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Message from Director Carbon: 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
Updated April 27, 2017