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&Me: Spotlighting Mark Wynn

May 31, 2017

Inspired by our “Feminists&Me” tee, the National Network to End Domestic Violence (NNEDV) continues its “Spotlight on Feminists” series by highlighting and honoring individuals who work to make a difference every day. NNEDV previously honored the women featured in this design: Sojourner Truth & Susan B. Anthony & bell hooks & Gloria Steinem & Ruth Bader GinsburgRead the rest of the &Me series here.

NNEDV recently had the opportunity to speak with Mark Wynn, an international trainer to law enforcement, prosecutors, judges, legislators, victim advocates, and health care providers for over thirty years. Wynn’s passion to end gender-based violence through law enforcement began as a child. He has devoted his life to ending domestic violence as a retired Lieutenant of the Nashville Metropolitan Police Department Domestic Violence Division, educator, program supervisor, consultant, and advisor.

NNEDV: First, tell us about yourself – who are you and what do you do?

Wynn is from Columbia, Tennessee, but he and his family lived in Texas for ten years with his stepfather. During those years, Wynn witnessed the abuse of his mother by his stepfather and saw police do nothing to intervene. When he became a police officer in Wichita, Kansas, an aspiration that came from his father who was also an officer, he realized that officers weren’t trained to deal with domestic violence, nor did they understand the crime. Wynn was hired at the Nashville Metropolitan Police Department in 1978 and he started teaching in 1982 on best practices for addressing domestic violence. In the early 1990s Wynn became the co-creator of the largest domestic violence unit in history.

Wynn has trained for over forty years in all fifty states and thirteen countries, including China, Russia, and Turkey, for the U.S. State Department. He is married to Valerie, an advocate, therapist, and Founder & Executive Director of the Mary Parrish Center in Nashville, a domestic and sexual violence therapeutic transitional housing program named after Wynn’s mother. Wynn has consulted for the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP), where he trained Chiefs of Police on how to write and implement policies on domestic violence. For the past thirteen years, he has trained on modern efforts in responding to sexual assault, stalking, and trafficking at the IACP National Institute Leadership on Violence Against Women. Since 2001, Wynn has taught in over 1,000 classrooms and traveled over two million miles to train law enforcement, individuals within the criminal justice system, advocates, and others.

NNEDV: What are you currently working on related to nonviolence and/or gender equality?

Wynn recently spoke to the Women in Federal Law Enforcement (WIFLE) in Washington, DC on leadership and prioritization of violence against women crimes. He is on a three-year project for the state of Virginia to look at underserved populations including immigrants, African American women, and elderly women; create needs assessment reports; and rewrite model policies on domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking. Wynn is often called to be an expert witness throughout many jurisdictions and with the Department of Justice. He is active with the IACP and continues to train police executives on how to prioritize violence against women in their departments. Wynn conducts almost 70 individual site trainings per year and believes that interaction with advocates is crucial. He strives to spend time with advocates to discover individual problems between advocates and police, and train law enforcement to address the needs of victim services.

NNEDV: What inspired you to do this work? What inspires your to continue it?

MW: “This is what I’ll do until I can’t do it anymore. It’s a life’s work.”

Around age five, Wynn moved to Texas with his family and witnessed his mother being abused by his stepfather. His mother experienced two miscarriages because of the violence. He recalls one night when a police officer told his mother that if he had to come back that he was “locking her [Wynn’s mother] up.” At that moment, he thought that the “person who was supposed to protect us,” had left. His older brother and sister eventually decided to run away, and his mother barely made it away from Wynn’s stepfather before moving back to Tennessee.

After high school, Wynn was a reporter at a newspaper and saw law enforcement from the media’s point of view, but his ultimate goal was to obtain a career in law enforcement. He met his wife, Valerie, through the Nashville Police Department where she worked with victims in the Domestic Violence Division. He stated her founding of the Mary Parrish Center as a source of inspiration. He’s witnessed the lives of many women transformed because of the work of the center. He recalls unique experiences of survivors and their individual stories, which included getting a car, obtaining employment, finding safe permanent housing, gaining financial independence, and even getting their teeth fixed!

“I am a Feminist – I’ll use the ‘F-word.’ I’m proud of that. Everybody should be.”

NNEDV: You woke up this morning and gender-based violence has been completely eradicated. What are you going to do now?

MW: “That statement is a dream. What a wonderful world it would be if that were to happen tomorrow. I’d take a few days off and think about what next cause to get involved with. For me, crimes against women and violence in the family is a basic civil rights issue – I certainly don’t claim to be a giant like Rep. John Lewis, Martin Luther King, Jr., Medgar Evers, or Rosa Parks, but I’d take my experience and what I’ve learned from advocates, officers, and victims in this fight and use it somewhere else. We still have homophobia, we still have racism. There’s just so much work to do. I think I’d find another cause to work on.”

In addition, Wynn mentioned he’d certainly take a long vacation with his wife! He understands the importance of self-care; he and his wife attempt to take a trip to Italy each year!

NNEDV: If you could sit down over your beverage of choice with any person – living or dead – who would it be and why?

Wynn didn’t have to think long about this answer: His mother. He noted that to sit down with Martin Luther King, Jr., or President Lincoln would be great, but “I miss and love my mother more and more every day.” Wynn had the opportunity to deliver a speech at the White House in 1995 on strategies to prevent domestic violence, an event that his late mother had the chance to witness. “So much has happened since she’s passed away,” he recalls, “I’d tell her about the women who have gone through the center named after her and how their lives have been saved and changed.”

“She’s responsible for all that I have. She made me the man that I am. She taught me how to be a man. I see her face every day. She was so brave. She’s a part of me and I’m a part of her, so I’d love to sit down and tell her how much I miss and love her.”