Tammy Gwaltney, director of NASV, will step down in July

Saturday, December 6, 2008
Submitted photo
Fred Matchell with Sam's Club presented a $1,000 check to Tammy Gwaltney, executive director of the Southeast Missouri Network Against Sexual Violence, for the May 7 benefit golf tournament.

After 12 years as director of Southeast Missouri Network Against Sexual Violence, Tammy Gwaltney will be leaving the agency in July, she announced this week.

The decision to leave took a lot of soul searching, Gwaltney said.

"I keep telling people I'm taking a break," Gwaltney said.

Gwaltney, who spearheaded the creation of NASV in 1997, will stay on until December of 2009 as a consultant when a new executive director takes over to help them with the transition process.

Gwaltney has a college degree from Southern Illinois University and a master's degree from Washington University in social work. She operated several not-for-profits and garnered experience working with domestic violence victims after graduating.

In 1997, Gwaltney was working full time when she decided to form an agency to aid child victims of abuse and sexual violence.

NASV got its start in a basement, a donated office inside of a physician's practice.

"It started with an idea and a lot of passion," Gwaltney said.

Back then, NASV had no paid staff and consisted of Gawltney and two nurses, all three of whom had full-time jobs and worked at the agency in their free time.

The nurses volunteered their time to do interviews with children, Gwaltney said.

"There was no way we could keep doing this on a volunteer basis," Gwaltney said.

In 2002, the Saint Francis Foundation fronted half of $25,000 seed money to get NASV going. An anonymous donor matched the amount.

NASV moved a permanent location in Cape Girardeau around the same time.

That year the organization saw 216 victims of sexual violence. The number continued to rise every year.

Known around the region as a child advocacy center, NASV gives agencies one central place to conduct forensic interviews of child victims and offers counseling, forensic medical care, rape exams and advocacy.

"It's us coming to the child instead of the child having to go to every one of us," Gwaltney said.

Gwaltney keeps NASV as child-friendly as possible, with bright colors and soothing lighting. After children visit NASV, they may select a small stuffed animal from a wide selection Gwaltney keeps stocked.

The director's responsibilities run the gamut from testifiying in sexual assault cases as an expert witness to overseeing day-to-day operations to the occasional janitorial or electrician duties, Gwaltney said.

NASV will begin advertising nationally for a new director in January.

Gwaltney said she's still uncertain what she'll end up doing when she officially steps down.

"The things I've seen and learned here in 12 years are invaluable," Gwaltney said.

Now, she'd like to focus more energy on bringing about change on an institutional level, she said.

bdicosmo@semissourian.com

388-3635

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