For over thirty years, Susan Kelly-Dreiss has worked to enact legal protections, implement innovative services and heighten public awareness on behalf of battered women and their children.
Having grown up in a violent home, Kelly-Dreiss began her career in victim advocacy by helping to start a shelter for battered women in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. In 1976, she joined with a handful of other women to successfully lobby for passage of Pennsylvania’s first domestic violence law, the Pennsylvania Protection from Abuse Act.
She co-founded the nation’s first domestic violence coalition, the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence (PCADV). This group grew from an idea to an official coalition at Kelly-Dreiss’s kitchen table, where women met to raise consciousness and plan their legislative strategy. As the founding Executive Director of PCADV, Kelly-Dreiss oversaw the growth of the network from nine to sixty-one community-based programs now operating throughout the state.
In 1993, she was instrumental in securing federal funding to establish the National Resource Center on Domestic Violence at PCADV, providing information and technical assistance on domestic violence and related issues.
Kelly-Dreiss was a founding member of the National Network to End Domestic Violence. She played a key role in drafting federal legislation including the Federal Violence Prevention and Services Act and the Violence Against Women Act. She has served in leadership positions on family violence task forces under two Pennsylvania attorneys general, and was appointed by Governor Tom Ridge and re-appointed by Governor Ed Rendell to the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency. Kelly-Dreiss was the recipient of a National Crime Victim Service Award.
Kelly-Dreiss has mentored and motivated generations of women to carry out the work of the Battered Women’s Movement. Perhaps most importantly, Kelly-Dreiss has demonstrated an unwavering commitment to battered women and their children. PCADV and its member organizations have provided life-saving services to millions of domestic violence victims and their children.