OVW Blog

OVW Blog

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

If you are reading this, the chances are great that you know from personal experience – as a survivor, as someone who works day in and day out with survivors, as someone who witnessed abuse -   that sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence, and stalking are deeply traumatic crimes that can cause severe damage to survivors’ emotional, spiritual, and psychological well-being. You probably also know that far too many survivors are harmed or retraumatized by insensitive, uninformed, or inadequate community and criminal justice system responses. And, far too often, first responders, including rape crisis counselors, domestic violence advocates, and police officers, are unaware of the impact trauma can have on their own lives. 

At OVW, we know the critical importance of service providers who are trained to recognize and understand the impact of trauma on survivors of sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence, and stalking, what is referred to as trauma-informed care. Trauma-informed care emphasizes creating services and programs that are sensitive and directly responsive to the trauma that many survivors experience after a violent crime. Trauma-informed care programs identify and limit potential triggers to reduce their retraumatization and protect their mental and emotional health. OVW has a long history supporting a number of trauma-informed care programs that provide culturally and linguistically competent services and a space for healing based on empowerment and hope.

Understanding trauma can be complicated.  For victims of sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence, and stalking, trauma can stem from an isolated incident, from repeated incidents over a lifetime, or from a pattern of ongoing violence.  And, this violence and trauma can be compounded by multi-generational and/or historical trauma. Exposure to “cumulative emotional and psychological wounding over the lifespan and across generations, emanating from massive group trauma experiences” such as colonization, war, or genocide, can magnify an already devastating crime. It is important for services providers to remember that because of historical trauma, many survivors of violent crime, such as those from African American, immigrant and American Indian/Alaska Native communities, are forced to confront multiple layers of traumatic experiences as they recover and heal.

OVW grantees and technical assistance providers are increasing the availability of safe and destigmatizing community and law enforcement programs that are sensitive to trauma. One grantee, the National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRC), is using OVW funding to develop and promote a new and innovative course for service providers, “The Brain, Body, and Trauma.” This online course covers the psychological and neurobiological impacts of sexual violence related trauma and gives victim service providers the skills necessary to offer trauma-informed services. OVW also supports trainings and information on supporting survivors recovering from historical trauma. For example, in 2012 OVW’s Tribal Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Coalitions Grant Program funded 13 trainings for professionals to improve their ability to address historical trauma experienced by American Indian and Alaska Native survivors.

We have also learned that law enforcement is most effective in combating violence against women when officers and staff have been trained to recognize and address the truly devastating mental and emotional trauma that many survivors experience in the aftermath of sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence, or stalking. That’s why OVW is proud to support the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) to provide law enforcement agencies with on-site Trauma Informed Sexual Assault Investigation trainings. These trainings provide a comprehensive look at how law enforcement agencies can be sensitive to survivors’ needs and avoid retraumatization while employing the most effective methods to investigate crimes. Too often, a lack of understanding about how victims of violence react to trauma leads police officers to wrongly dismiss the accounts of survivors, which is why IACP’s trainings also include detailed lessons on how trauma can negatively impact survivors’ memory, reactions, and demeanor when recounting how they were abused or attacked.

Providing trauma-informed services for survivors highlights the closely related issue of vicarious trauma experienced by many service providers, law enforcement personnel, and others who work with victims and survivors of violence. Vicarious trauma, sometimes called ‘provider fatigue,’ ‘compassion fatigue,’ or ‘secondary trauma,’ has been described as the “experience of having exhausted hearts, minds, bodies, and souls from helping survivors through their painful experiences.” Over the course of months or years the effects of vicarious trauma can accumulate, and, if left unaddressed, can do serious damage to the mental and emotional wellbeing of providers and other who work to support survivors.

As we approach the middle of summer, it is important for all of us who work to support survivors to remember to take time to rest and care for ourselves. Simple and effective self-care strategies are available to address the negative effects of vicarious trauma. These strategies can include steps as simple as setting aside time to read, take a walk, or practice mindful meditation. It is important to remember that taking care of ourselves is not a selfish act; in fact, effectively managing stress can make each of us a more effective caregiver and service provider. If left unaddressed, vicarious trauma can cause severe stress, anxiety, anger, and insomnia, all of which can limit our effectiveness and ability to do our jobs well.   Many people who work on violence against women issues will eventually ‘burn out’ because of poorly managed stress and fatigue, often leaving this line of work, creating critical resource and knowledge gaps in our field. Managing stress and taking care of mental and emotional health is an important investment in our ability to continue to do this vital work over the long-term.

OVW recognizes the importance of self-care for all those who work with survivors, which is why OVW supported the development of information and trainings by technical assistance providers on how service providers can take care of themselves, along with the people they serve. These OVW funded trainings and publications center around simple and effective tools and best practices that both professionals and volunteers can use to manage stress and stay healthy. One OVW grantee, the National Center on Domestic Violence Trauma and Mental Health, will be offering a free webinar on “Caring for Others While Caring for Ourselveson July 30 from 2:00 – 3:30pm (CDT). This webinar will offer strategies for dealing with stress on the job, increasing awareness of the issue of vicarious trauma, and developing organizational support to help sustain and support service providers and caregivers. OVW also supported the development of an online guide on “Self-Care and Trauma Work” by NSVRC. This guide includes the common signs of vicarious trauma and information on how to build workplace cultures that can combat stress.

While we are continually increasing awareness of the traumatic effects of violence on survivors and service providers and the importance of trauma informed care, it is vital to recognize the effect that direct and vicarious trauma can have on all those affected by violent crime. All of us at OVW remain committed to ensuring that support is available for both the survivors of these crimes and the incredible service providers, law enforcement officials, judges, prosecutors, and other professionals and volunteers who work to help survivors heal.        

Friday, June 27, 2014

This year has been a momentous year in the ongoing fight for LGBT rights. From the Supreme Court’s decision to strike down the Defense of Marriage Act last June to this month’s decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit ruling that Utah’s ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional, we are witnessing an historic shift in the nations capacity to understand and protect the civil rights of LGBT Americans. And the Office on Violence Against Women is committed to build on this progress. 

As we come together this June to celebrate LGBT Pride Month, I cannot think of a better time to highlight the important achievement of the countless LGBT advocates and allies who worked tirelessly to make sure the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013 (VAWA 2013) retained a non-discrimination provision. The non-discrimination provision is one of the most significant changes in VAWA 2013 and it ensures that all LGBT victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, dating violence and stalking have access to the lifesaving services funded by VAWA. This is the first time that any federal legislation has barred discrimination on the basis of gender identity or sexual orientation, and it is a major step forward in protecting the civil rights of LGBT Americans. 

The unfortunate reality is that this provision is critically needed. For the first time, national representative data shows what we already knew – lesbians, bisexuals, and gay men report lifetime levels of intimate partner violence and sexual violence equal to or great than that of  heterosexuals. And the statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Victimization Survey (NISVS) on Victimization by Sexual Orientation are staggering: 

  • 44% of lesbian women, 61% of bisexual women, and 35% of heterosexual women experienced rape, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner in their lifetime
  • 26% percent of gay men, 37% of bisexual men, and 29% of heterosexual men experienced rape, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner at some point in their lifetime
  • Approximately 1 in 5 bisexual women and nearly 1 in 10 heterosexual women have been raped by an intimate partner in their lifetime

 The VAWA 2013 non-discrimination provision reinforces that VAWA funded programs save lives and that all victims, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity, deserve access to these lifesaving services. We know that many LGBT Americans continue to face discrimination, but that discrimination should never prevent someone from fleeing domestic violence or healing from sexual assault. And OVW is committed to working with our grantees, like the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs (NCAVP), to develop organizational capacity and strengthen culturally-competent services for LGBT victims and survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, dating violence, and stalking. We must ensure that providers are well trained and informed by the most current best practices. 

OVW has a long history of funding LGBT organizations and remains dedicated to making  universal access and non-discrimination a reality. By funding organizations like NCAVP and FORGE, VAWA funds are supporting vital training and technical assistance to OVW grantees on culturally-competent care for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking, and dating violence. You can explore upcoming and archived webinars on the Training and Events page of FORGE’s website. 

Another resource is the National Clearinghouse on Violence & Abuse in Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Queer Communities, created by OVW Technical Assistance provider The Northwest Network. This comprehensive online resource provides current research and information on domestic violence, sexual assault, dating violence, and stalking affecting the LGBT community, and is an important space for community organizations and survivors to access useful advocacy tools like the LGBTQ Domestic Violence Legal Toolkit. This toolkit provides advocates with the necessary tools to help LGBT survivors navigate through the complex civil and criminal legal systems. I cannot overstate the importance of these and other resources, and I encourage anyone interested in learning more about any of these topics to visit the websites and reach out to these technical assistance A providers. 

The Office on Violence Against Women is committed to ensuring that all LGBT survivors and victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, dating violence and stalking can access the vital services supported by OVW without fear of discrimination. As we continue to work with the entire Department of Justice to ensure equality for all, OVW will continue to work to with our grantees and technical assistance providers to expand the availability of culturally-competent services for LGBT victims and survivors. 

Grantees are encouraged to review the Frequently Asked Questions released by the Office of Civil Rights, Office of Justice Programs to understand obligations under the expanded non-discrimination provision of VAWA 2013. The Office of Civil Rights, Office of Justice Programs is also available to answer questions and can be contacted via email at VAWAcivilrights@usdoj.gov.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Every year on June 15, communities around the world come together on World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (WEAAD) to promote understanding and increase awareness about the abuse and neglect experienced by millions of older adults each year. Commemorating WEAAD is an opportunity for those of us working with the hundreds of thousands of older Americans who experience physical, sexual, psychological, and financial exploitation to recommit ourselves – and our communities – to ending abuse of older Americans nationwide.

We know that elder abuse is a widespread problem and can occur in any community. A 2010 survey estimated that 11% of Americans experience elder abuse each year. Although anyone can be a victim – regardless of gender, race, class, sexual orientation, gender identity, mental capacity, and physical ability – the vast majority of victims are women.  Sadly, older individuals are usually abused by their spouses, partners, family members, and caregivers. Victims may refrain from seeking help or calling the police due to shame or embarrassment because the abuse was committed by someone they are close to and trust.  Because of this and the many obstacles all victims of abuse face, cases of elder abuse are underreported.  For every one case of elder abuse that comes to the attention of a responsible entity, another twenty-three cases never come to light.

The Office on Violence Against Women (OVW) remains committed to enhancing the criminal justice response to elder abuse and expanding available resources to support victims and survivors. Since 2010, 36 communities have received funding through OVW’s Enhanced Training and Services to End Abuse in Later Life Program. Our grantees represent the diversity of American communities; from large, urban communi­ties, like Los Angeles to small cities like Rochester, NY and tribal communities like Nez Perce, ID.  The Abuse in Later Life Program has made it possible for thousands of law enforcement officials, prosecutors, victim service providers, and other professionals who work with older victims to receive vital training on how to recognize and address elder abuse. Abuse in Later Life grantees have provided victim centered services to hundreds of older victims and they have collaborated with project partners to enhance their communities’ response to elder abuse by working together to enhance victim safety and offender accountability.  

As the percentage of Americans over the age of 50 continues to grow, elder abuse and abuse in later life may become more prevalent. We need to continue to work to raise awareness of elder abuse in our communities, acknowledge that abuse can happen to anyone – regardless of age – and resolve to come together to end elder abuse. 

Information and resources on elder abuse is available through the National Clearinghouse on Abuse in Later Life (NCALL) and the National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA). Additional  information on World Elder Abuse Awareness Day can be found on the Administration for Community Living website.

If you or someone you know is experiencing abuse, neglect, or exploitation visit NCEA’s State Resources webpage or call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or 1-800-787-3224 (TTY).

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

As part of the Office on Violence Against Women’s (OVW) year of programming to recognize the 20th anniversary of the Violence Against Women Act, administration officials from the Departments of Justice and Education joined our nationwide university tour to raise awareness of campus sexual assault. Between April 23 and May 1, my colleagues and I visited 11 OVW Campus grantees across the country, including public and private universities, community colleges, historically black colleges, and faith-based and tribal-affiliated institutions. We took part in meetings and listening sessions with campus administrators, campus and local law enforcement, community partners, local service providers, and students. We participated in campus events, like the Walk a Mile in Her Shoes event at California State Polytechnic University – Pomona, and toured campus facilities, like the SANE Center at SUNY Stony Brook.

The tour provided OVW, administration officials, and campuses an opportunity to share and learn from each other. We saw many examples of how different prevention and intervention strategies were being implemented to combat sexual assault. At St. John’s University, students involved in ROTC are learning specific strategies to intervene to prevent sexual violence.  Gallaudet University is revamping videos and other trainings to be more visual to meet the needs of students who are Deaf or hard of hearing. We also learned about Loyola University’s ongoing dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking training for Campus Police and Campus Disciplinary Boards.

These visits reinforced what OVW has known for years – to effectively address sexual assault on campus it must be informed by and meet the needs of each campus and the students it serves. Each of these campuses has demonstrated a clear commitment to addressing sexual assault on their campus and to developing a strong coordinated community response team. I want to applaud the efforts of North Carolina Central University, United Tribes Technical College, Loyola University, St. John’s University, Gallaudet University, University of Delaware, State University of New York (SUNY) at Stony Brook, California State Polytechnic University – Pomona, University of California Santa Barbara, Bergen Community College, and William Paterson University. And I also want to extend my sincerest appreciation to all of OVW’s campus grantees who are committed to making their campus safe for every student.

It is important to highlight what is working, and to recognize all those who are working tirelessly to make our campuses safer. OVW will continue to support all of our campus grantees as they improve prevention and intervention efforts through a coordinated response to sexual assault.

Friday, April 11, 2014

The Office on Violence Against Women (OVW) is pleased to share important news about a recent Supreme Court decision that will enhance the ability of federal prosecutors to keep guns out of the hands of batterers.  On March 26, the Court unanimously ruled in United States v. Castleman that federal law makes it a crime for people convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence offenses, however minor, to possess guns.  In 1996, Congress enacted 18 U.S.C. §922(g)(9), sometimes called the Lautenberg Amendment, which bars any person convicted of a “misdemeanor crime of domestic violence” from possessing a gun.  In passing this law, Congress closed a dangerous loophole in federal gun control laws:  those convicted of felonies faced gun ownership prohibitions, but this did not cover most domestic abusers because most domestic violence convictions were for misdemeanor assault and battery. However, federal authorities have faced challenges enforcing this law because federal circuit courts were split on how severe the force used in a domestic violence offense needed to be to qualify as a “misdemeanor crime of domestic violence” under the federal statute.  In Castleman, the Supreme Court resolved this question by issuing a broad interpretation of the term “misdemeanor crime of domestic violence,” holding that convictions involving only “bodily injury” or “offensive touching” could qualify under the statute. Justice Sotomayor, writing for the majority, recognized that “‘[d]omestic violence’ is not merely a type of ‘violence’; it is a term of art encompassing acts that one might not characterize as ‘violent’ in a nondomestic context.” The Court further stated that, while a squeeze of the arm that causes a bruise may not be able to be described as “violence” in every context, “an act of this nature is easy to describe as ‘domestic violence,’ when the accumulation of such acts over time can subject one intimate partner to the other’s control.” With this decision, the Supreme Court confirms what we know all too well – that guns should not be in the hands of perpetrators of domestic violence.  Abusers use guns to control their partners through intimidation, threats, coercion, and injury. But most startling are the statistics we know about domestic violence homicides. We know that women in abusive relationships are six times more likely to be killed when there is a gun in the house. We know that on average three women are killed every day in the United States by a current or former partner, and women killed by their intimate partners are more likely to be killed with a gun than by all other methods combined. We also know that limiting access to guns saves lives – in the states that require a background check with every handgun sale, there are 38% fewer women killed by guns than in states that do not.  We appreciate that the Supreme Court recognized the power and control dynamics that put victims of domestic violence in danger, particularly when coupled with access to guns. It is heartening to read the decision and realize how far our society has moved in taking seriously the issue of domestic violence. For this, we owe our gratitude to those who have labored so hard and long to move public opinion, including those national and state organizations that, in a persuasive amicus brief, urged the Court to adopt a common-sense definition of domestic violence: the National Network to End Domestic Violence, the National Domestic Violence Hotline, the Domestic Violence Legal Empowerment and Appeals Project, Legal Momentum, and a host of state domestic violence coalitions. We look forward to continuing to work together to make our country a safer place for all victims and survivors.  For more information about domestic violence and firearms, please contact: National Center on Protection Orders and Full Faith & Credit Battered Women’s Justice Project National District Attorneys Association International Association of Chiefs of Police National Counsel of Juvenile and Family Court Judges

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Last year, we worked together in passing the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013 (VAWA 2013). New provisions in VAWA 2013 include measures that will strengthen our national response to sexual assault, focus attention on reducing domestic violence homicides, and recognize the needs of younger girls who are victimized.   And for the first time in a federal funding statute, VAWA 2013 explicitly bars discrimination based on actual or perceived gender identity or sexual orientation - as well as race, color, religion, national origin, sex or disability. 

This groundbreaking provision will ensure that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, dating violence and stalking are not denied, on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity, access to the critical services that OVW supports. 

The provision took effect on October 1, 2013 and applies to all awards that OVW will make during this fiscal year and in the future. 

I am pleased to announce that the Department has released a set of “Frequently Asked Questions” – or “FAQs” – to help our grantees better understand what their obligations will be under the nondiscrimination provision. These FAQs include important guidance, including information about the scope of the new requirement, how it affects operations of a grantee that are not funded by OVW, when a grantee may provide sex-specific or sex-segregated services, and how to provide such services without discriminating against transgender victims. I hope that the FAQs will answer many of your questions and give you fresh insight into how to make your programs accessible to all victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, dating violence, and stalking. 

After you have reviewed these FAQs, you may have more questions or comments about the nondiscrimination grant condition and how it applies to your work. If you do, I urge you to reach out to the Office of Civil Rights in the Office of Justice Programs at VAWAcivilrights@usdoj.gov. We know that these FAQs do not address all questions that may arise about the new provision, and I expect that, over time, the Department will update and supplement the FAQs as appropriate. 

As OVW makes its FY 2014 awards, I look forward to working with our entire grantee community to ensure that our programming meets the unique needs of every victim and survivor.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Dear Students, Advocates, University Leaders, Law Enforcement Professionals, VAWA Grantees and Colleagues: 

The White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault is pleased to announce that we will be holding a series of virtual, public listening sessions in February.  The Department of Justice, Office of Violence Against Women, in partnership with the Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights, and the Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division, will be hosting these sessions, and our colleagues from the White House, the Office of the Vice President, and the Agencies serving on the Task Force will also be participating.  We want you to join us! 

Register for a listening session here: http://ta2ta.org/events/webinars/white-house-listening-sessions.html

Many people have contacted us about how to provide input into the Task Force, and we are eager to hear from you.  Your expertise, research and experiences are invaluable to this process.  The Task Force is looking for concrete and creative ideas about how schools can prevent sexual assault, and how they can better respond when it happens – both in terms of supporting survivors and holding offenders accountable. 

 In particular, we would like your opinions on: 

  • Institutional policies and protocols to address sexual assault
  • Responding to diverse, underserved or historically marginalized victims
  • Prevention programs
  • Crisis intervention and advocacy services
  • Complaint and grievance procedures
  • Investigation protocols
  • Adjudicatory procedures
  • Disciplinary sanctions
  • Training and orientation modules for students, staff, and faculty
  • Evaluating and measuring the success of prevention and response efforts
  • Sharing information with the public
  • Making enforcement activities transparent and accessible
  • Promoting greater coordination and consistency among federal agencies
  • Maximizing the Federal Government's effectiveness in combatting campus rape and sexual assault 

To facilitate conversation, the listening sessions are organized by group. 

The listening sessions are designed to allow as many people as possible to provide input.  We won’t be answering questions, but instead will be listening to you.  If you have questions, we will gather them for a future response. 

We have three different Students and Survivors listening sessions, spread over three weeks, to accommodate the demand within our webinar capacity.  If you’re not a student or survivor, please don’t join this session – you might unintentionally block a student or survivor from participating.  If you are a student or survivor, we would appreciate you joining one of these three sessions. 

Listening sessions will use the Adobe Connect webinar service, which allows participants to queue up to make verbal comments.  Participants can also type comments in a chat box.  We expect a large number of participants, so please plan to keep your remarks brief – about 3 minutes – so more people can have a turn to speak. 

Streaming ASL interpretation is available upon request.  When you register for your choice of listening session, just select the ASL box. 

If you don’t get the chance to speak or still have more to say, don’t worry – you can submit written comments.  Comments can be submitted any time from now until February 28, 2014.  If you would like to submit comments, email them to OVW.SATaskForce@usdoj.gov

Kindly note, these calls will be off-the-record, and not intended for press purposes. 

Please keep an eye on OVW’s website, www.ovw.usdoj.gov, in the coming weeks for any updates.  Don’t forget to register for the listening sessions at http://ta2ta.org/events/webinars/white-house-listening-sessions.html

We are excited to hear from you in the coming weeks. 

Sincerely,

Bea Hanson
Principal Deputy Director
Office on Violence Against Women

Friday, January 31, 2014

The Office on Violence Against Women (OVW) is proud to stand with the Obama Administration in renewing our commitment to increase support services for victims of stalking and to strengthen accountability measures for stalkers.  Over the past ten years we have seen a paradigm shift in the way the criminal justice system, and our Nation, understands and responds to stalking.

When the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) was signed into law nearly 20 years ago it established a coordinated community response to the crimes of domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking, encouraging jurisdictions to bring together multiple stakeholders to share experience and information and to use their distinct roles to improve community‐defined responses to these crimes.  VAWA also created full faith and credit provisions – a crucial and life-saving provision for stalking victims – that require states and territories to enforce protection orders issued by other states, tribes and territories.

Since 1994, we have made tremendous strides in enhancing the criminal justice system’s response to stalking. Yet more is left to be done.  Results of the 2010 National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey (NISVS), released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), found that, conservatively, 6.6 million people were stalked in a 12-month period and that 1 in 6 women and 1 in 19 men were stalked at some point in their lifetime.  These numbers are staggering and indicate that stalking remains a serious issue for every community across the United States.

The CDC’s NISVS report also confirmed what law enforcement, prosecutors, victim service providers, and other professionals have been hearing from victims for years – that most stalking cases involve some form of technology.  More than  three-quarters of victims reported having received unwanted phone calls, voice and text messages; and roughly one-third of victims were watched, followed, or tracked with a listening or other device.  These findings underscore how critical it is that professionals who respond to and work with stalking victims understand the dynamics of stalking and particularly how stalkers use technology. 

As the Department of Justice continues to improve the criminal justice response to stalking through the implementation of VAWA, it is imperative that we honor the many accomplishments achieved in the last decade.

  • Stalking is a crime under Federal law and under the laws of all 50 States, the U.S. Territories, the District of Columbia, and the Uniform Code of Military Justice.
  • In January 2004, the first time National Stalking Awareness Month was observed, the Justice Department’s Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS Office) released a Problem-Oriented Guide for Police on Stalking.  This guide, still used today and developed in partnership with the National Center for Victims of Crime, provides law enforcement officials with necessary information about stalking to better assess the problem of stalking in their community and to develop strategies for addressing the problem. 
  • The first National Tribal Summit on Stalking was convened in Salt Lake City in September 2005 to explore the issues of stalking for Native American women and how to address stalking in Indian Country.
  • To commemorate the fifth anniversary of National Stalking Awareness Month, the Stalking Resource Center launched StalkingAwarenessMonth.org and the Bureau of Justice Statistics, in partnership with OVW, released Stalking Victimization in the United States, a Supplemental Victimization Survey to the National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS).  This 2009 survey is one of a few national studies that has measured the extent and nature of stalking in the United States and represents the largest comprehensive study of stalking conducted to date.
  • Launched in January 2012 The Use of Technology to Stalk Online Course was produced by the Stalking Resource Center to assist criminal justice and victim service professionals on the use of technology in stalking.
  • The National Network to End Domestic Violence’s SafetyNet project educates and trains law enforcement, social services, and victim advocates how to hold perpetrators accountable for misusing technology.

Although we have made substantial progress in recognizing and treating stalking as a serious crime, much work remains.  Stalking can be challenging to recognize, so we must do more to train law enforcement, prosecutors, parole and probation officers, and victim service providers to recognize stalking, to aggressively investigate and prosecute cases, to work to ensure victims safety, and to give victims the help they need.

As we look toward the future, it’s important to remember that the progress we have made has not been inevitable.  It is the result of the work of committed advocates, policymakers, law enforcement officers, and brave survivors who tirelessly fight to combat stalking in our communities.  OVW remains committed to working together to bring an end to stalking.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

OVW’s top priority is to save lives by ensuring that victims receive the services and protection they need. OVW’s small, dedicated team cares profoundly about these issues and about seeing the dollars spent well. We see how VAWA funds save lives around the country, so we know how precious they are.   

Congress and OVW’s stakeholders – from law enforcement to victim service providers to state governments – have asked OVW to get grants out earlier, launch the new VAWA programs, keep stable funding for the field, improve customer service, and provide the in-depth grant management that helps grantees succeed. In addition, Congress has asked OVW to focus on good governance, enhanced monitoring, and increased accountability. 

To accomplish all this in today’s difficult fiscal climate, OVW had to get creative and make trade-offs for FY 14 that increase efficiency without compromising victim services. We worked long and hard to find the best approach for the field – from shelters to law enforcement offices – that would most support victims. OVW’s solution is to streamline the grant competition process, and will change the pool of eligible applicants for many FY 14 grants. 

In FY 14, OVW is implementing many new VAWA changes:   

  • Instituting new statutory requirements across many programs, including STOP Violence Against Women Program and Sexual Assault Services Program formula grants to states and territories
  • Implementing new 25% sexual assault requirement in Grants to Encourage Arrest Program, and legal services purpose area in Rural Grant Program
  • Launching initial phases of the new VAWA Justice for Families Program and the Outreach and Services to Underserved Populations Program
  • Establishing Tribal Coalitions Grants as a formula program
  • Providing guidance on new civil rights provisions
  • Conducting conferrals and listening sessions
  • Adopting strengthened accountability provisions 

Every VAWA grant program is different, but many OVW solicitations will focus on continuation applicants. In some programs, there will be a targeted competition, or eligibility will be limited for a portion of the funds. A chart of grant program eligibility is available online at http://www.ovw.usdoj.gov/open-solicitations.htm#proposed

We know these changes will cause some confusion, and we want to work to minimize them. Some of you have been asking OVW to do more continuation awards, while others were looking forward to the opportunity to compete for a particular grant. OVW has only partially limited eligibility for FY 14 grant programs, and we believe full competition is important. OVW plans to resume competitions for all VAWA programs when prudent management will allow. 

Issuing solicitations with these changes in eligibility provides continued funding to serve victims and prevent violence, responds to requests from the field to keep funding stable and improve customer service, and frees up enough OVW staff time to conduct proper management and monitoring.  For the good of victims, DOJ stakeholders, and taxpayers, OVW had to make these tough choices. 

We want to emphasize that all grantees that will receive an invitation to apply for those programs that are being administered on a “continuation only” basis have previously competed successfully for funding in that program. All applicants will be subject to a programmatic review to ensure that their project meets the statutory scope of the program; assess their past performance, including compliance with audit findings; and ensure that proposed activities do not compromise victim safety. In addition, because of uncertain funding levels in FY 14, many – and possibly all – grants that are “continuation only” will still be competitive. 

We want to answer your questions and give you the information you need to plan for FY 14.  OVW will host a Q&A session via webinar on Thursday, December 19, at 4pm eastern.  Go to http://ta2ta.org/events/webinars/fy14-grant-solicitation.html to register for the webinar. 

Thank you for the hard work you are doing every day in this challenging economic climate.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

It is with great pride that I share the announcement of the new DOJ policy on addressing domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking in the workplace.  Given the seriousness of these crimes and their impact on employees, we believe this is an important step toward creating a workplace that is safe for all staff.  Deputy Attorney General James Cole announced the release of the policy at OVW’s Domestic Violence Awareness Month event earlier today.  DOJ is the first major federal agency to submit a final workplace policy in response to the Presidential memorandum. 

It is our sincere hope that this new policy will be used by other federal agencies, as well as private sector workplaces, as a model for developing a comprehensive workplace response that values the safety needs of survivors. 

One-third of women killed in U.S. workplaces were killed by a current or former intimate partner according to one multi-year study.  Another study found that nearly one in four large private industry establishments reported at least one incidence of domestic violence, including threats and assaults. 

Domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking does not stop when a survivor arrives at work.  The violence is devastating for victims and takes a toll on the entire workplace as victims are often traumatized, harassed and terrified by abusers while at work.  In fact, domestic violence victims lose a total of nearly 8 million days of paid work each year—the equivalent of more than 32,000 full-time jobs as a result of the violence they experience.  Victims are often forced to take time off work to go to court to obtain a restraining order or to seek medical and mental health care.  Many are forced to leave their jobs altogether.  Perpetrators also lose productivity by stalking, calling, and badgering victims – often on company time and using company resources like phones, the internet, and company cars.  The CDC estimates that intimate partner violence, which includes rape, physical assault, and stalking, costs $1.8 billion in lost workplace productivity each year. 

The Obama Administration is committed to addressing the issue of domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking in the workplace.  In April of 2012, President Obama issued a memorandum requiring each federal agency to develop and implement a policy to prevent domestic violence and address the effects of domestic violence on its workforce.  The federal government is the country’s largest employer, and with President Obama’s leadership, will serve as a model for creating workplaces that reduce the harmful impact of domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking. 

The new DOJ policy and its provisions are grounded in victim safety and perpetrator accountability, and seek to further a healthy, productive workplace.  For example, the policy helps victims keep their jobs through clearly described flexible leave options, enabling them to attend a protection order hearing or visit a mental health professional.  The policy also includes provisions that hold offenders accountable with disciplinary actions and security procedures, and addresses complex situations, such as a perpetrator and victim who work in the same building – or even the same office.  Importantly, the policy calls for training and education so all employees can play a part in promoting workplace safety. 

To help employers implement similar policies, OVW has funded the Workplaces Respond to Domestic and Sexual Violence: A National Resource Center (Resource Center) and Futures without Violence in their efforts to educate, train, and support organizations and business looking for strategies to address domestic violence in the workplace. 

Today, I am also pleased to announce the release of a new and valuable toolkit that will support workplaces in providing an effective response to domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking.  The Resource Center’s toolkit provides useful information for co-workers, employees, and supervisors.  For example, the toolkit includes a “Safety Card for Employees,” a protection order guide for employees, a training video for supervisors, and a quiz to help start a conversation about the impact of violence on the workplace.  The toolkit even has a poster that employers can put up to inform their workplace about domestic and sexual violence and stalking, and how every employee can address it. 

We encourage employers and employees alike to utilize the toolkit – found at www.workplacesrespond.org – and take the next step in addressing domestic violence and promoting safety in the workplace. 

OVW is launching other resources to help survivors find the economic support and security they need.  Economic insecurity, often a result of abuse, undermines survivors’ ability to seek safety and justice leaving them vulnerable to future violence. The criminal and civil justice systems have many ways to help survivors, but prosecutors and attorneys don’t always know how to best utilize those opportunities. 

We are excited to share with the OVW community Wider Opportunities for Women’s Prosecutor’s Guide to Safety and Economic Security for Victims of Violence Against Women (Prosecutor’s Guide), which outlines how prosecutors can protect and support survivors’ economic security.  The Prosecutor’s Guide contains practical tools like checklists for each stage of the case and a Pocket Guide

For example, prosecutors can:

  • Address economic needs in safety planning so that survivors are better protected and insulated from witness intimidation.
  • Charge offenders for the economic crimes they commit, in addition to physical abuse, in order to achieve to broader economic justice for survivors and address the full extent of their victimization.
  • Request all available restitution and economic relief in protection orders to hold offenders fully accountable and restore survivors financially. 

Adopting these practices and strategies will help prosecutors hold offenders fully accountable and better support survivors’ safety and economic security.  

Another example of excellent work in this area is the Center for Survivor Agency and Justice (CSAJ).  The CSAJ launched the Consumer Rights for Domestic Violence Survivors Initiative (CRDVSI).  The initiative, funded by OVW, enhances economic justice for survivors by building the capacity of and developing collaborative partnerships between domestic violence and consumer law attorneys and advocates.  After conducting an Economic Justice Needs Assessment, CSAJ is collaborating with organizations across the country to devise and implement Building Partnerships for Economic Justice Pilot Projects.  These pilot sites, focused upon collaborative approaches to enhance economic advocacy for survivors, are receiving specialized web-based trainings, intensive individualized technical assistance, and on-site training.  This spring, CSAJ will publish a Building Partnerships Manual, which will offer best practices to communities that are interested in engaging in collaborative economic justice work. 

To access CSAJ's wealth of resources, including conference training materials, webinar materials and recordings, best practices, and economic advocacy tools, visit CSAJ's resource library at: www.csaj.org  

Domestic violence touches all of our lives, whether through a friend, loved one, co-worker, or through personal experience.  With the new DOJ workplace policy and the resources provided through Workplaces Respond, Wider Opportunities for Women, and CSAJ, we are promoting a dignified response to survivors, guidance for employers, and strategies to keep victims out of poverty.  It is truly an honor to work for an agency that recognizes the importance of economic security for victims and has taken a leadership role in ensuring that our workplace is safe and free from the devastating impact of domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking.

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