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Message from Director Carbon: January 2012

Dear Friends, The January message that I’d hoped to post a few weeks ago has been delayed for a few reasons, and each time I have tried to finish it, something else has happened, both exciting and very sad.  As I write now, it is 3am on Sunday, the 15th, and I am on my way home from attending the Memorial Services for Ellen Pence.  Her passing is a profound loss for the world, for us (and for me) personally and professionally.  She changed the landscape for victims and those who serve them in the most fundamental of ways.  She connected with people from across the globe, over decades, from every walk of life, making social change the core of her being.  And ending violence against women, the penultimate injustice to be remedied.  To be at her service, surrounded by hundreds whose lives were impacted – quite literally changed because of her influence, was a moving experience, made all the more so in knowing that the many who had wanted to, but couldn’t be, there were all holding her close to their hearts at the same time.  To the day she died, she challenged us to do better; no matter what we did, it could always improve, and it has to.  And we know it will.  Ellen’s DNA is part of the movement – she is in us all, and we are better for having known her, having learned from her, and having been blessed with her friendship.  We will carry on in her honor and memory.  As much as she will be missed, she will be with us forever.  Our hearts go out to Amanda, her beloved partner, and Liam, their son, and Ellen’s other family and colleagues at Praxis. The transition from one year to the next is a wonderful time to reflect upon the activities and accomplishments of the prior year, and to look forward to the exciting challenges and opportunities that lie ahead.  Some of the highlights of 2011 include the following. In late December, the Director of the FBI, Robert Mueller, announced a change to the UCR Summary Reporting System definition of rape.  From its exceedingly narrow, 1929 definition of “carnal knowledge, forcibly and against her will,” the definition has been changed to recognize and validate the experiences of all victims of this horrific crime by counting among the national data crimes of rape involving all genders of victims and perpetrators, and rape with objects as well as body parts.  The new definition reads:  The penetration, no matter how slight, of the vagina or anus with any body part or object, or oral penetration by a sex organ of another person, without the consent of the victim. This change marks a significant collaboration between the White House, the Department of Justice, law enforcement organizations, advocates and many others.  It was a powerful, positive way to end the year, and OVW is very proud to be a part of this change. Many important accomplishments derive from our Programs Division.  A sampling includes the following:
  • The Legal Assistance to Victims Unit took the lead on developing OVW’s Language Access Policy and Plan.  LAV also initiated several OVW grants administration changes, including piloting the new grantee past performance review and using the on-line peer review module.
  • The Courts program was fully launched in FY 2011 and held its first new grantee orientation n Miami, FL which included a site visit to the 11th Judicial Circuit Court, Domestic Violence Division in Miami-Dade.  FY 2012 Courts program grantees held their new grantee orientation in Louisville, KY and  visited the Jefferson County Circuit Court.
  • The Arrest Unit held their first-ever webinar on how to apply for Arrest Program funds.  The Unit also joined other units in the office in successfully conducting internal peer reviw of their FY 2011 applications after a much delayed federal appropriation period.
  • The STOP Unit convened a successful STOP Administrators meeting, “Changing the Landscape:  Recognizing Diverse Needs, Ensuring Effective Responses.”
  • We also convened a Territories-specific meeting for STOP Admnistrators and Coalition Executive Directors.
  • The SASP unit held the first-ever National Forum on Sexual Assault Services.
  • We also launched SADI – the Sexual Assault Demonstration Initiative.
  • From the Supervised Visitation unit, the SV Network launched a training for non-grantees on accounting for domestic violence in the context of supervised visitation; this was an effort to develop the capacity of non-grantees to apply for this competitive funding.
  • OVW awarded 61 Tribal Government grants in FY 2011 as a part of the Consolidated Tribal Assistance Solicitation (CTAS), for more than $35 million.  We also continued to support 20 Tribal Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Coalitions.
  • From our Rural Unit, we are most excited about the release of the Sexual Assault Demonstration Initiative (SADI).  We were able to announce the selection of the six demonstration sites and held our kick-off orientation in November (1 - 3), bringing all sites together for the first time.
  • The Community Engagement Unit released 2 new solicitations: the Services Training Education and Policies to Reduce Sexual Assault, Domestic Violence, Dating Violence, and Stalking in Secondary Schools and the Grants to Assist Children and Youth Exposed to Exposed to Sexual Assault, Domestic Violence, Dating Violence, and Stalking.
  • The Culturally Specific Services Unit convened a successful grantee meeting, “Margin to Center: Building Our Movement”, to help them apply concepts of intersecting oppressions to their work and to re-define the core framework of domestic and sexual violence to include cultural approaches and knowledge.  Over 140 individuals participated representing diverse cultures such as Latinos, Asian and Pacific Islanders, African, African American, Arab, Native American, Deaf and Hard of Hearing, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans (LGBT), Jewish as well as immigrants and refugees from around the world.
  • The Campus Program Unit hosted a Summit on Campus Security for University and College Presidents to education campuses across the country about the dynamics and impact of sexual assault and domestic violence on campus.
  • And finally, OVW contributed $4 million towards the Attorney General's Defending Childhood Initiative to support the implementation of Phase 2 for the demonstration sites. For more information about the Defending Childhood Initiative at www.justice.gov/ag/defendingchildhood/dc-factsheet.
Although not from OVW, a critically important report was disseminated in mid-December.  The United States Department of Health and Human Services Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released the National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey (NISVS) and the shocking data garnered significant media attention.  The NISVS data speak to the need for a comprehensive Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) reauthorization that focuses resources where they are most needed. NISVS findings support what we know from previous research, continuous feedback from the field, and our 17 years of experience administering VAWA – domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking are pervasive and devastating crimes:
  • 1 in 5 women and 1 in 71 men have been raped.  Half of all women have experienced other types of sexual violence.
  • 1 in 6 women and 1 in 19 men have been stalked.
  • 1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men have experienced domestic violence (defined as physical violence, rape, and/or stalking by a current or former intimate partner, such as a spouse, boyfriend, or girlfriend) in their lifetimes.
    • 81% of female victims reported that the violence impacted their lives.  72% were fearful, 62% concerned for their safety, 63% experienced Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), 42% were injured, and 22% needed medical care.  35% of male victims reported that the domestic violence had impacted their lives in some way.
  • 1 in 4 women and 1 in 7 men have experienced severe physical violence by a current or former spouse or boyfriend/girlfriend.
  • Nearly half of all American Indian or Alaska Native women have been physically assaulted, raped, or stalked by an intimate partner, and more than 1 in 4 have been raped.
Studies have repeatedly shown than young people are at the greatest risk for victimization, and the data from NISVS confirm this tragic fact.
  • One in six women were raped before the age of 25; 42% of female rape victims were first raped before the age of 18.
  • More than one quarter of male victims were raped before the age of 11.
  • Nearly 70% of female victims of rape, physical violence, or stalking by an intimate partner first experienced dating violence before the age of 25.
It is essential to target young victims for prevention and intervention – both because they are at great risk for victimization, and because prevention and intervention could reduce the likelihood of future assaults. As January, which is National Stalking Awareness Month, is upon us, it is important to note that the NISVS data demonstrate the gravity of stalking:
  • Nearly one in six women has experienced stalking so severe that she felt very fearful or believed that she or someone close to her would be harmed or killed.
  • One in 19 men have experienced the same level of stalking.
  • Women were particularly likely to be stalked by a current or former intimate partner.
The NISVS data also document how women are disproportionately impacted by these crimes.  While the Violence Against Women Act recognizes the gendered nature of these crimes, it makes all services and justice interventions available for men, women, and transgendered individuals.  According to NISVS data:
  • Women are much more likely than men to have been slammed against something, choked or suffocated, and beaten.
  • Nearly 4 times more women experienced injury-causing domestic violence, and nearly 5 times more women needed medical care.
  • 1 in 4 women and 1 in 20 men experienced domestic violence that made them afraid.
  • 1 in 5 women and 1 in 22 men experienced domestic violence that made them concerned for their safety.
  • 360% more women than men had experienced a threat to hurt someone they loved and 250% more women than men report that their partners carried out that threat.  Threats to harm loved ones and carrying out such threats are both indicators of potentially lethal abuse.
  • More than 13 times more women than men have been raped.
This is reflective of the first wave of data collection.  As NISVS continues, we will have a better picture of estimates for both men and women. NISVS has been continually modified based on its first round of interviews so estimates could look different in another year. The CDC has a roll-out plan, including a toolkit communities can use to talk about the shocking data and the needs in their communities.  A fact sheet, the toolkit, and the full report can be found on the CDC’s website: http://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/nisvs/ . Now more than ever, your work as advocates, law enforcement officers, prosecutors, judges, counselors, lawyers, teachers, and coaches is needed.  Violence against women is a crisis of pandemic proportions, and we can only make a difference if we work together.  We must make survivors’ voices heard, from VAWA reauthorization here in Washington, DC to your local faith communities and youth groups.  Studies like the NIJ-funded “Shifting Boundaries” have shown that it is possible to prevent domestic and sexual violence.  I am honored to work side by side with you to make that vision a reality. In December, we had an opportunity to host the first meeting of the newly re-chartered Task Force on Research on Violence Against American Indian and Alaska Native Women with our partners at the Department’s National Institute of Justice, under the leadership of Christine Crossland, Senior Social Science Analyst in the Office of Research and Evaluation.  This was followed by the Department’s Sixth  Annual Tribal Consultation.  This government-to-government consultation was an extraordinary opportunity to hear from Tribal leaders across the country on three topics statutorily mandated by Title IX of the Violence Against Women and Department of Justice Reauthorization Act of 2005 (VAWA 2005):  (1) administering tribal funds and programs; (2) Enhancing the safety of Indian women from domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking; and (3) Strengthening the federal response to such crimes.  In addition to the Department of Justice, the Department of Health and Human Services, Division of Behavioral Health, Indian Health Service, and Family Violence Prevention Division of the Family and Youth Services Bureau also joined.  The Consultation was followed by a day devoted to the Consolidated Tribal Assistance Solicitation (CTAS) process designed to promote efficient and effective dissemination of Department Tribal grant awards. As we are now in January, we proudly join the President in recognizing National Stalking Awareness Month (NSAM).  As the first President to so recognize January, President Obama again this year speaks to the gravity of stalking and its impact on victims in his proclamation:  “In our schools and in our neighborhoods, at home and in workplaces across our Nation, stalking endangers the physical and emotional well-being of millions of American men and women every year. Too often, stalking goes unreported and unaddressed, and we must take action against this unacceptable abuse.  This month, we stand with all those who have been affected by stalking and strengthen our resolve to prevent this crime before it occurs.” The ongoing support by this Administration, along with the coordination among federal, state, local, tribal, and private sector organizations, will bolster public awareness, support, and resources for survivors.  Education is the first crucial step in recognizing and preventing this crime, and reporting it when it occurs so that offenders may be properly held accountable for their dangerous behavior. Stalking is described by the Department’s Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) as a course of conduct directed at a specific person that would cause a reasonable person to feel fear for his or her safety or the safety of someone close such as a family member.  Stalking behaviors can include seemingly innocuous acts, such as making unwanted phone calls; sending unsolicited or unwanted letters or emails; or leaving unwanted items, presents or flowers, but when taken together, and when feared by the victim, may constitute a criminal act.  Other forms of stalking include following or spying on the victim; showing up at places where the victim is likely to be without a legitimate reason; waiting at places for the victim; and posting information or spreading rumors about the victim on the internet, in a public place, or by word of mouth.  Newer technologies, such as text messaging, emails, and electronic monitoring devices (including cameras and GPS), are also utilized by perpetrators to stalk victims.  Stalking is also frequently a precursor to much more serious, and sometimes lethal, acts.   In fact, 76% of female intimate partner murder victims had been stalked by their partners prior to their death. During this month and throughout the year ahead, we are committed to spreading the word that stalking will not be tolerated.  For more information, please visit the Stalking Awareness Month website at:  http://stalkingawarenessmonth.org. Finally, I know this will be posted just after our annual observance of Martin Luther King Day, and what a fitting end to this message, having begun with Ellen Pence, whose work around racial injustice was so vitally important, and integral to her work around violence against women.  Together they frame an important lens for us, that social injustices exist all around us.  If we do nothing, we condone the inhumanity.  It is up to each of us to take up the charge.  In their honor and memory, let us continue our collaboration and friendship. With respect and gratitude, Susan B. Carbon, Director
Updated April 27, 2017