BOARD OF DIRECTORS
Michael Happ, MS, President, has served on the Board of Directors since 2009. He is the Administrative Director of Citizen Action/Illinois, the state's largest public interest coalition and advocacy organization, and earned his Masters degree from DePaul University's School of Public Service. In addition to RVA, Michael has served on the Board of the Ravenswood Community Council and the Board of Trustees of Holy Covenant United Methodist Church.
Cassandra Gaddo, Vice President, is managing director of Step Up Women's Network in Chicago, a national membership nonprofit dedicated to helping underserved teen girls fulfill their potential. She is known as a passionate advocate for the advancement and empowerment of women and girls. She is a member of The Chicago Council on Global Affairs' Young Professionals, which she represented in the Young Atlanticist Summit as part of the NATO Summit in Chicago, and previously served on the CARE Chicago Media Initiative and the Chicago Foundation for Women's Young Women's Leadership Council. From 2007-2012, Cassandra was managing editor and electronic media editor of Today's Chicago Woman magazine, where she oversaw content serving and celebrating professional women in Chicago, as well as topics such as domestic human trafficking and Illinois' rape kit testing backlog. During that time, she was also active with the Today's Chicago Woman Foundation, which is dedicated to raising grants for under-funded Chicago charities serving at-risk women and girls. She frequently writes and speaks about local, national and international women's issues, and continues to blog at www.tcwmag.com/twice-as-well. She graduated summa cum laude from Loyola University Chicago with a Bachelor's in Journalism, and minors in English, political science and women's studies.
Courtney Revis, JD, Secretary, is a partner at Revis & Ward, LLC, a boutique family law practice in Chicago. Courtney’s practice is concentrated in the areas of divorce, pre-nuptial agreements and custody matters. Courtney received her B.A. from Miami University and her J.D. from the University of Cincinnati College of Law. Courtney has been a supporter of RVA for some time. She received her volunteer medical advocate training with RVA in 2007 and volunteered on behalf of survivors for nearly two years. She also co-chaired the annual RVA gala for three years.
Tom Andreesen, Treasurer
Tracie Anderson is a Solutions Consultant for TransUnion (TU), a global leader in credit information and information management services. In this role Tracie partners with financial services industry leaders to define, design and implement TU solutions that will enable them to meet their business objectives and overcome business obstacles. In addition to her work at TU, she is involved in several philanthropic endeavors primarily focused on the empowerment of women and girls. As a member of the Imani Pearls Community Development Foundation, she is the inaugural chairperson of an Emerging Young Leaders program, a program designed to promote positive self-esteem, high scholastic achievement and leadership development in middle school girls. Tracie is also an Icon member of the Step-Up Women's Network.
Naina Jain is a CPA and currently pursuing a MBA at the Kellogg School of Management. Naina joined the Board of Directors in 2011 and has experience in consulting with various non-for-profits on operational and financial processes. Naina currently works as a Lead Auditor at CME Group; prior to this she has worked at Bank of America and Crowe Horwath LLP. Naina has a BS in Accounting and Finance from Indiana University; she also holds an active CPA license in the state of Illinois.
Gray Mateo Harris, JD, is a labor and employment litigation associate with Proskauer Rose LLP. She counsels and represents employers in traditional labor matters involving union issues as well as employment matters including defending against discrimination, harassment and retaliation claims as well as wage and hour, restrictive covenant and breach of contract claims. Gray also provides pro bono representation to underprivileged clients, including assisting victims of domestic violence obtain orders of protection through the Domestic Violence Court. Gray previously clerked for the American Bar Foundation, the D.C. Employment Justice Center, the USDA Civil Rights Office and the USDA Food Nutrition Service Employment Litigation Division. She has also served as a Rape Crisis Counselor, a Counseling Center Paraprofessional, an Office for Student Conflict Resolution Mediation Coordinator and Lead Mediator, and a Civil Litigation Clinic Fellow. Gray presently serves as Chair of the Associate Board of the Chicago Committee on Minorities in Large Law Firms and is an active member of various organizations, including the Hispanic Lawyers Association of Illinois and the Illinois Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. Gray earned her J.D., cum laude, from the University of Illinois College of Law in 2008, where she published “The New Face of Child Pornography: Digital Imaging Technology and the Law” through the Journal of Law, Technology and Policy. She earned her B.S., cum laude, from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 2005, where she triple majored in Psychology, Speech Communications, and Gender and Women’s Issues with a minor in Spanish obtained during her study abroad in Granada, Spain. Gray is a native Spanish speaker from the Dominican Republic.
Julia Schmidt, MBA, first joined RVA as a volunteer medical advocate, responding to crisis calls and supporting survivors in the emergency room, and has previously served as Board President and Treasurer. She currently serves as Vice President, Business Purpose Portfolio Reporting and Credit Analytics for BMO Harris Bank. Prior to joining BMO Harris, Julia consulted at a number of banks and financial institutions in credit risk and began her career in risk at Merrill Lynch Capital. Julia earned a BSB from the University of Minnesota and an MBA from Northwestern University.
Julie Smolyansky is President & CEO of Lifeway Foods, becoming the youngest female CEO of a publicly held firm when she took over her father’s kefir business in 2002 at the age of 27 after his sudden death. Julie is a graduate of the University of Illinois at Chicago where she majored in Psychology and minored in Women’s Studies. Julie began her career as an in home family counselor for Care Works, an agency that supported Department of Children & Family Services. She left the social service field to support her father at Lifeway Foods in 1997. Julie serves on the board of directors for the Anti-‐Defamation League, Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (a division of Jewish United Fund), Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center, University of Illinois Alumni Association, International Probiotics Association, and Bia Sport (advisory board member). She is also a member of the United Nations Foundation Global Entrepreneurs Council, Economic Club of Chicago, Young Presidents Organization, The Committee of 200, The Chicago Network and is a Summit Series and Fortune Most Powerful Women community member. Julie recently joined Christy Turlington Burns as a maternal health advocate traveling to Bangladesh with her and Every Mother Counts and participating in a series of screenings and panel discussions for the film ‘No Woman No Cry’. Julie frequently travels to the White House and advocates for Violence Against Women issues in the Vice President’s Office. Julie has been featured on multiple media outlets including ABC, NBC, CBS, FOX, Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Forbes, Fortune and was named to Crain’s Chicago Business ‘40 under 40’ in 2005, Today’s Chicago Woman ‘Rising Stars’ and was a finalist for Ernst and Young’s Entrepreneur of the Year Award in 2010, and was the recipient of the Anti-‐Defamation League 2013 Woman of the Year Award. In 2013 Julie co-founded a non-profit, Test400k, an organization dedicated to advocating ending the backlog of 400,000 untested rape kits in the United States.
Sharmili Majmudar, LCSW, Executive Director
RVA is an Illinois not-for-profit organization made up of many individuals with two primary goals: to assure that survivors of sexual assault are treated with dignity and compassion; and to affect changes in the way the legal system, medical institutions and society as a whole respond to survivors.
RVA focuses on both social service and social change. Through our presence in Chicago area emergency rooms, we provide nonjudgmental emotional support to victims of sexual violence, enabling them to become survivors. By providing basic legal and medical information, and referrals to other service organizations, we help the survivor make informed decisions. We also offer survivors continued support through telephone follow-up and our staff of counselors and legal advocates. Through these services, we enable survivors to regain control over their lives as quickly as possible. Through our work with the Chicago Police Department, the Cook County State's Attorney's Office and other area institutions, we strive to improve the treatment of survivors as a group in our society. RVA offers three distinct program areas: Counseling (individual and group), Advocacy (legal and medical) and Education & Training.
HERE'S HOW TO GET INVOLVED WITH RVA:
Medical Advocates take two twelve hour shifts per month for a time commitment of 12 months. RVA volunteers provide short-term crisis counseling and nonjudgmental support. Every volunteer must complete a minimum of 56-hours in RVA’s training course in order to be certified as a medical advocate. This course covers basic psychological, medical, and legal aspects of sexual assault.
Education and Training
Educators speak at schools, rallies, help train new medical advocates and others working directly with survivors. This is a wonderful opportunity to help educate other people about sexual assault. Each speaker must have completed the 56 hour medical advocacy training and additional educational training to speak on behalf of our organization.
Volunteers and members of the community are welcome to serve on one of many different committees which help meet current needs and determine the future of our organization. There is also an application process to become a member of our board.
The History of RVA
Rape Victim Advocates was formed in 1974 by obstetrician/gynecologist Natalie Stephens, M.D., and a group of Northwestern University medical and nursing students concerned about survivors of sexual assault. They recognized that standard hospital resources were not sufficient for the special needs of the survivor. These founding advocates educated themselves about Rape Trauma Syndrome a cluster of physical and emotional responses experienced by nearly all those who experience sexual assault, identified by Burgess and Holmstrom in the course of their work as counselors of survivors of sexual assault at Boston City Hospital, Boston Mass.
In July of 1975, RVA began working with the emergency room staff of a single hospital. The advocates volunteered to be on call in 12 to 24 hour shifts, assuring that, at any given time, a volunteer would be available to serve the survivors of sexual assault. In 2012, RVA is now serving fourteen hospitals in the Chicago area.
Our advocates are available to provide service to survivors of sexual assault 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. We also offer sexual assault crisis intervention training to hospitals with in-house volunteer programs. RVA encourages anyone concerned with the well-being of survivors of sexual assault to join us in serving them, their families, and Chicago's Austin Community.