Barbara Engel has been an activist in the area of violence against women and girls for thirty-five years. She was an early pioneer of the anti-rape and domestic violence movements and was the director of a rape crisis center, battered women’s program and child sexual abuse treatment and advocacy center for eleven years. She initiated counseling and healing work with survivors, created the first sexual assault prevention programs for the Chicago public schools, while challenging institutional responses by law enforcement, the courts, and the medical and mental health systems. She co-authored protocols for the treatment of rape survivors and battered women in hospital emergency rooms and developed a protocol for Chicago police department response to rape survivors that is now promulgated as a national model.
Barbara embraced the importance of working in coalitions and was co-founder of the Chicago Sexual Assault Services Network and the Chicago Metropolitan Battered Women’s Network and was active in the early development of the Illinois Coalition Against Domestic Violence, and the Illinois Coalition of Women Against Rape (later renamed Illinois Coalition Against Sexual Assault) and the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence.
In 1983 Barbara co-authored the Illinois sexual assault legislation and assisted in a statewide public education and action strategy that led to the model legislation’s passage. Since 1991 Barbara has been re-appointed by every Illinois Governor to the board of the Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority where she serves as a public voice for victim services issues helping distribute federal funds and coordinate criminal justice policy and program initiatives.
In 1993 Barbara was asked by Mayor Daley to chair the task force that wrote the innovative sexual harassment policy for the city of Chicago and developed an implementation strategy and office to work towards harassment free workplaces.
Barbara has also been involved at The Chicago Foundation for Women and as board member for the National Network of Women’s Funds/ Women’s Funding Network.
She is also a co-founder of the Arab Jewish Partnership for Peace and Justice in the Middle East, a Chicago area group that brings together Arab Americans and Jewish Americans to advocate for a peaceful resolution of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict that ensures peace, justice and security for both peoples.
Barbara graduated with honors from the University of Chicago in 1975, received a Masters in Public Health and an honor citation from the University of Illinois School of Public Health in 1976. She has received numerous awards and recognition for her many decades of service.