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Messages from the Director

2011 Archived Messages from the Director

January Message from Director Susan B. Carbon
February Message from Director Susan B. Carbon
March Message from Director Susan B. Carbon
April Message from Director Susan B. Carbon
May Message from Director Susan B. Carbon
June Message from Director Susan B. Carbon
July Message from Director Susan B. Carbon
August Message from Director Susan B. Carbon
September Message from Director Susan B. Carbon
October Message from Director Susan B. Carbon
November Message from Director Susan B. Carbon
December Message from Director Susan B. Carbon
"Denim Day" Message from Director Susan B. Carbon

January 2011

Dear Friends,

This past month I had the honor of attending and speaking at the 12th National Indian Nations Conference along with United States Attorney General Eric Holder and over 900 participants from the field. This conference brought together Native American victims, victim advocates, tribal leaders, victim service providers, law enforcement, prosecutors, judges, medical providers, social services and mental health personnel, probation/corrections experts, and juvenile justice personnel, as well as federal and state agency representatives. Attendees shared their knowledge, experiences and ideas for developing programs that serve the unique needs of crime victims in Indian Country. Here, I was able to share some of the important work we, as well as our partners across the federal government, are doing to address issues of domestic violence and sexual assault in tribal communities.

For example, in 2010 the Office on Violence Against Women made its first 12 awards under the Tribal Sexual Assault Services Grant Program, totaling $3.6 million to help address sexual assault specifically in Indian nations. Also this year, through intra-agency work at the Department of Justice, we helped combine ten different Tribal grant programs into the Coordinated Tribal Assistance Solicitation, or CTAS. Through the CTAS process, OVW awarded a total of $37.8 million to over 70 Tribal governments and their designees to address issues of violence in American Indian and Alaska Native communities.

Recently, we provided funding for the establishment of a national clearinghouse on sexual assault for Native women; a one-stop shop where tribes can request on-site training and technical assistance on developing tribal sexual assault codes, establishing Sexual Assault Response Teams, and accessing tools to gain sexual assault forensic evidence collection certifications. Next year, we will fund as many as five tribes to participate in a special prosecution initiative in partnership with their local U.S. Attorney. This project will provide additional resources and authority to tribal prosecutors, who will be cross-designated as Special Assistant U.S. Attorneys to bring domestic violence and sexual assault cases in tribal and federal court. These individuals will also help promote higher quality investigations, improve issue-specific trainings in tribal communities, and create better inter-governmental communication.

The Conference came on the heels of President Obama’s groundbreaking signing of the Tribal Law and Order Act, which will greatly improve the Federal Government’s ability to better understand, and address, public safety challenges in tribal nations with a specific focus on addressing issues of violence against women. Women in tribal communities are three and a half times more likely to be victims of violent crime. An astounding one in three American Indian and Alaska Native women will be raped in her lifetime. As President Obama stated in November of 2009, “This is an assault on our national conscience that we can no longer ignore.” We are proud to join with the White House to end these terrible crimes and look forward to the collaborative efforts of our office, the White House and the entire federal government to influence real social and legal change in these communities.

This month, we join the nationwide community in celebrating National Stalking Awareness Month. Stalking is a crime that is extremely complex, often misunderstood, and chronically under-reported. It is difficult to recognize, investigate and prosecute. Unlike other crimes, stalking is not an individual instance, but rather a series of acts that together comprise a general pattern of behavior. As President Obama stated in his proclamation of Stalking Awareness Month:

Stalking is a serious and pervasive crime that affects millions of Americans each year in communities throughout our country. Though we have gained a better understanding of stalking and its prevalence since the passage of the Violence Against Women Act in 1994, this dangerous and criminal behavior is still often mischaracterized as harmless.
A study by the Bureau of Justice Statistics shows the astonishing prevalence of this crime: during a 12 month period, an estimated 3.4 million persons age 18 or older were victims of stalking. Stalking is a crime that affects every sect of a community: stalking impacts victims at home, at their places of employment, at social gatherings and other events, virtually anywhere a victim may go, including online in the form of cyberstalking.

What is most misunderstood is the dangerous correlation between stalking and more violent crimes. Research shows that individuals who stalk their partners are four times more likely to physically assault their partners than non-stalkers and are six times more likely to sexually assault their partners. The overlap of stalking and femicide is shocking: 54% of victims reported stalking to police before they were killed by their stalker. Sadly, only 40% of stalking victims report this crime to police. It is essential that we work together to not only educate the public about the severity of this crime, but that we respond more effectively as a community. As President Obama further discussed in his proclamation of National Stalking Awareness Month:

As a Nation, we have made progress, but much work remains to respond to this criminal behavior. We must work together to educate the public about the potentially deadly nature of stalking, to encourage victims to seek help, to inform criminal justice professionals about the intersection of stalking and other dangerous crimes, and to support law enforcement in their efforts. I call on all Americans to learn to recognize the signs of stalking, acknowledge stalking as a serious crime, and urge those impacted not to be afraid to speak out or ask for help. Let us also resolve to support victims and survivors, and to create communities that are secure and supportive for all Americans.
For more information about Stalking Awareness Month, we hope you will visit http://www.stalkingawarenessmonth.org/. Here, you will find resources for those impacted by this pervasive crime and actions that you can take in your community.

Finally, on behalf of Office on Violence Against Women, I would like to wish you and yours a very Happy New Year. Let us endeavor to make every effort possible to bring peace and safety to our communities. It is our wish that every person be safe and secure, and live in a community that embraces and cares for everyone’s well-being. May 2011 be a healthy and safe year for all.

With deep respect and gratitude,

Susan B. Carbon
OVW Director
U.S. Department of Justice

We remind all those in need of assistance, or other concerned friends and individuals, to call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE or the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE.

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February 2011

Dear Friends,

February is known nationwide as the month to show those around you how much you love and appreciate them.  Be it friends, family, or your significant other, the short month of February is filled with the most love.  As we demonstrate healthy displays of love to those in our lives, we at the Office on Violence Against Women will also be recognizing a very unhealthy epidemic facing our teens: teen dating violence. 

February marks the 2nd Annual Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Month as dedicated by the US Senate.  Each year, approximately one in four teens reports being the victim of teen dating violence, ranging from physical abuse, to stalking, to emotional abuse to sexual violence. Women age 16 to 24 experience the highest rates of rape and sexual assault, and people age 18 and 19 experience the highest rates of stalking.  One in five high school girls has been physically or sexually abused, not by a stranger, but by a dating partner.  This prevalence of teen dating violence is alarming and simply unacceptable. 

Teen dating violence is often unnoticed by parents, and even unrecognized as abnormal by those teens experiencing it.  As President Obama stated in his Presidential Proclamation of Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Month, it takes place in both “typical” and atypical mediums:

Our efforts to take on teen dating violence must address the social realities of adolescent life today.  Technology such as cell phones, email, and social networking websites play a major role in many teenagers’ lives, but these tools are something tragically used for control, stalking, and victimization.  Emotional abuse using digital technology including frequent text messages, threatening emails, and the circulation of embarrassing messages or photographs without consent, can be devastating to young teens.

The impacts of teen dating violence are real and can greatly disrupt teens’ healthy development.  Victims of dating abuse are more likely to engage in binge drinking.  Moreover, rates of drug and alcohol abuse are more than twice as high in girls who report dating abuse than in those who do not. Abusive dating experiences can often disrupt normal development, self-esteem, and body image for girls who experience it during their critical teen years.  Sadly, adolescents in abusive relationships often carry these unhealthy patterns of abuse into future relationships, continuing a devastating cycle. 

Teen dating violence affects teens and their families across the country, and it will take each and every one of us to stop it.  We all must advocate for the young people in our lives, provide a safe space to report instances of teen dating violence, and set examples of healthy and appropriate displays of love, respect and affection.  As President Obama stated:

The time to break the cycle of teen dating violence is now, before another generation falls victim to this tragedy…During National Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Month --- and throughout the year --- let each of us resolve to do our part to break the silence and create a culture of healthy relationships for all young people.

We encourage you, and your teens, to visit our partner websites who are doing exciting and peer-focused work on this important issue.  Break the Cycle (www.breakthecycle.org), the Texas Council on Family Violence/Teen Dating Abuse Hotline (www.loveisrespect.org), and the Family Violence Prevention Fund - That’s Not Cool Initiative (www.thatsnotcool.com) are using innovative ways to address teen dating violence, working directly with teens to stop this wide-spread issue.

At the end of last month, the Office on Violence Against Women held the inaugural meeting of the National Advisory Committee on Violence Against Women (NAC). The NAC was re-chartered in 2010 by the Attorney General. The purpose of this federal advisory committee is to provide advice and recommendations to the Department of Justice and the Department of Health and Human Services on how to improve the Nation’s response to violence against women, with a specific focus on successful interventions with children and teens who witness and/or are victimized by domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking. 

The Attorney General’s goal for the NAC is to bring together experts, advocates, researchers, and criminal justice professionals for the exchange of innovative ideas and the development of practical solutions to help us address and prevent these serious problems.  The members will also examine the relationship between children and teens who are witnesses to or victims of such violence and the overall public safety of communities across the country.

At the inaugural meeting, our 15-member NAC heard from federal partners, including the Department of Education, the Department of Health and Human Services and other Offices throughout the Department of Justice on the important work being done to stop teen dating violence and other forms of violence against children and youth.  As experts, researchers and advocates, our NAC members began important discussions about the essential next steps that need to be taken to address these issues and stop teen dating violence, and violence against women as a whole, in the future.  The notes from the National Advisory Committee inaugural meeting will be available through the OVW website soon.

Earlier in the week, the Attorney General’s Defending Childhood Initiative held its first meeting of the eight demonstration sites that are working to develop comprehensive community-wide plans that will implement strategies to prevent, reduce and combat childhood exposure to violence.  The initiative, which spans the age range of 0 to 18, is a Department wide effort that also has partnerships with other federal agencies including Health and Human Services and Education.  Attorney General Eric Holder, Associate Attorney General Tom Perrelli and department officials led a discussion with representatives from the eight sites to discuss individual community strengths and challenges.  

The Office on Violence Against Women is proud of the work being done, in our Office and at the Department of Justice, as well as in the field, on these important issues.  We hope, as you celebrate Valentine’s Day with those you love, that you will take the time to educate yourself, and those around you, on how to break the cycle of violence for our children and youth.

With deep respect and gratitude,

Susan B. Carbon
OVW Director
U.S. Department of Justice

We remind all those in need of assistance, or other concerned friends and individuals, to call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE or the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE.

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March 2011

Dear Friends,

Today, March 8, we join the global community in honoring both Women’s History Month and the 100th Anniversary of International Women’s Day. It is a fitting opportunity to reflect critically on how far we have come for equality, and the great strides we have made in ending violence against women internationally.

In the United States, these two historic March celebrations provide a time to remember women’s suffrage advocates like Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucretia Mott and Susan B. Anthony, who believed women had a voice, one that was important to be heard, before their male and female peers. It is a time to celebrate Elizabeth Blackwell and Rebecca Lee Crumpler who paved the way for equality for women in the medical field, regardless of both gender and race. It is a time to commemorate Arabella Mansfield and Ada H. Kepley and Sandra Day O’Connor, who broke the glass doors of the court house to allow women to enter the field of law. It is a time to honor Margaret Chase Smith and Susanna Medora Salter and Nancy Pelosi, who gave women not just a voice at the ballot box, but in the decisions of city halls and the United States Congress as elected officials. As President Obama stated in his Presidential Proclamation of Women’s History Month and International Women’s Day:

During Women's History Month, we reflect on the extraordinary accomplishments of women and honor their role in shaping the course of our Nation's history. Today, women have reached heights their mothers and grandmothers might only have imagined…In honor of the pioneering women who came before us, and in recognition of those who will come after us, this month, we recommit to erasing the remaining inequities facing women in our day.

We would be remised to celebrate only women advocates and omit others who have pursued in the quest for equality and to end violence against women. We honor the achievements of men like Vice President Joe Biden, who in 1994 had the commitment and conscience to take on this international atrocity by penning the Violence Against Women Act. We honor organizations across the country that are addressing issues of bystander, specifically male bystander, intervention and the importance of every member of a community being an advocate to stop sexual and domestic violence against women when they see it, and acknowledge its presence even when they don’t see it. We celebrate President Obama’s call to all agency leaders, men and women alike, to address these issues. As he stated in his Presidential Proclamation:

I have also called on every agency in the Federal Government to be part of the solution to ending violence against women, and they have responded with unprecedented cooperation to protect victims of domestic and sexual violence and enable survivors to break the cycle of abuse.

But we also take this time to look to how far we have to go to create a world where women are empowered in all ways to end violence against women for future generations. Still today, in the United States, violence against women is a national epidemic. The Centers for Disease Control report that there are 1200 deaths and two million injuries to women from intimate partner violence each year. Nearly one in four women reports experiencing violence by a current or former spouse or boyfriend at some time in her life. These numbers increase when addressing the Indian Nations within the United States. Furthermore, during a 12 month period, an estimated 3.4 million persons age 18 or older will be victims of stalking. This year alone, nearly 5% of college women will be sexually assaulted in their campus community. Researchers estimate that about 18% of women in the United States report having been raped at some point in their lifetimes.

Internationally, the atrocities of violence against women are far from solved. Across the world, at least one in three women and girls is domestically abused or sexually assaulted in her lifetime. Approximately four million women and girls are trafficked for prostitution annually. Reports of refugee women being raped as they search for firewood, or soldiers sexually abusing young girls in exchange for food, are rampant. Honor killings, bride burnings, dowry deaths, female genital mutilation and human trafficking are all too common. We have a great deal of work to do to end this violence, at home and abroad. As President Obama stated:

This year, we commemorate the 100th anniversary of International Women's Day… This day reminds us that, while enormous progress has been made, there is still work to be done before women achieve true parity

At the Office on Violence Against Women, we take every opportunity possible to engage the field, and our federal partners and colleagues, to end this violence. This past month we honored Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Month with a specific event addressing the role of men in ending sexual violence and inequality for women. Specifically, the event explored the landscape of dating relationships among youth and the experience of teen dating abuse victims to better understand how messages of masculinity shape young men’s view and treatment of women. We also focused on effective strategies for advocating for youth victims. The objective was to help educate Department of Justice employees who are parents, siblings, and friends of teens to better understand the emerging issues in youth relationships and the local resources available for parents and youth.

Next month, we will take part in nationwide Sexual Assault Awareness Month activities, highlighting the importance of addressing these often un-discussed crimes. We encourage you to check our website later this month for a list of Sexual Assault Awareness Month activities, as well as ways you can get involved in Sexual Assault Awareness Month in your community.

Finally, we are proud to announce the sixteen solicitations that OVW has posted this year for grant programs that provide funding for ending this violence nationwide. We encourage all potential grantees to visit the “Funding Opportunities” section of our website to find out more about potential grants available for these important programs. We will continue to roll out additional solicitations, so please check our website for frequent updates.

This month, for Women’s History Month and International Women’s Day on March 8th, we hope you will join us in looking back at the many accomplishments and successes of the women’s movement and the work to end violence against women. We also hope this month will encourage you to renew your commitment to these efforts, looking forward to a time when violence against women is a part of our history, not our present or future.

With deep respect and gratitude,

Susan B. Carbon
OVW Director
U.S. Department of Justice

We remind all those in need of assistance, or other concerned friends and individuals, to call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE or the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE.

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April 2011

Dear Friends,

When I started as Director of the Office on Violence Against Women nearly one year ago, one of my top priorities was to make sexual assault a bigger focus at OVW.   When the Violence Against Women Act was passed in 1994, sexual assault was included as one of the crimes to be addressed.  There is a general consensus, however, that for a variety of reasons, sexual assault has not received the same level of attention as has domestic violence.  As a result, sexual assault remains a tragically pervasive, costly, and underreported problem.

This April, as we celebrate Sexual Assault Awareness Month with the national community, we have the opportunity to learn more about the crime and the devastating impact it has on victims and entire communities, and to commit ourselves to bring justice to the victims and their families and to hold perpetrators accountable.

Sexual violence is a complex crime that affects every sector of our society.   It has no boundaries in terms of gender, geographic location, race, ethnicity, economic class or sexual orientation.  U.S. government statistics reveal that one in six women will experience an attempted or completed rape at some time in her life.  In certain areas and demographics, this number increases dramatically. As two chilling examples of its far-reaching grasp, studies show that one in four college women will experience sexual assault over the course of their college career and it has been estimated that one in three Native American women will be sexually assaulted in her lifetime. The National Crime Victimization Survey found that there were nearly 200,000 incidents of rape and sexual assault in the United States in one year alone.

Contrary to what many Americans believe, sexual violence does not just occur in dark alleys, perpetrated by weapon-wielding strangers. Often, a sexual violence offender is known by the victim, and the assaults are committed in places where the victim should feel the safest: at home or at a friend’s home. Alarmingly, the 2006 National Violence Against Women Study found that only one in five of the victims assessed reported their rape to the police.  There are a host of reasons for which many victims will never seek justice, including fear of not being believed, having to relive a traumatic experience, or fear of retribution, to list a few. 

During this month’s awareness campaign we are shining a light on the crime of sexual assault, working to dismantle myths and transform misguided cultural attitudes and reactions about rape.  Our staff will be participating in Sexual Assault Awareness Month Events in eleven states throughout the country.  These events, coordinated by the National Sexual Violence Resource Center and local sexual assault organizations and coalitions, will allow us to see some of the important work occurring in the field, as well as share OVW’s national goal of ending sexual assault.  The theme of this year’s Sexual Assault Awareness Month, “It’s time…to get involved,” encourages people across the United States to take ownership of the issue of sexual assault and promote responsible actions that ordinary citizens can take to intervene and prevent it. We hope you will view the list of events on our website our website and attend one in your area. 

Additionally, this past October, we were proud to collaborate with the White House Council on Women and Girls to host a first-ever Roundtable on Sexual Violence in the United States, beginning a national conversation about sexual violence: what it looks like now, and what we want to be able to accomplish in the next five years.  This event brought together law enforcement, judges, survivors, prosecutors, medical professionals and federal employees from all across the country to heighten our discussions as well as develop a plan of action to address this heinous crime. While advocates and experts from the field discussed a public awareness campaign, federal experts were able to listen to the needs of the stakeholders on the ground and hear how the federal government can and should heighten their assistance to address sexual violence in America.  The Roundtable allowed those in the field and at the national level to effectively communicate how each can help the other to achieve mutual success, both at the local and the national level, by establishing next steps to ultimately end sexual violence against women. Attached you will find a report documenting the important conversations that occurred during this Roundtable.  In honor of Sexual Assault Awareness Month, we encourage you to circulate this document to your friends, families, and colleagues.

This year, in addition to the Roundtable and attached Roundtable report,  OVW has launched the Sexual Assault Demonstration Initiative (SADI), the first large scale project to determine best practices and needed action in reaching more sexual assault survivors and providing comprehensive sexual assault services. The vast majority of supportive services available to victims of sexual assault are currently offered through agencies that are not exclusively dedicated to serving sexual assault survivors, but are co-located or merged in agencies that are also providing services to domestic violence victims.  Researchers have found that these agencies, also known as “dual agencies,” are often weighted heavily toward domestic violence crisis programming, with sexual assault receiving limited attention in terms of agency mission, budget, or dedicated staff with specific expertise in serving sexual assault victims. This is often reflected in the programming of the agency, and unfortunately, the number of sexual assault survivors served and the limited types of services provided to this population.  The needs of sexual assault survivors are not the same as those of domestic violence survivors, and must be met with specialized care.   Dual agencies that seek to create significant institutional change in response to sexual assault are often faced with limited financial and organizational resources to adequately respond to the needs of sexual assault victims within their communities. SADI has been designed to address the challenges that dual agencies face in reaching sexual assault survivors within their communities.

Through the SADI, a limited group of dual agencies that demonstrate a desire to enhance sexual assault services and have the organizational capacity to effectuate change will be selected to participate as national SADI project sites.  Using a strength based self-assessment, each of the SADI project sites will create an action plan to:  1) increase outreach to those populations most likely experiencing sexual assault in their communities, but not currently accessing services; 2) develop models of service provision that prioritize the needs of sexual assault survivors beyond immediate crisis responses currently offered; and 3) assess the efficacy of those steps in increasing the numbers and types of sexual assault survivors who access those newly enhanced services. We anticipate that the SADI project site awards will be announced in the spring of 2011.

Finally, the Office on Violence Against Women will continue to work to end sexual assault through its staff Sexual Assault Working Group, numerous sexual assault specific grant programs, and the commitment of the current Administration to end all violence, including sexual violence, against women.  We are supported in our work by President Obama, Vice President Biden, Attorney General Holder, and countless United  States Attorneys and other elected officials in a commitment to find innovative ways to meet the needs of victims and hold offenders accountable. President Obama became the first President to proclaim the month as National Sexual Assault Awareness Month.  He did this in April of 2009, a few months after entering office. He emphasized the need for “increased awareness about this issue [to] prevent future crimes, and aid victims.”  This year, President Obama continues his call to end Sexual Assault worldwide in his Presidential Proclamation, where he states:

Each victim of sexual assault represents a sister or a daughter, a nephew or a friend. We must break the silence so no victim anguishes without resources or aid in their time of greatest need. We must continue to reinforce that America will not tolerate sexual violence within our borders. Likewise, we will partner with countries across the globe as we work toward a common vision of a world free from the threat of sexual violence, including as a tool of conflict. Working together, we can reduce the incidence of sexual assault and heal lives that have already been devastated by this terrible crime.

In a country that has made such progress in addressing domestic violence, we feel the moral imperative to develop a national dialogue and national focus on ending sexual violence against all women. We hope this Sexual Assault Awareness Month will give us the opportunity to share our commitment across the country, in communities of all types, spreading the important message that sexual violence must end.  As President Obama stated in April 2010: “Sexual violence is an affront against our national conscience, one which we cannot ignore.”  We hope this month, you will help us shine the light on this tragic crime, and assist in our efforts to give it the attention it desperately needs to ultimately be a part of our nation’s history, and not its future.

With Hope,

Susan B. Carbon
OVW Director
U.S. Department of Justice

We remind all those in need of assistance, or other concerned friends and individuals, to call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE or the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE.

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May 2011

Dear Friends,

The month of April marked the conclusion of my first year as Director of OVW.  It has been a tremendous honor and a privilege to serve in this position, within an Administration that is so committed to ending violence against women.  President Obama, Vice President Biden and Attorney General Holder, along with many others in the Administration and within the Department of Justice, are deeply committed leaders and partners in ending the vicious cycles of abuse and violence in the lives of women, children and men.  Add to that the brilliant and passionate staff at OVW and there couldn’t be a more opportune time to recommit ourselves to ending domestic, sexual, and dating violence and stalking, as well as all other forms of violence that plague women here and abroad.

I joined OVW in April, just after the President declared that month Sexual Assault Awareness Month, the first President in our history to do so.  In addition to focusing in prevention efforts and reaching more underserved communities, addressing sexual violence has been one of my top priorities.  I was so pleased when President Obama again declared this April Sexual Assault Awareness Month.

At the beginning of April, I had great hope for this year’s Sexual Assault Awareness Month: how many communities we could reach, how many individuals we could influence, and how much of an impact the sexual assault community could have across the country over these four weeks.  As April comes to a close, I am in absolute awe: my expectations were not only met, they were exceeded beyond imagination.

With the amazing leadership of the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, one of our TA providers, we carried their theme of “It’s Time … to Get Involved” across the country.  With the dedication and hard work of the California Coalition Against Sexual Assault and the California National Guard; the Maine Coalition Against Sexual Assault; ContactLifeline in Delaware; the Iowa Coalition Against Sexual Assault; the Indiana Coalition Against Sexual Assault; the DC Rape Crisis Center and DC Children’s Hospital; Day One in Rhode Island; Women Organized Against Rape (the Philadelphia Rape Crisis Center) and the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape; the Idaho Coalition Against Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence; the Arkansas Coalition Against Sexual Assault and the Clinton School of Public Service; the George Mason University Social Work students and Benjamin Banneker High School students in Washington, DC; we were able to participate in 16 different Sexual Assault Awareness Month events in nine states across the country and the District of Columbia.

At these events, our staff were able to experience first-hand the incredible, and incredibly challenging, work that advocates in the field do each day.  We were humbled to see how those with great courage and passion, even when afforded only limited resources, can make profound impacts on their communities. We also were excited and surprised to see some of the remarkable compassion within these communities: hundreds of community activists – women and men, survivors and supporters alike, expressing their desire to get involved in the work to end sexual assault.  We spoke with military service members, federal employees, students, children and parents, elected officials, and counselors.  We spoke to advocates of all ages: young children of survivors to great-grandparents of survivors.  We spoke to survivors of child sexual abuse, survivors of sexual assault later in life, survivors of many races and ethnicities, survivors of all genders and sexual orientations, and survivors of various backgrounds.

We stood with advocates, victims, survivors, Governors, United States Attorneys, state Attorneys General, state legislators, business and community members – all united to end violence.

And we listened.  We heard the stories of legislators working to change laws in their states. We heard stories of advocates transforming the lives of those they serve. We heard stories of prosecutors and law enforcement who work every day to create safe and supportive environments for survivors to report.  We heard students discuss the importance of changing campus culture to alter attitudes about sexual assault. We heard individuals highlight the importance of supporting underserved populations including those from tribal communities and individuals with disabilities.  We heard advocates for those who had been abused later in life spotlight the importance of discussing all age groups when addressing issues of sexual assault.  We heard stories of brave bystanders who had the gumption to stop a situation of sexual assault before it started.  We heard countless conversations of individuals who had never participated in a Sexual Assault Awareness Month event, shocked by the statistics and energized to be included in this work.  We heard the stories of countless courageous survivors, urging us all that it is, in fact, time to get involved.

This month, we were able to share and listen to the stories of the one in six women who will experience an attempted or completed rape at some time in her life. We were able to break misconceptions of what many believe rape is: only weapon wielding strangers in dark alleys.   We heard the stories of acquaintance rape, child sexual assault, date rape, and countless other forms.  

We culminated the month, after travelling to communities across the country, with two events in DC. The first was a presentation to all OVW staff by George Mason University Social Work students about impressions and misconceptions within specific communities about sexual assault. More than 30 students reported on over 100 different interviews with different population groups including law enforcement, judges, prosecutors, senior citizens, deaf individuals, the military and first generation Americans. Members of OVW’s staff, as well as guests from the Department of Education, the Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of Defense, the Bureau of Prisons and other Offices with the Department of Justice were able to hear some of the interesting, and often shocking, impressions that each community shared.

This event was also OVW’s annual Denim Day.  Denim Day originated in this country in Los Angeles in the 1990s in response to the Italian Supreme Court’s reversal of a rape conviction in which the Chief Judge argued: “because the victim wore very, very tight jeans, she had to help him remove them, and by removing the jeans it was no longer rape but consensual sex.” Women wore jeans to work on the established “Denim Day” as a way of protesting the verdict. Since then, Denim Day has become a national rape prevention campaign. This year, OVW had over 150 federal employees attend this Denim Day event, our largest to date!  You can see our annual photo on our website.

The second was an event with Associate Attorney General Tom Perrelli at Benjamin Banneker High School in which high school students shared their views on sexual assault.  Here, students were able to ask questions and give opinions regarding sexual assault and sexual harassment to federal officials from the Department of Justice and the Department of Education, as well as those working in the field including Break the Cycle, Men Can Stop Rape, and the DC Rape Crisis Center. 

At both events, we had the amazing opportunity to share with, but mostly hear from, young people.  Their insights, ideas, and energy for this cause left us all with a feeling of great hope for the next generation of advocates and the future of the movement to end sexual assault. 

Although Sexual Assault Awareness Month has come to a close, our work to end sexual violence is only beginning. At OVW, we will continue to work to provide resources so desperately needed in the sexual assault community.  We look forward to the forthcoming announcement of our new Sexual Assault Demonstration Initiative (SADI) project sites next month.  We will continue to work with the White House following last fall’s Sexual Violence Roundtable.  We have begun discussions regarding the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act, stressing the importance of addressing sexual assault along with domestic violence, stalking and dating violence. We are excited for our continued work with the field and advocates across the country to encourage community members to get involved in our important efforts.  As Vice President Joe Biden stated in early April at the University of New Hampshire: 

If we are going to end violence, no reduce it but end it, we’re going to have to change attitudes.  That is the core of the problem…And you are all in a position to help us do that.  For all our progress, there’s still a great deal more to do…No matter what we have done thus far for this subject, we need to do more. No matter how strong we are now, we need to pass that strength on to others.

I urge you to view this moment as a starting line for you and your community as we all look to the finish line: a world without sexual violence. 

With Hope,

Susan B. Carbon
OVW Director
U.S. Department of Justice

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June 2011

Despite our electricity issues for the last week, we have started the month of June and the Summer with the excitement of convening our second meeting of the National Advisory Committee on Violence Against Women. The National Advisory Committee (NAC) is a federal advisory body chartered to provide guidance to the Department of Justice and Department of Health and Human Services on ways to help children and youth exposed to violence.  Its members are appointed by the Attorney General.

The first meeting, held in January, brought this group together for initial introductions, presentations and small group discussions. This second meeting allowed the 15-member NAC to begin developing concrete ideas for ways to address the tragic realities of teen dating violence and children exposed to violence in America and worldwide. 

NAC members spent two days sharing their perspectives on these issues and listening to some of the amazing work being done in the government and the field.  A presentation by the National Crittenton Foundation gave voice to the stories of just six of the thousands of girls who experience myriad forms of violence in their lives.  These stories of tragedy-turned-triumph were both inspiring and telling of where the current system often fails young people. A presentation by Dr. David Wolfe gave members background on some of the interesting research being conducted on not just intervention after, but prevention before, these horrible incidents occur. We were also joined by the Stalking Resource Center and the National Network to End Domestic Violence with a cutting edge presentation on how technology has changed all the crimes we seek to address, specifically stalking among our teens and pre-teens. 

Finally, our many federal partners joined us to update the NAC members on the important and innovative work currently being done within many parts of the Administration.  We were honored to be joined by Tina Tchen, Assistant to the President and Chief of Staff to First Lady Michelle Obama and Executive Director of the White House Council on Women and Girls, who detailed the importance of these issues to the President and First Lady and described the critical work of the White House Council on Women and Girls. Lynn Rosenthal, the first-ever Advisor on Violence Against Women in the White House, shared some of the work being done in the White House on issues of youth violence.   Associate Attorney General Tom Perrelli engaged the NAC in a lively discussion and challenged the members to “think big” in framing their recommendations.

NAC members also received updates on the Attorney General’s Defending Childhood Initiative; OVW’s Protective Parents Roundtable; The Office of Justice Programs’ Youth Violence Summit; the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ work on issues within the Administration on Children, Youth and Families; recent research from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; and the work of the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Safe and Drug Free Schools. 

In one of the more poignant moments of the meeting, 18-year-old NAC member and advocate Amber Johnson shared a poem by Andrea Gibson, an excerpt of which follows:

When two violins are placed in a room,
if a chord on one violin is struck,
the other violin will sound the note.
If this is your definition of hope, this is for you.
The ones who know how powerful we are,
who know we can sound the music in the people around us
simply by playing our own strings.

We at OVW feel so honored to have such an exquisite group of experts serving on the NAC to address these critical issues, tirelessly working to end these crimes through research, advocacy and outreach. This group, which includes experts in domestic violence and sexual assault, individuals from urban and rural communities, individuals of all ages and many different backgrounds, bring rich and varied expertise.  Their diverse and unique perspectives will help guide how we begin to turn the tide for teens and children exposed to violence worldwide. We will share updates as the NAC continues to meet and compile official recommendations for Attorney General Eric Holder and Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius.

At the end of last month, I was honored to participate in another collaboration of experts on addressing issues of violence against women: the Sexual Assault Response Team National Conference in Austin, Texas.  This biennial conference of SARTs from across the country, sponsored by the Office for Victims of Crime and Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention as well as OVW, had the primary focus of expanding the capacity of SARTs to promote health and healing of sexual assault victims, hold sex offenders accountable for their crimes, and realize the hope of preventing further sexual violence in their communities. This year, the conference hosted nearly 1,000 attendees from around the country.  Addressing this group of extremely impressive and well-versed champions in the field through a closing address and federal panel was a true learning experience of the amazing work being done by SARTs across the country, as well as additional resources needed to make the work of these teams more effective. 

This month, we are pleased that we have OVW representation at The Hague Conference on Private International Law as they hold a Commission Meeting on the Hague Convention on International Child Abduction.  As the issue of domestic violence was to be discussed at the meeting, the State Department invited OVW to participate on the US Delegation.  Domestic violence is a factor in a large number of Hague Convention cases- most typically, a battered woman fleeing the country with her children in order to protect herself and her children.  At the June meeting, the Special Commission is currently discussing domestic violence allegations and return proceedings, including research and case law, protective measures to enable safe return of the child and accompanying parent, and promoting consistency in judicial practice.

We are also proud to announce that on Saturday, June 4, at 3:32pm Susannah Elizabeth Schmechel Davis was born to Deputy Director of Policy Development Virginia Davis and her husband Richard Schmechel in Washington D.C.  Zuzu weighed in at 7lbs. 12oz. and is 19.5 inches long.  We are excited for Virginia’s new addition to her family!

Finally, we are very excited to introduce a new member of the OVW family: Beatrice (Bea) Hanson has recently joined OVW as Principal Deputy Director.  In this capacity, she will support the Office as liaison between the Department of Justice and federal, state, tribal and international governments on the crimes of domestic violence, sexual assault, dating violence and stalking. She will also be responsible for handling the Department’s legal and policy issues regarding the implementation of the Violence Against Women Act. 

Prior to her appointment, Bea served as Chief Program Officer for Safe Horizon, a crime victim service organization in New York City which serves 350,000 victims of violence and abuse annually. There she directed a staff of 500 in 60 locations. Bea joined Safe Horizon (formerly Victim Services) in 1997 as the Director of Emergency Services and went on to oversee the agency’s domestic violence, homeless youth and child abuse programs before serving as Chief Program Officer.

During her tenure at Safe Horizon, she doubled domestic shelter capacity and tripled revenue in four years for the country’s largest domestic violence shelter provider. She also advocated and collaborated with City and State governments to establish Child Advocacy Centers in Manhattan and the Bronx, co-locating the police, assistant district attorneys, child protection workers, and medical providers to serve victims of child sexual and severe physical abuse.  She established a new borough-based victim-centered program which refocused interventions on meeting all safety needs of clients, developed program-based performance measures to evaluate services meeting budgetary and operational objectives and refocused research and evaluation activities to prioritize internal evaluation.

Before joining Safe Horizon Bea served as the Director of Client Services for the New York City Gay and Lesbian Anti-Violence Project, serving 2,000 victims of hate crime, domestic violence, and sexual assault annually. She also held positions with the Northwest Bronx Community and Clergy Coalition, the National Training and Information Center, and Ozone House: Counseling Center for Runaway and Homeless Youth.

Bea recently earned a Doctorate in Social Welfare degree from City University in New York, and previously, a Masters of Social Work degree from Hunter College School of Social Work in New York and a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.

We could not be more thrilled to have such a dedicated advocate and life-long supporter of the issues we dedicate ourselves to each day joining the OVW team.  We believe her appointment demonstrates the deep commitment of this Administration to ending violence against women.  Please join us in welcoming Bea!

With Hope,

Susan B. Carbon
Director

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July 2011

Since 1995, the funding from 353 awards totaling over $750 million from a formula grant program known as the S.T.O.P. (Services. Training. Officers. Prosecutors) Violence Against Women Formula Grants Program has provided victims of sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence and stalking with unprecedented support from both the criminal justice system and the advocacy community. These grants have, among many other things, created law enforcement, prosecutor and court-based training programs, assisted with reviews of sexual assault cold cases, and improved victim services across the country.  The STOP formula program is one of OVW’s signature grant opportunities; funds are provided to every state and territory.  The opportunities provided to jurisdictions around the country are limitless.

The reach of S.T.O.P. awards is often summed up in numbers. The most recently compiled numbers for 2008 documented more than 461,700 victims served, over 875, 200 services provided to victims, and more than 3,600 individuals arrested for violations of protection orders.  

These numbers alone, however, do not capture the essence of how these grants have transformed and improved lives, strengthened organizations and helped restructure important protocols and services.
 
For this reason, OVW partnered with the Alliance of Local Service Organizations (ALSO) on a project that illuminates some of the successful programs that have had significant impact in jurisdictions around the country.  Entitled S.T.O.P. in Action: Success Stories from the S.T.O.P. Formula Grants Program, the film and booklet document the achievements and impact of  S.T.O.P. grant recipients in each U.S. State and Territory.   Video scenarios present an in-depth look at three jurisdictions' uses of S.T.O.P. Funds:  Phoenix, Arizona's program to reduce the rape kit backlog; Montana's program to improve system responses through domestic violence fatality reviews; and central New Jersey's program to provide coordinated services to victims of domestic and sexual violence. 

The S.T.O.P. in Action booklet offers descriptions of exciting programs– including organizations like Ayuda that offers free legal assistance for low-income immigrant women in Washington, D.C. and Mississippi’s  Coalition Against Sexual Assault  use of S.T.O.P. grant funds to train employees at Keesler Air Force Base and Camp Shelby on sexual assault response.  At Valley City State University in North Dakota, a S.T.O.P. grant allowed the local Abused Persons Outreach Center to hire a Campus Violence Intervention Advocate to provide resources especially for students.  Every description is a testimony to the ongoing commitment of using S.T.O.P. funds to address specific community, organization or individual needs.

Everyone is encouraged to view the video and booklet available at www.also-chicago.org  for a comprehensive overview of S.T.O.P. accomplishments.

S.T.O.P. in Action: Success Stories from the S.T.O.P. Formula Grants Program

Susan B. Carbon
Director
Office on Violence Against Women

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August 2011

Although it is the middle of summer vacation for many, the staff at the Office on Violence Against Women have been hard at work. As you know, because of the delay in the FY 2011 appropriations process, we did not have sufficient time before the end of this fiscal year to include an external peer review for many of our discretionary grant programs. As a result, staff were exceedingly busy conducting internal peer review on hundreds of applications. I am excited to report that we have completed the peer review portion of this cycle and are now involved in making the very tough decisions on which applications should be funded. With so many excellent applications, the competition is fierce. I am extremely proud that despite many challenges in time and resources, OVW staff have managed to ensure that the grants are on track to be awarded on time to very deserving organizations for all grant programs. Notification of all awards will be made by September 30, 2011. Please go to www.ovw.usdoj.gov for more information about the changes to the FY 2011 grant application review process. We thank you for your patience and flexibility thus far with this process!

In addition to our program staff, our policy staff has also been hard at work as we consider the upcoming reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act. We know that many conversations across the country are occurring regarding what should be included in this legislation, and we anticipate thoughtful discussion and exploration of new and innovative ideas for grant programs, specific areas and issues to focus on, and current challenges and strengths of VAWA, all with the goal to continue our work to end violence against women, no matter what its form. In anticipation of the reauthorization of VAWA, the Department of Justice, after consultation with Indian tribes, recently announced proposed legislation that would expand protections to address the epidemic of domestic violence against Native women. Please go to www.justice.gov/opa/pr/2011/July/11-asg-955.html for more information about this proposed legislation. We believe that these changes in Federal law will significantly improve the safety of women in tribal communities and allow Federal and tribal law enforcement agencies to hold more perpetrators of domestic violence accountable for their crimes.

Last month, I had the unique opportunity to travel to West Virginia to speak with the US Attorney’s Office to a group of twelve incarcerated women at the West Virginia Northern Regional Jail. This day was a part of Attorney General Eric Holder’s new Anti-Violence Initiative. The Attorney General has asked all United States Attorneys to develop strategic plans to address violent crime in ways relevant to each jurisdiction. United States Attorney William Ihlenfeld of the Northern District of West Virginia used this day to launch a major effort to educate female inmates about the dangers of straw party firearm purchases in hopes that this education will help prevent recidivism once the women are released. These women were victims of abuse as children and later at the hands of husbands or boyfriends, men who later pressured – or even forced -- these women to commit crimes For these women, abuse was a “normal”, everyday part of life, until they were incarcerated. Now they were sitting behind bars at a women’s prison talking about what brought them there and what they would need to succeed upon release. These women have goals, have aspirations to better their lives, to serve their time and then start a new path. But these women will leave prison with limited resources, most will be registered felons, jobless and with limited job opportunities. As one woman expressed, “We’re not interested in reentry, we need to reinvent ourselves, and we will need help to do that.” Sadly, most of the women lamented that upon release, it will be their batterers who will be there to retrieve them, using the children as tools of manipulation unless they have access to sufficient resources to live independently.

As a judge for 20 years, I saw thousands of women, and their children, in my courtroom over the years. People who commit crimes must pay their debt to society – as adults we make decisions in our lives, and we need to be held accountable when we choose illegal actions. But these women had such limited options, I had to ask, how could we have intervened earlier and prevented them from being trapped by violence and drugs? How could we have prevented them from years in prison and separation from their children? As Attorney General Holder has often asked, how do we help those who, based on their childhood experiences, never had a chance?

As Director of the Office on Violence Against Women (OVW) at the U.S. Department of Justice, it’s my job to find ways we can save lives and save money by stopping violence before it starts. The women I met at the West Virginia Northern Regional Jail said they wished someone had talked to them in school – a teacher, a guidance counselor, a guest teacher in a health class. Although many of them knew of, and applied for, protective orders, very few of them had advocates that helped them along the way. OVW is funding training for schools so they know how to recognize and respond to dating violence and sexual assault, and can offer a curriculum that helps teens learn about healthy, respectful relationships and ways to avoid or escape the cycle of violence and abuse. Although we cannot change the history of the twelve women I spoke with in West Virginia, I am confident that the work we are doing today at OVW, and the work our tireless advocates and grantees in the field are doing, is changing the future for countless women nationwide. I hope the chapters we write for the future will bring better outcomes.

During this constructive summer, for the Office on Violence Against Women and the field, we extend safe travels to those taking much deserved time off to spend with friends and family.

With Hope and Gratitude,

Susan B. Carbon
Director
Office on Violence Against Women
U.S. Department of Justice

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September 2011

Dear Friends and Colleagues,

As I write this message, it is a quiet Saturday morning in DC.  I know (as you probably have observed) that I have missed my target of posting a message at the beginning of the month.  I was, as I hope many of you were, enjoying an end-of-summer vacation with my husband and others in my family, a luxury these days.  Living in DC and commuting home on weekends, when the opportunity allows, is a challenge, and I am ever mindful that my husband is making a big sacrifice for me to be here, and him there.  He knows how grateful I am to him, but more importantly, knows how important this work is.  And I couldn’t be more reminded of that as we approach “our” anniversary, September 13th.

Three days from now we will be celebrating the 17th Anniversary of the historic passage of the Violence Against Women Act.  Thanks to the unyielding focus of now Vice President Biden and many of his colleagues in Congress, a remarkable and groundbreaking piece of legislation has transformed our nation’s response to the tragic crimes of domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking and dating violence.  Hundreds of thousands of victims have benefitted, and their lives forever changed because of the resolve and commitment to end violence demonstrated not only by Congress, but by all those who have worked so hard over the past 17 years to implement this legislation in their crisis centers, police departments, emergency rooms, prosecutors’ offices, courtrooms and communities.  We are a different country than we were 17 years ago.

But we cannot “rest upon our laurels” and let slide the progress we have made, or think for one moment that we don’t need to maintain our vigilance.  We have an ethical duty, a responsibility to our friends, family, colleagues, communities, strangers, people from all walks of life in every corner of this country, to continue and broaden our efforts to end violence against women, children and men.  Sadly too many continue to be victimized; and as new professionals and volunteers enter the field, we need to ensure that they have access to the best practices and  training as we are faced with new challenges and tools of abuse.

Over the past couple of years, we have embarked upon the development of a new program to broaden the reach of those working to end violence against women by engaging men and boys to work together as allies with women and girls.  This is the first time in the history of OVW that a grant program focuses primarily on the prevention of sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence and stalking by acknowledging the critical role men and boys play in addressing these issues.  That, along with the program's focus on the creation of public education campaigns through the work of community-based organizations in collaboration with local community partners, has resulted in a great deal of interest and excitement from the field and potential applicants.  At the end of last month, we held our first New Grantee Orientation for our Engaging Men grantees.  Twenty-three sites were awarded in this first round.  The energy and passion of the teams from these very diverse organizations was palpable.  Their drive and dedication to ending violence has elevated the discourse around these difficult issues.  With men as partners in this work, we have the potential to reach men and boys in new and creative ways, implementing programs most relevant to them and their communities. 


This week we punctuated our work around ending sexual violence specifically by hosting a Sexual Violence Research Roundtable with the National Institute of Justice, one of our Department of Justice colleagues.  The idea for this roundtable grew out of last October’s first-ever White House Roundtable on Sexual Violence in the United States.   The partnership of NIJ with OVW enabled us to bring together an extraordinary group of practitioners (representing medicine and healthcare, law enforcement, the judiciary, prosecution and advocacy communities) with some of the finest researchers in the country to help us frame research priorities for the short- and long-term.  We spent two days discussing what John Laub, Director of NIJ, has coined “translational criminology”, the art and science of bridging research with practice in a way that enables practitioners to use good research in their daily encounters.  I recall my own frustrations as a judge, receiving lengthy (and statistically-loaded) research papers, wondering when I would have the necessary time to digest the findings before being able to apply them into my daily dockets.  It was refreshing to see everyone at the table understanding the need for clear communication amongst us all, and a willingness to work together to enrich our collective endeavors.  As Sgt. Jim Markey of the Phoenix Police Department summarized so well, “Law enforcement is hungry, and research is our donut.  We want it – we want all of it!” 

We also spent a great deal of time talking about research that embraces the contexts of victim experiences – thus, qualitative as well as quantitative, and how vital it is to hear the voices and see the faces of victims and survivors.  I am forever impressed by and indebted to those survivors who have the courage and fortitude to speak out and teach us that which many of us, fortunately, have not had to experience ourselves.  I thank in particular Anne Ream and Karen Carroll for sharing their experiences with us.  One of Anne’s statements continues to resonate with me:  “In a moment of terror, you are so utterly transformed that you become a stranger to yourself.” 

This discussion evolved into a recognition of the reality that there is no one “standard victim” – nor “one standard response” to the crime of sexual violence, despite the continuing public perceptions that there is such a thing as “real rape” and a “real victim”, as if there were a corollary: that other forms of rape may not be real.  Judge Jerry Bowles from Kentucky offered an analogy he uses often in training judges and others across the country, an experience to which we can all relate. 

Think of visiting a funeral home upon the death of a friend or family member.  Some guests will cry; others will laugh and tell jokes, remembering the good times; others will simply smile and embrace friends in a gesture of support; others will shut their eyes and hold their feelings close.  Despite how vastly different these reactions are, no one leaves the funeral home doubting that someone died.

We also discussed the need to have research that focuses on accountability – both of perpetrators for their crimes of sexual violence, and of system participants to do the best job possible to bring justice to victims.  We talked about what “justice” means.  We talked about the role of “gatekeepers” and how at various stages of the criminal justice system, attrition occurs because of the actions of those who control various parts of the process.  And we discussed how “discretion” is sometimes a pseudonym for bias.  That flowed into a discussion about attitudes – towards victims, towards offenders, how and why attitudes can (but don’t always) change, and how attitudes affect behaviors.  We concluded with a discussion about how rape victims, and women in general, are portrayed in the media, and what role degrading and pornographic images play in perpetuating complacent attitudes towards rape, if not perpetuating rape itself. 

This and so much more captured our attention and will be shared with the Department and Administration, and when a report is completed, will be posted on our website as well as NIJ’s.

As we are about to celebrate the 17th Anniversary of VAWA, we are working on its third reauthorization.  We recognize the role of advocates who support victims of sexual assault and those who work with victims of domestic violence, as well as those who work in dual coalitions.  In early August we brought together leaders from these three constituencies, as well as some national leaders, to embrace the important work and speak with a united voice to end violence against women, in all its forms.  It was a rich discussion, and we at OVW are grateful for the time that everyone gave to us to make that meeting so powerful.  We look forward to continuing this discussion in the coming months.

The next few days and weeks ahead are filled with great excitement and anticipation.  We are bringing our National Advisory Committee on Violence Against Women together again for their third meeting.  Later in the week we will be announcing the awards for our new Sexual Assault Demonstration Initiative (SADI).  As we recognize September as National Campus Safety Awareness Month, in early October we will be hosting the National Summit on Campus Safety for College and University Presidents where we will be talking with presidents from around the country about sexual assault and domestic violence on their campuses, and how their role as leaders of their institutions is so vital to ending these crimes.  And we will talk about the importance of supporting the research their faculty undertake to better understand and end these horrific crimes so that all campuses can be safe, and all students can achieve a superlative college career.

Although I normally focus only on our work at OVW, I cannot let this message go by without acknowledging two significant events.   Tomorrow is September 11, the 10th anniversary of one of the worst tragedies our country has experienced.   Yesterday at the Great Hall of Justice, Attorney General Eric Holder gave voice to those whose lives were lost and to those who have survived, by honoring them in a very moving commemorative ceremony.  We cannot forget.

The second is the opening of the Memorial here in Washington of Martin Luther King, Jr.  One of greatest non-work pleasures of living in DC is having a magnificent city in which to enjoy early morning runs, covering the monuments.  This morning I stopped, for the first time, at this new Memorial, dedicated while I was out of town.  One quote struck me as so relevant to our work:  "True peace is not merely the absence of tension: it is the presence of justice."  We at the Department strive every day to find that justice, as I know you do as well.

Let me close by thanking all of you, those I know and those I have yet to meet, for all the time and effort you expend day in and day out to end violence against women and to find the presence of  justice.  It is hard work; it is rewarding work; and together we can and will make a difference.  Let me also recognize and thank the staff at OVW for their tireless work in developing new and challenging grant programs to meet the ever changing and expanding needs of victims, selecting grantees, supporting them, developing creative projects like those I’ve mentioned here, working on the reauthorization of VAWA, and the countless other responsibilities they somehow fit into their schedules so that tomorrow, the world will be a different place, a better place.  I am indebted to you all and grateful beyond words.

Susan B. Carbon
Director
Office on Violence Against Women
U.S. Department of Justice

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October 2011

Dear Friends and Colleagues,

I always look forward to the beginning of a month, and this one in particular, because it marks the close of one fiscal year and beginning of another.  As of last Friday, we closed our books on FY 2011 and, despite the very late start to our peer review process because of the delayed budget cycle, succeeded in getting out all of our awards.  This was a Herculean effort on the part of staff throughout the office – the budget and grants financial management staff, program staff, outreach, and all the administrative support.  They all worked extraordinary hours to make this possible.

As you know, our Office administers three formula programs and 18 discretionary programs.  Formula programs, by definition, are not “competed”, but still require considerable work to process.  Our discretionary programs, on the other hand, are competed, and this year the competition was intense.  For some programs, the number of applications and amount of funds requested was 10 times that which was available.  All of this makes it essential that the review process be thorough and objective, and this requires significant time and effort from staff and, in many instances, from expert reviewers like many of you.   This is a difficult process, and one which we take very seriously to ensure the most appropriate applications are funded.  So, let me congratulate all of those who have received FY 2011 awards, and encourage everyone else to continue checking our website for postings of new solicitations for FY 2012 in the coming months.

The first of a month is also a time to look back on the accomplishments of the past month, and look forward to the highlights of the coming month.  We were thrilled to host the third meeting of our National Advisory Committee on Violence Against Women.  This select 15-member committee, comprised of advocates, researchers, attorneys, practitioners, survivors, and representatives from law enforcement and courts, is charged with providing advice and recommendations to the Departments of Justice and Health and Human Services on ways the federal government can improve its work around children and youth who are exposed to and directly victimized by sexual, domestic and dating violence, and to focus on ways to end the violence that they are exposed to in their homes and communities.  The members of the NAC are focusing their efforts particularly around the issues of trauma-informed responses, public outreach, and improving outcomes through evidence-based and practitioner-informed research.  We are very much looking forward to the next NAC meeting in December where this important federal advisory committee will continue its efforts to provide guidance to us on how we can end the cycle of violence that traps too many children and youth in our country.

In mid-September at the National Sexual Assault Conference in Baltimore, we had the great pleasure of announcing the six sites selected for the Sexual Assault Demonstration Initiative (SADI, as we call it).  The purpose of this demonstration project is to determine best practices and needed action in reaching more sexual assault survivors and providing comprehensive sexual assault services.  We hope to develop key tools, methods and strategies that can be disseminated widely to the broader field of dual/multi-service agencies serving sexual assault survivors.  The six sites, each of which is receiving a three-year award of $450,000, are:  Gila River Indian Community, Sacaton, AZ; Shelter, Inc., Alpena, MI; Doves, Inc., Gering, NE; New York Asian Women’s Center, Inc., NY, NY; Family Violence and Rape Crisis Services, Pittsboro, NC; and SafePlace, Olympia, WA.  Congratulations to all of them!  We look forward to our partnership with the Resource Sharing Project and the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, our Technical Assistance providers, as we move forward in this important work.

This national conference also provided an opportunity to meet with about 50 representatives from our US Territories, including a huge contingent from Guam.  All of these grantees travelled incredibly long distances to participate in this conference.  I want to thank them for taking the time to share their thoughts about VAWA funding and ideas for how OVW can work with them to achieve our common goals.  I also had an opportunity to meet with many representatives from a variety of underserved communities, including African Americans, LGBTQ, disabilities, AAPI, American Indian and Alaska Native, and Latino.  Having such opportunities opens doors to productive dialog and understanding of needs that are unique to these populations.

Most recently OVW was invited to participate with United States Attorney Brendan Johnson for the District of South Dakota in his Second Tribal Listening Session Addressing Violence Against Women.  This Department and indeed this Administration is deeply committed to addressing violence against American Indian and Alaska Native women.  Over 200 tribal and non-native leaders joined together to discuss the role of law enforcement and the US Attorney’s Office in investigating and prosecuting cases of violence against women.  Particularly focus was placed on the importance of protection orders, and strengthening the Violence Against Women Act to ensure that orders issued by tribal courts are accorded full faith and credit within and beyond tribal boundaries is one of the significant proposals offered by the Department in the upcoming reauthorization.

Few reading this will need to be reminded that October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month.  This is our opportunity to use every occasion to speak out about domestic violence, to challenge misconceptions, to raise awareness, to talk to our daughters, sisters, mothers, sons, brothers, fathers, wives and husbands, friends and colleagues, about the scourge of domestic violence, to safely intervene when someone’s safety is, or is about to be, compromised.  It is also a time to recommit to ending violence in all its forms, challenging the misogyny that exists around us, and the degradation and objectification of women and girls.  Everyone has a role to play, and every bit helps.  Those who fail to take action, who turn away and do nothing, are complicit participants:  their inaction condones the very violence we seek to end.

There are so many ways to get involved – personally and professionally, no matter who you are or what you do.  Contact us if you need ideas – or start with your local shelter or crisis center.  It costs nothing to speak out, but exercising your voice could mean all the difference to someone you may never meet.  Collectively we can, we must, do this.

Looking into the month ahead, we are excited to be hosting the first-ever National Summit on Campus Safety for College and University Presidents this week.  We are bringing presidents from all over the country to mobilize them to provide leadership around ending domestic violence and sexual assault on their campuses.

We will also be hosting our Department colleagues for a discussion about domestic homicide, and what we can do to address this critical issue.  Among our special guests will be William Kellibrew and Dr. Neil Websdale who chairs the National Domestic Violence Fatality Review Initiative.  We are excited to showcase a video of domestic homicide prepared through our STOP Technical Assistance program.

Let me close on a personal note.  It was two years ago that I was nominated by the President to become Director of OVW, and this month marks the 18-month anniversary of my having assumed this position.  I want to thank everyone, all of our grantees and TA providers, all of the advocates, law enforcement officers, judges, attorneys, prosecutors, SANE nurses, medical and mental health providers, clergy, teachers, coaches, and all the many others, who work to end violence.  What you do each day makes a difference.  We at OVW look forward to our continued partnership in this work, and to continue listening to and learning from you about new and better ways to meet the needs of victims and survivors, and to hold offenders accountable for their actions.

Thank you for all that you do, and all that I know you will do.

With gratitude and respect,

Susan B. Carbon,
Director
Office on Violence Against Women

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November 2011

Dear Friends,

As we reflect back upon the month of October, the month we use to highlight Domestic Violence Awareness, we hosted two major events to raise awareness and engage the public in meaningful conversations.

On October 3-4, 2011, OVW hosted the first-ever National Summit on Campus Safety for College and University Presidents. We brought together presidents from across the country to open a dialogue about the dynamics and impact of domestic violence and sexual assault on college campuses, and to engage their participation in leading efforts to end these crimes. With an outstanding faculty that included our first Director, Bonnie Campbell, who recently served as a Regent for the University of Iowa, the Summit provided an opportunity for peer-to-peer exchange on effective interventions including campus safety plans, model campus policies (including Title IX and the Clery Act), proven and innovative practices, and victim-centered responses. We know that college presidents are faced with a pressing need for accountability and growing concerns for safety and security for all their students. The Summit face us the opportunity to showcase assistance that is already available through the Federal government. For example, representatives from the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, the Department of Education Office of Safe and Healthy Students and Office of Civil Rights, the Department of Health and Human Services Administration for Children and Families, Centers for Disease Control, and Office on Women's Health, and of course the Department of Justice Community Oriented Policing Services, National Institute of Justice, Federal Bureau of Investigation and Office of Law Enforcement Coordination, in addition to our Office, participated in an information-exchange moderated by Lynn Rosenthal, White House Advisor on Violence Against Women - and this was just the beginning! The presidents are already talking about replicating these forums on their own campuses.

Another priority for our Office is addressing domestic violence homicide. Domestic violence often begins with "minor" criminal offenses. Left unchecked, however, domestic violence can culminate in its most lethal form -- quite literally, homicide. On October 20th, we hosted a Domestic Violence Awareness Month forum for the Department, our colleagues in partner agencies, and local service providers to raise awareness about the prevalence of domestic violence-related homicide and the steps that can be taken by communities around the country to prevent these tragedies. We were honored to have the Deputy Attorney General, James Cole, open the event with his passionate, personal commitment to this issue.

William Kellibrew, IV, who as a child witnessed the brutal assault on his mother and brother, was our keynote speaker. Through the unspeakable suffering he endured, he helped us understand the depth of this crime and motivate us to marshall our collective resources to help prevent similar deaths. We were also joined by Professor Neil Websdale of Northern Arizona University who led a panel discussion on homicide prevention initiatives and resources necessary to support victims and families of victims. Professor Websdale is also the Director of the National Domestic Violence Fatality Review Initiative (NDVFRI). In this capacity he serves as a resource to teams across the country that bring together community leaders to examine homicide cases from the perspectives of the victim and offender, with an eye towards what could have been done differently to prevent future homicides. Participating in the panel discussion were David Sargent from the Maryland Network Against Domestic Violence, who leads the implementation of the Lethality Assessment Tool, a resource for multiple different professionals to help guide risk assessment of victims of domestic violence, Susan Ley, Executive Director of the Wendt Center for Loss and Healing, and Marcia Rinker, Victim Witness Advocate for the United States Attorney's Office here in Washington, DC.

The Bureau of Justice Statistics and FBI data show that between 1993 and 2008, the annual incidence of domestic violence dropped by 53% nationwide, and the number of individuals killed by an intimate partner declined 32% for women and 63% for men. Though homicides and incidents of domestic violence are still down dramatically from where they were in the early 90s, they have started to increase since the recession first began in late 2007. According to the Department's Bureau of Justice Statistics, all types of crime declined from 2008 to 2009, except domestic violence. Domestic violence homicides of women began increasing in 2007. FBI data show that, from 2006 to 2008, there was a 6% total increase in the number of women murdered by spouses, boyfriends, and former spouses. It is more important than ever that we use the lessons learned from initiatives like Domestic Violence Fatality Review Teams and the Lethality Assessment Project to engage our communities in preventing these homicides.

We are excited to announce that 838 grants have been awarded for FY 2011. All of the award letters to our successful applicants were sent by September 30th. As exciting as this is for those who are new or continuing recipients, we realize there many others who were not successful, not because their applications were not worthy, but because the competition has become so fierce. In some cases we were able to award only 6% of the applications, funding 6% of the requested amounts. Communities know that these grants can be helpful -- in public engagement, coordination of services, enhanced services, new and improved protocols, and adoption of model policies, and we only wish we could fund more.

We are also mindful that there has been concern expressed about what appears to be gaps in funding. It is critically important to me, to the Office, that everyone understand how hard the staff work to issue solicitations, conduct peer review, and make final decisions and issue award letters. In the past year we were delayed in beginning this work due to the lack of a federal budget. Until we know what resources will be allocated for the various grant programs, and until we know what our own budget is to be able to conduct peer review, we cannot make the necessary financial commitments to enter contracts and engage peer reviewers. We know this has been frustrating, but we are doing all we can to ensure funds are disseminated at the earliest opportunity.

Having said that, we welcome hearing from you, and want to answer any questions you may have. You are our partners in this work, and it is critically important that we work together to meet the needs of your communities. Please call on us -- we are here to serve you. If you have questions and do not know who to contact, please email my inbox, ovw.director@usdoj.gov.

As we look forward to November, let's keep in mind our friends, relatives and neighbors who are serving in the Armed Forces, and the families they leave behind when they are deployed. We ask so much of them -- the service members, their wives, husbands, partners, and their children -- let's be sure to keep them in our thoughts and prayers, and thank them at every opportunity for their service. And on November 11th, Veteran's Day, make a special effort to reach out and thank them. A simple act of kindness is so easy, and so appreciated -- and does so much. It costs nothing but a moment of your time, and generosity of your spirit.

Thank you for all the work you do every day. It is an honor to call you our partners in this work, and a privilege to work with you in making the change we all want.

With gratitude and respect,

Susan B. Carbon,
Director
Office on Violence Against Women

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December 2011

Dear Friends,

November closed with great excitement:  on the 30th, 17 years after its original passage, the Violence Against Women Act was introduced for reauthorization with the bipartisan leadership and support of Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Senator Mike Crapo (R-ID).  The act, whose current authorization expired in September, was first championed by Vice President Joe Biden and passed by Congress in 1994.  VAWA has been reauthorized twice since, in both 2000 under President Clinton, and 2005 under President Bush.  This bill has always enjoyed bipartisan support:  abuse knows no bounds – victims can be young and old, of all racial and ethnic backgrounds, all genders, from every corner of the country, urban and rural, tribal and territorial.  Everyone has the right to expect security and safety in their homes, neighborhoods and communities at large.

The Violence Against Women Act has been the cornerstone of the federal government’s efforts to bring an end to sexual violence, domestic violence, dating violence and stalking.  The Act supports formula and discretionary programs serving all segments of society, and encourages close collaboration among community service providers and professionals to coordinate efforts to end violence.  Since its passage, well over $4 billion have been awarded for victim services and hundreds of programs around the country such as transitional housing, supervised visitation, and legal assistance.  VAWA is best identified for the way in which it has helped strengthen coordinated approaches by bringing together survivors, victim advocates, law enforcement, court personnel, health care professionals and faith leaders, among many others.  The impact of VAWA cannot be overstated:  it has profoundly improved lives, has saved lives, and has led to a paradigm shift whereby domestic and sexual violence are no longer private matters never to be shared.  To the contrary, we have seen a cultural shift take hold – we repudiate violence and work in myriad ways to stem the tide.

While violence has been reduced substantially as a result of VAWA, much remains to be done if we are ever to achieve safety and security for all.  The proposed legislation includes a number of important updates and improvements to the law, including a greater emphasis on meeting the needs of survivors of sexual violence by adding purpose areas and dedicated funding from the STOP state formula grant and the Grants to Encourage Arrest program.  A greater focus is also included to address domestic homicides.  The legislation recognizes that training of law enforcement, victim service providers and court personnel can help identify, and bring to safety, those victims at particularly high risk of harm.   A greater emphasis is also placed on reaching traditionally underserved communities through the STOP planning process and through new purpose areas in some of the funding streams.  And through consolidation of some of the youth programs, it is hoped that more emphasis can be placed on prevention and its relationship to intervention work as well.

Major improvements are also included to improve the response to the incredibly high rates of violence committed against women in tribal communities.  Among other things, the legislation proposes to strengthen tribal responses by recognizing certain tribes’ concurrent jurisdiction to investigate, prosecute, convict and sentence both Indians and non-Indians, and intends to clarify that tribal courts have full civil jurisdiction to issue and enforce certain protection orders.

And this brings me to this week – in a few days, the Departments of Justice and Health and Human Services will be holding our 6th annual Tribal Consultation at Santa Ana Pueblo in New Mexico.  This annual event is an opportunity for government-to-government discussion about issues facing American Indian and Alaska Native women, around ending violence in all its forms.  We anticipate tribal leaders from all over the country and look forward to the rich discussion that will help us better serve women who are abused and raped, and murdered, at rates which are nothing short of abominable.

In conjunction with the Tribal Consultation, the Task Force created under Title IX of VAWA will meet to hear updates from the National Institute of Justice of the Department of Justice about their program of research regarding violence against the AI/AN community.  These collective efforts will continue.  The exchange of ideas and information is much anticipated.

Between Thanksgiving, the December holidays and the New Year, we take pause to be grateful for what we have, to remind ourselves of what others don’t have, and challenge ourselves to do more, to do better, to reach out to that one person whose life will be better for that act of kindness.

Wishing you peace and joy, safety and security, thank you for all that you do every day.

Susan B. Carbon,
Director
Office on Violence Against Women

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April 2011

On Friday, April 29th, the Office on Violence Against Women (OVW) commemorated Sexual Assault Awareness Month program by participating in “Denim Day.” This rape prevention education campaign originated in response to a 1992 Italian Supreme Court’s reversal of a rape conviction in which the Chief Judge asserted that “because the victim wore very, very tight jeans, she had to help him remove them, and by removing the jeans it was no longer rape but consensual sex.” Outraged by the decision, women in the Italian Parliament wore jeans to work as a way of protesting the verdict. Today, a growing number of communities across the United States wear jeans on Denim Day as a visible statement of the persistent misconceptions about sexual assault.

Planned and coordinated by OVW staff, the program included a presentation of the findings from 114 completed interviews conducted by George Mason University (GMU) students, followed by remarks from a disability rights advocate who told her personal story of survival, and ended with a short presentation by the National Sexual Violence Resource Center.

Over the past semester, nearly 30 GMU senior class social work students interviewed representatives from law enforcement, the military, formerly incarcerated persons, the immigrant and deaf communities and older adults. The GMU seniors presented their methodology, categories of questions and findings to an audience of 150 people, including Department of Justice staff, advocacy organizations, representatives from the Departments of Education, Health and Human Services, and Defense, and the Bureau of Prisons.

The students’ findings shed light on the understanding of and attitudes about bystander intervention, the definition of rape and sexual assault, the profile of a rapist, victim characteristics, the relationship between perpetrator and victim and causes of sexual assault. Also included were the role of media in forming perceptions of sexual assault and the need for training and culturally relevant services. The students discussed reasons why victims do not report the crimes to officials and pointed out the need to provide more information and services to victims.

Heidi Case, currently the co-chair of the National Organization for Women’s Disability Task Force, spoke poignantly about how her early victimization experience led her to work as an advocate and activist for people with disabilities. She emphasized the importance of believing survivors when they disclose noting that in her own case, being heard and believed was perhaps the single-most important factor in her own recovery.

The program concluded with a presentation by Sally Laskey of the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, and included the showing of a new public service announcement currently running at Times Square in New York City.

The messages from the speakers who joined us highlighted the stark reality surrounding sexual assault:
· It knows no age, gender, geographic location, race, ethnicity, or sexual orientation; and · Every community is affected.

Friday’s events concluded a month long series of events held across the nation. OVW traveled to nine states to engage with a broad range of communities, including members of the military, universities, high school students and law school students, and rural and urban settings. We were encouraged by the level of commitment that exists to confront the issue of sexual assault . We at OVW are paying closer attention to this crime and support a national dialogue about it, not only in April, but throughout the year. Across the country and within our own office we recognize that talking about sexual assault is a critical step in educating ourselves about a complex crime that affects millions, supporting victims in meaningful ways, and preventing the crime in the first place.

We are grateful to the leadership of the Department of Justice, Department of Education, the Department of Health and Human Services, the Vice President and President who have added their voices to the national dialogue on sexual assault and in so doing have elevated the urgency of the issue. We will build on the momentum created during this Sexual Assault Awareness Month and commit to work diligently to support sexual assault victims, their families and our communities.

Susan B. Carbon
Director

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Updated: January 2014