Meet J.J. Smith, president of Americans Ending Abuse, a grassroots organization working to build a powerful network to educate, empower and protect women and children from family violence. Smith founded the non-profit in 2011 after seeing a spike of violence across North Texas take innocent lives, but his advocacy started long before that as a child survivor. At only 10-years old, Smith witnessed his father gun down his Mother in a murder-suicide. It was from that tragedy that Smith created the Lillian Smith Family Violence Foundation, but it his goal to create a louder voice and more activism to bring about more awareness and change to begin to break the cycle of violence that claims 250 women and children each month in the U.S.
Smith, who owns and publishes The Rockwall News hopes to elect candiates who support the cause of protecting domestic violence survivors and work toward creating programs that seek to rehabilite offenders. Smith says to pursue these public policy goals he has created the first ever PAC and Super PAC, political action committees dedicated to domestic violence. Smith has become an eloquent and sought-after media voice appearing on numerous TV and radio newscasts and broadcast programs, speaking on behalf of domestic volence issues.
We wanted to know more about Smith and Americans Ending Abuse and he was kind enough to answer a few questions:
Dawn Tongish: Tell us about Americans Ending Abuse?
J.J. Smith: Americans Ending Abuse is a new national grassroots action organization established to educate, empower and mobilize Americans to protect women and children from domestic, dating, child and sexual abuse.
Founded in 2011 as a non-profit 501(c)(4) social welfare organization – in response to the dire need for pro-active, highly-vocal national leadership for these related causes – we intend to quickly become the nation’s leading defender of abused women and children by boldly speaking out through the media, educating the public and pressuring our legislators to change the way the nation deals with abusers and victims. Continuing the status quo and expecting more successful results is the definition of insanity. For years, family violence has been THE
leading cause of injury to women and children in America, according to the Centers for Disease Control’s National Center for Injury Prevention & Control
. For years an average of nearly 100 women and 150 children per month have been murdered needlessly across the U.S. by abusive men, mothers, fathers and guardians (CDC). And every two seconds a woman or child is sexually assaulted (RAINN
). We just can’t stand back, look away and shake our heads any longer at the carnage taking place every day right in front of our eyes! Somebody has to actually do something about this, stop just talking about it and put an end to it.
That’s us, Americans Ending Abuse.
Think of us as a powerful grassroots movement soon to be just as effective and visible as MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving)
, the NRA (National Rifle Association
), and today’s pro-choice, pro-life and gay rights organizations. But we are not associated with any other political issues unless they are directly related to protecting women and children from abuse.
Based in Dallas, TX our only mission is to prevent and dramatically reduce the millions of injuries and deaths caused annually by domestic, dating, child & sexual abuse; plus support the victims and their families. We do so through educational campaigns, public policy development, lobbying elected officials, victim services, and by providing proactive security/protection services for victims.
To date, most of our nation’s energy and resources have been devoted to punishing abusers and helping victims, after
incidents have occurred. We believe that far more time and effort should be given to preventing
abuse by helping abusers to overcome the emotional disorders that most developed from the child abuse they experienced growing up, as well as helping victims to gain the self-esteem and resources they need so they will not repeatedly return to their abusers. Many abusers and victims want to and can change their lives. We must assist them – for the good of our nation and its citizens. Our Americans Ending Abuse PAC
and Americans Ending Abuse Fund (Super PAC)
are the first Political Action Committees ever registered with the U.S. Federal Elections Commission to raise and spend millions of dollars to support and elect candidates at every level who are committed to protecting women and children from abuse. Americans Ending Abuse is an outgrowth of the non-profit, Dallas-based Lillian Smith Family Violence Foundation
. Founded initially in 1999 and re-established in 2006, it will soon be recognized by the IRS as a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization.
DT: What are your duties at Americans Ending Abuse?
J.J.S: I'm the founder, Executive Director and Board President.
DT: How did you become involved with Americans Ending Abuse, and why are you so passionate about the work being done at the organization?
J.J.S: When I was 10 years old, I witnessed my abusive father shoot and kill my mom and then himself in a murder suicide in Denver CO. I was too young and too small then to do much to help my mom - whom he had physically, mentally and emotionally abused for several years - but as an adult with a successful media, sales and marketing background, I can help other abused women and children and try to prevent family violence from devastating other families as it did ours. Back in 1999 I remember reading about all the women and children being killed in DFW and Texas as a result of family violence and decided with my background and professional experience that I would like to try to do something about the terrible problem. I volunteered with a woman's shelter, offered to help DFW women's shelters to better market their cause and, soon after, decided to bring together other family violence survivors and concerned citizens and start a non-profit in my mother's memory. After lots of hard work, we had organized a group of about 40 people and began to make a small difference, primarily by arranging media interviews and speaking engagements with our survivors to help viewers and listeners to better understand what family violence is about and how it could be reduced.
The need was certainly there back then as it is today to try to stop and reduce family violence. The more we did, and the more people we spoke to, the more we realized we really could make a difference. There's so much more we can do now in 2014 - especially by using the Internet effectively - to speak out, educate and campaign to dramatically reduce domestic, dating, child and sexual abuse.
DT: Why do you work in the non-profit sector?
J.J.S: I do this work because I want to help stop, reduce and prevent the abuse of women and children. I've experienced the terror and don't want anyone else to ever have to experience it. I'm much more concerned and passionate about ending/preventing domestic, dating, child & sexual abuse than I am about getting rich or famous.
DT: It can be difficult for any non-profit to pay the bills. How do you stay afloat?
J.J.S: Since founding Americans Ending Abuse in 2011, and the Lillian Smith Family Violence Foundation in 2006, our work has been just a part-time effort and little money was needed. But beginning in July of 2014 we plan to start aggressively marketing our cause, expand to hire a small full-time staff and then begin raising millions of dollars to campaign nationwide. Since we are a 501c4 social welfare organization, with the nation's only PAC and SuperPAC for our causes, we plan to raise millions online, at events and directly from major political donors to campaign successfully for elected officials who will champion our cause, as well as for our public education and protection efforts. The money is there in politics. We just need to obtain our share.
DT: How can the people of Rockwall County and beyond help you meet your needs for 2014? What are your biggest needs?
J.J.S: If thousands of people across Rockwall County and America would donate just $10 per year, we would raise millions for our efforts. We also need thousands of volunteers to help abuse victims, organize events, meet with government officials, law enforcement, community leaders and media, and much more. During the past decade a number of high-profile non-profits - i.e. the Komen Race For The Cure and MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving) - have shown the nation how to achieve success as a non-profit. We just need to use similar strategies and tactics to achieve as much success as they have.
DT: What is the most memorable moment in your experiences at Americans Ending Abuse?
J.J.S: I will never forget the moment when all 181 members of the Texas legislature unanimously passed our Americans Ending Abuse bill to make it illegal for parents and guardians to show pornography to children. Governor Perry signed the bill in June of 2011 and it became law September 1, 2011. It felt like a big accomplisment to put our name on a change that I know will protect children. Children will no longer be impacted by the bad choices of adults without consequences.
DT: What is the first thing you do when you walk into work each day?
J.J.S: I say "Good Morning" and ask God what He wants me to do that day.
If you'd like to nominate a local resident for a BubbleLife community profile, contact Dawn Tongish at firstname.lastname@example.org or find her on Twitter at @DawnTongish.