and Engaging Bystanders In Sexual Violence Prevention, (2008, 2009).

Joan brings nearly 30 years of experience to her work in nonprofit and social change organizations. For the past 20 years she has worked in the field of sexual abuse prevention with a special focus on preventing the perpetration of child sexual abuse. Her most recent work is an NSVRC publication, Engaging Bystanders in Sexual Violence Prevention, and she is in the process of creating an online course of the same name. Joan’s expertise is evident in her numerous publications in peer reviewed journals, in her award winning public service announcements and public information materials, in the invitations to participate on national expert panels, and in the frequent media requests for expert advice on sexual coercion that she receives. Joan continually reaches across the aisles of victim advocacy and sex offender treatment, and between research and application. Most recently Joan was awarded a fellowship with the SMART office to develop a dialogue between treatment, supervision, and law enforcement orientations and to help frame the work of prevention that is at the core of all three. Because of Joan’s tireless work this fellowship has been extended.

Joan holds an MPPM from the Yale School of Organization and Management. Her unique background blends expertise in management, strategic planning, public dialogue, and social marketing. Over her career she has designed programs and products for children’s and women’s issues in local, regional, national and international settings. Gail Smith Burns would be proud of the work that Joan does, and I can think of no more deserving person for the Award named in her honor.
Becky Palmer, MS

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