Hello everyone and thank you for joining us today. I am Associate Attorney General Tom Perrelli and I want to welcome you today as we commemorate National Stalking Awareness Month. As part of my job, I oversee our grant making programs for state, local and tribal law enforcement. That includes the Office on Violence Against Women (OVW), which administers critical funding to advocates, victim service providers and law enforcement agencies across the country. I am honored to stand here to shine a spotlight on the critical issue of violence against women. This is an issue I personally care deeply about, and it is one of the many areas where I believe that we can make a real and significant difference.
I know that I am looking out at an audience of people who have been and are personally and professionally affected by stalking. You are the law enforcement officers, the prosecutors, the judges and the service providers who see the effects of stalking every day, who struggle to help victims and to take action to put an end to stalking and to the dangerous cycle of violence to which stalking behavior so often leads. I also know that we have several survivors of stalking with us today – some of whom you will hear from. To you, I want to extend my heartfelt appreciation – for being here today to share your stories and to help us all learn how to communicate better and faster, so that we can help put an end to this crime.
This year marks the 15 year anniversary of President Clinton signing the Violence Against Women Act – or VAWA – into law. We at the Department have planned a year’s worth of activities meant to raise public awareness, to make sure that survivors everywhere know that they have a place – and a voice – in this administration, and to build toward a future where domestic abuse, sexual assault, stalking and teen dating violence are eradicated.
In fact, our special guest and moderator, Paula Zahn, is one of several public figures who have "Joined the List," a growing list of more than 100 celebrities, musicians, athletes and television personalities who are standing with the Department to end violence against women.
This year cannot just be an anniversary – it must be a call to action, and that is how we at the Department of Justice are viewing it.
We will mark this year with our renewed dedication. We want to use this year not merely to commemorate an anniversary, but to recommit ourselves to ending violence against women.
Our government and this Department have a responsibility to speak out and act on issues of violence against women. This administration has committed itself to thinking outside the box – to bringing in new ideas, and new coalitions, to bring about change. Far too many communities in the United States and around the world are affected by this issue. It must stop – and we must not be afraid to make changes in our own criminal justice system. We are committed to this cause and will work with federal, state, local and tribal partners to ensure that all communities – particularly those that have been chronically neglected – are given the resources and support they need.
We must recognize the changing nature of these crimes and develop new strategies for addressing them. This is particularly important with stalking, in which the use of technology by stalkers has become a common practice. We in law enforcement and our partners in the judiciary need to adapt in order to stop those who stalk and provide help to victims of stalking.
According to information provided by the National Stalking Resource Center, among the most common stalking behaviors that victims experience are unwanted phone calls and messages (66 percent) and unwanted e-mails and letters (31 percent). More than one in four victims report that stalkers have used technology, such as e-mail or instant messaging, to follow and harass them, and one in 13 says stalkers use electronic devices to intrude on their lives.
This was not an issue ten year ago – but it’s an issue today, and it’s an issue we need to learn to deal with right now. And ultimately, that’s what we’re hoping to accomplish today. We want to hear from you what is working, and what isn’t. What are the new trends that we need to be aware of, and how can we help victims protect themselves and get the help and advocacy they deserve.
While we recognize the 15 year anniversary of the signing of VAWA, the Department is also noting the 15 year anniversary of the creation of our Office on Violence Against Women (OVW). I know that we have many OVW partners and grantees in the audience today. Without a doubt, VAWA never would have happened, from creation to passage, without the steadfast commitment and work of the countless advocates, coalitions and community partners who advocated tirelessly for federal legislation to mark the importance of this issue and to back it up with vital resources. Many of you are here, and I applaud you for your work then and now to keep the momentum going.
Catherine Pierce is no stranger to you. And to those of you in the field, I don’t have to tell you what an extraordinary job she has done to address violence against women in all its forms. We are so fortunate to have her in the Department, leading OVW, providing boundless energy to the Department's effort to end the violence, and bringing together the best minds and the greatest available resources for victims’ services. She has challenged me to do better, and I continue to learn from her every day. I am proud to introduce Catherine Pierce, Acting Director of the Office on Violence Against Women.