The mission of the Office on Violence Against Women (OVW), a component of the U.S. Department of Justice, is to provide federal leadership in developing the national capacity to reduce violence against women and administer justice for and strengthen services to victims of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking.
In 1994 Congress passed the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) in recognition of the severity of crimes associated with domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking. This Act emerged from the efforts of a broad, grassroots coalition of advocates and survivors who informed the work of Congress. In the two decades prior to VAWA, a movement had grown within the United States to respond appropriately to violent crimes against women. Rape crisis centers and women’s shelters were established in localities, and state and local laws had changed. However, the progress had been uneven around the country. VAWA was borne out of the need for a national solution. This Act enhances the investigation and prosecution of violent crimes against women.
Created in 1995, OVW administers financial and technical assistance to communities across the country that are developing programs, policies, and practices aimed at ending domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking.
Currently, OVW administers four formula-based and 20 discretionary grant programs, established under VAWA and subsequent legislation. The four formula programs include STOP (Services, Training, Officers, Prosecutors), SASP (Sexual Assault Services Program), State Coalitions, and Tribal Coalitions. The 20 discretionary programs work to support victims and hold perpetrators accountable through promoting a coordinated community response. Funding is provided to local and state and tribal governments, courts, non-profit organizations, community-based organizations, secondary schools, institutions of higher education, and state and tribal coalitions. These entities work toward developing more effective responses to violence against women through activities that include direct services, crisis intervention, transitional housing, legal assistance to victims, court improvement, and training for law enforcement and courts. They also work with specific populations such as elder victims, or persons with disabilities, college students, teens, culturally and linguistically specific populations. Additionally as funding allows, OVW funds special initiatives in response to areas of special need. These initiatives dedicate resources to develop enhancements in areas requiring particular attention or in communities facing particularly acute challenges. They enable OVW to explore innovations in the violence against women field and share knowledge that can be replicated nationwide.
Since its inception, OVW has awarded over $5 billion in grants and cooperative agreements, and has launched a multifaceted approach to implementing VAWA. By forging state, local, and tribal partnerships among police, prosecutors, judges, victim advocates, health care providers, faith leaders, and others, OVW grant programs help provide victims with the protection and services they need to pursue safe and healthy lives, while simultaneously enabling communities to hold offenders accountable for their violence.
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