Deputy Associate Attorney General Karol V. Mason, Acting Director for the Office on Violence Against Women (OVW) Catherine Pierce, and actress and advocate Mariska Hargitay addressed nearly 300 attendees today at theServices-Training-Officers-Prosecutors (STOP) Conference in San Francisco. The four-day conference, which began Sunday, brings together STOP grant administrators representing the offices of the governor, attorney general, or other state criminal justice agency from every state government and territory in the nation. Also in attendance are domestic violence and sexual assault coalition representatives from every state and territory.
"The Justice Department is committed to working 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," said Deputy Associate Attorney General Mason. "We need your help to not only raise awareness, but to truly make change. Each community must take an active role in defining their response to violence against women."
"In the past 15 years since the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) was signed into law, countless lives have been saved, the voices of survivors have been heard, and families have been protected. But there is still much more to be done. We have federal resources and we have a strong commitment from this administration, but that is not enough. We need to work together to bring about a significant shift in our culture," said Acting Director Pierce.
"I have seen survivors find their way back to lives of possibility, hope and joy, and I am so proud to be part of a movement that will change the way we talk about and behave around these epidemics," said Hargitay, best known for her role on NBC’s Law and Order: Special Victim’s Unit, and president and founder of the Joyful Heart Foundation. "Through your work, you strengthen the possibility of healing for a survivor because you are acknowledging, responding to, and giving your all to do something about the violence and injustice they have suffered. That is why I am so moved by your collective commitment: because it has the power to heal."
The Justice Department announced Monday that President Obama’s FY2011 budget request provides $461 million for OVW to provide communities with resources to combat sexual assault and violence against women. This includes $30 million for the Sexual Assault Services Program and $50 million for the Legal Assistance for Victims Program. An additional $100 million is also allocated within the Crime Victims Fund, which is administered through the Department’s Office for Victims of Crime, to specifically aid victims of violence against women.
STOP grant administrators serve as the liaison between OVW and the states, oversee the administration of STOP funding and provide statewide leadership on violence against women intervention efforts. The STOP formula grant program, the largest single funding stream administered by OVW, promotes a coordinated, multidisciplinary approach to enhancing advocacy and improving the criminal justice system’s response to violent crimes against women. It encourages the development and improvement of effective law enforcement and prosecution strategies to address violent crimes against women and of advocacy and services in cases involving violent crimes against women.
The Justice Department has launched a year-long commemoration of the 15th anniversary of VAWA, working to raise public awareness on issues around violence against women, to build and renew coalitions among federal, state, local and tribal law enforcement and victim services communities, and to end stalking, sexual assault, domestic and dating violence for men, women and children across the country. As part of this effort, the department has encouraged the more than 100 celebrity allies, including Hargitay, who have lent their names in support of the department’s "Join the List" initiative to raise awareness with their fans,through Web and fan sites, and social networking profiles.