Biography: In 2012, Rhonda left her teaching career of nearly thirty years (Abington Friends School, the Shipley School and West Linn High School) to work on behalf of the Spiritual Alliance to Stop Intimate Violence. With Karen Hessel, she organized SAIV’s first ever grassroots community partnership, a collaboration among some 40 area leaders from faith, civic and non-profit groups. She was inspired to this leap of faith by her own experience (and her sonʼs) as victims of intimate violence, abuse that was enabled by a dysfunctional family law system. With Randy Ellison, author of Boy’s Don’t Tell: Ending the Silence of Abuse, she served in 2013-2015 as Co-Coordinator in Oregon for the “We Will Speak Out” campaign of IMA World Health, an interfaith campaign to end sexual and gender-based violence. Rhonda was a workshop leader at the tenth annual Battered Mothersʼ Custody Conference at George Washington University School of Law. Her son, “Louie,” her only child, ended his own life at age 17 after struggling for years with the all too common and tragic after-effects of traumatic early childhood abuse. On Mothers’ Day 2016, she will speak at the BMCC XI in Albany, NY about her latest project, Free to Tell: Lou’s Writings Shine a Light on Childhood Abuse & Addiction, and Free As The Sun: Lou’s Songs of Life. For more information about the book and CD, intended for use as therapeutic resources, visit www.freeasthesun.com. Rhonda is currently available to speak to civic, non-profit or interfaith groups about SAIV, about “Speak Out Sunday,” and about the plight of the thousands of American children and their mothers who are victims of both intimate violence in their families and institutional betrayal trauma in the court system.
Read a Mothers Day blog post from the National Council of Churches Poverty Initiative.
She has published chapters in two books: Women, Philanthropy, and Social Change (Tufts University Press, 2005) and The Transformative Power of Women’s Philanthropy (Jossey-Bass/Wiley, 2006). She has authored other reports and articles, and has given presentations at many conferences, universities, and the National Press Club.
Otis holds a master’s degree in International Affairs from Columbia University, and a Bachelor of Arts in International Relations with honors and distinction from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Otis also was awarded a certificate in Strategic Perspectives in Nonprofit Management from the Graduate School of Business Administration at Harvard University, as well as other certificates from the Graduate Institute of International Studies of the University of Geneva, Switzerland. Otis attended the United Nations’ IV World Conference on Women in Beijing, China in 1995, where she organized several workshops. In recent years, she has traveled to Brazil and India, as well as all over the United States.