Verna Wyatt, Executive Director

Verna

Verna has been married 37 years, has three grown children, and three granddaughters aged 9, 6, and 3. Verna attended Ohio State University in 1971, but her initial career choice was that of wife and stay home mother. Her career choice was transformed in 1991 by a painful event; Verna’s sister-in-law, Martha Wyatt, who was also her best friend of 14 years, was sexually assaulted and murdered. Grief over the murder, and frustration with the justice system motivated Verna’s personal action in advocating for the rights of victims. In 1993, Verna was invited to become one of the founding members of You Have the Power (YHTP), a crime victim advocacy organization established by Former First Lady of Tennessee, Andrea Conte. She worked as an active volunteer on the Steering Committee, helping plan community programs and create documentary videos about crime and justice issues until 1998 when Verna became the first Executive Director of You Have the Power, a position she held until June 2012. During that time Verna gained a reputation for helping victims across the State of Tennessee. She has participated on many numerous commissions and Boards, as listed below. She had a key role in developing 23 documentary videos that featured the voice of the victim. These documentaries were, and are still being used to tell the story of the real expert – the survivor. The videos serve to raise awareness to prevent crime and to identify victims for referral to agencies who can help them. Many of the videos also feature the voice of the offender, because if you want to understand the crime, you have to understand the offender. Verna co-produced resource guidebooks for community use on problems of Meth, acquaintance rape, child sexual abuse, elder abuse, and child sexual abuse in the faith community. In 2006, Verna was asked by the Department of Correction to facilitate a victim impact class to incarcerated male offenders – from a victim advocate perspective. Working with Valerie Craig to facilitate the class, they created a victim impact curriculum that could be used in prisons and jails. That initial class grew to 5 weekly classes with male, female, and teen girl, offenders which she and Valerie facilitated for 6 years together. Today, Craig and Wyatt, continue to facilitate victim impact weekly in the CCA prison system with incarcerated women, and have facilitated a weekly class with Men of Valor Jericho program for 10 years. Wyatt and Craig have reached thousands of offenders with the message of accountability and change. Verna teaches those classes with her eyes set on “no more victims!” Verna and Valerie co-produced victim impact curriculum for incarcerated men and women that is being used across the country and Ireland, and in 2013 Verna and Valerie created a new victim impact curriculum based on their 6 years of facilitating classes with thousands of incarcerated men, women, and teen girls. She has facilitated hundreds of educational programs for schools/faith community on child sexual abuse, domestic violence, “sexting”, internet dangers, elder abuse, acquaintance rape, and she has been an outstanding voice for victims of crime.

Current Associations:
2013 – Present  Governor’s Task Force on Sentencing and Recidivism
2009 – Present  Tennessee Judicial Selection Commission
2005 – Present  Tennessee’s Children’s Justice Task Force
2011 – Present  Mayor of Nashville’s Domestic Violence Safety Assessment Committee
1998 – Present  Victim Intervention Program’s Homicide Support Group
1998 – Present  Nashville Voices For Victims –  Area agencies working to promote Victim’s Rights, plans and presents Nashville’s Crime Victim Rights Week Programs and holiday memorial for homicide victims
2006 – Present  Tennessee Department of Correction’s TREC Committee

Past Associations:

2009 – 2014   Tennessee Judicial Selection Commission
2014                  Co-Host and Planning Committee for the Governor’s 2014 Safety Summit
2011 – 2014   Mayor of Nashville’s Domestic Violence Safety Assessment Committee
2006 – 2012   Tennessee Sex Offender Treatment Board
2002 – 2011   Nashville Coalition Against Domestic Violence.
2003 – 2011   Commissioner, State of Tennessee Peace Officers Standards and Training Commission
2005 – 2011   Tennessee Department of Correction Victim Liaison Advisory Council
2003 – 2011   Advisory Council Member for Tennessee First Lady Andrea Conte
2007 – 2010   Board Member for Victims Voices, a victim-offender mediation program
2004 – 2009   Board Member, Domestic Violence Intervention Center (DVIC) A not for profit organization that offers treatment to batterers and support for victims of domestic violence.
1998 – 2000   Crisis line volunteer, Sexual Assault Center
1993 – 1998   Member and active volunteer for You Have the Power
2003 – 2004   Re-Entry Steering Committee for Tennessee Bridges, a program of Department of Correction and Probation & Parole to assist with offender transition back into the community
2003 – 2005   Board Member, Survivors Against Violent Environments (S.A.V.E.), Non-profit organization whose mission is to provide support and referral information to domestic violence victims who have faith backgrounds, and to raise awareness in the faith community regarding domestic violence
2004 – 2007   Advisory Council Member for Trauma Intervention Center for Children and Adolescents at Family & Children’s Services
2005 –  Participant in Memphis/Nashville FBI Citizens Academy

Awards:
President’s Award, Tennessee Association of Chiefs of Police, 2005
Corrections Corporation of America Volunteer of the Year Award, 2012
Edwina Hefner Community Leadership Award, 2014
Board of Parole Victim Service Award, 2014

Message from Verna