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Message from Director Carbon: November 2010

Dear Friends, First and foremost, on behalf of the Office on Violence Against Women, let me congratulate all of our grantees and others in the field on a very successful Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Organizations from across the country spent this last month having important conversations, increasing awareness, and helping end domestic violence against women. We are proud of your efforts! Additionally, it was an incredible honor for the White House to host an event centered on the Administration’s unprecedented coordination across the Federal government to combat violence against women on October 27th. President Obama, Vice President Biden, Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett and Advisor on Violence Against Women Lynn Rosenthal addressed the need to continue to confront domestic and sexual violence in this country. The importance of better communication between law enforcement and direct service providers, enforcement of protective orders, and changing public attitudes were discussed at length. President Obama specifically highlighted the financial barriers of domestic violence and the need for emergency relocation and housing accommodations so that “no one has to choose between a violent home and no home at all.” OVW spent Domestic Violence Awareness Month continuing our work on this important issue, as well as adding multiple events to raise awareness and understanding. In partnership with the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges, we released new tools for communities to improve enforcement of domestic violence protective orders. Civil Protection Orders: A Guide for Improving Practice will keep victims and their children safe by providing guidance to advocates, attorneys, judges, law enforcement officers and prosecutors to ensure that protective orders are issued, served and enforced throughout the United States. This Guide significantly updates and revises the original Guide for Effective Issuance & Enforcement of Protection Orders (aka The Burgundy Book) issued in 2005. It is available on our website. The Office on Violence Against Women worked with Attorney General Holder to re-charter the National Advisory Committee on Violence Against Women (NAC) to provide advice and recommendations to the Department of Justice and the Department of Health and Human Services on how to improve the nation’s response to violence against women, with a specific focus on successful interventions with children and teens who witness and/or are victimized by domestic violence or sexual assault. The committee includes highly regarded advocates, justice system and child welfare professionals, and researchers. Just prior to the beginning of Domestic Violence Awareness Month, the Defending Childhood Initiative was launched by Attorney General Eric Holder to protect children from the harmful consequences of experiencing and witnessing violence. The goals of the initiative are to prevent children’s exposure to violence as victims and witnesses, mitigate the negative effects experienced by children exposed to violence, and develop knowledge about and increase awareness of this issue. OVW worked with the Department of Justice Office of Justice Programs National Institute of Justice (NIJ) to develop the “Sexual Assault Kit Backlog Action Research Project” to identify long term solutions to eliminating the backlog of untested sexual assault kits that have not yet been submitted to a crime laboratory. In partnership with the Family Violence Prevention Fund (FVPF) and other national organizations, OVW launched a new virtual resource for employers to address the impacts of domestic violence in the workplace. “Workplaces Respond to Domestic and Sexual Violence: A National Resource Center” provides information, resources, tools, and technical assistance to employers and labor organizations to facilitate and encourage safer and more effective responses to employees who are victims of domestic, sexual and dating violence or stalking. The website can be found at: www.workplacesrespond.org. I am also pleased to report that in response to the tremendous need of victims to have access to competent legal services, the Department of Justice, with assistance from the White House, launched “Access to Justice for Domestic Violence Victims.” The goal of this pilot project is to encourage more commitment from the private bar to provide pro bono legal services. Beginning in New Orleans and Baltimore, private law firms will hire law students who have participated in law school clinics and defer their start dates while they work at domestic violence service providers. The lawyers will help victims secure protective orders, navigate the family courts, and access safe housing. Finally, the Office on Violence Against Women held a Department of Justice-wide Domestic Violence event that included a viewing of “Telling Amy’s Story,” a film produced by the Verizon Foundation and Penn State Public Broadcasting and released in May 2010, following a domestic violence homicide in College Park, PA that occurred in 2002. The film was followed by a facilitated discussion led by Detective Deirdri Fishel, featured in the film, about the importance of a coordinated, collaborative response to domestic violence. As Domestic Violence Awareness Month has now closed, we begin our focus on April: Sexual Assault Awareness Month. When the Violence Against Women Act was passed in 1994, sexual assault was included as one of the crimes to be addressed. There is a general consensus, however, that for a variety of reasons, sexual assault has not received the same level of attention as has domestic violence. As a result, sexual assault remains a tragically pervasive and costly problem. In preparation for what we hope to be a very effective Sexual Assault Awareness Month in April, we wanted to begin a national conversation about sexual violence: what it looks like now, and what we want to be able to accomplish in the next five years. With this in mind, OVW was proud to collaborate with the White House Council on Women and Girls to host a first-ever national sexual violence Roundtable. Advocates, law enforcement, judges, survivors, prosecutors, medical professionals and federal employees travelled from all across the country to heighten our discussions as well as develop a plan of action to address this unacceptable epidemic. While advocates and experts from the field discussed a public awareness campaign, federal experts were able to listen to the needs of the stakeholders on the ground and hear how the federal government can and should heighten their assistance to address sexual violence in America. The Roundtable allowed those in the field and at the national level to effectively communicate how each can help the other to achieve mutual success, both at the local and the national level, by establishing next steps to ultimately end sexual violence against women. It is clear from our discussions, as well as the comments from the champions of this cause in the White House, that awareness must be a cornerstone to our actions moving forward. For many community members our advocates and experts interact with each day, the myths of sexual violence are prevalent and hard to un-learn. Contrary to what many Americans believe, sexual violence does not just occur in dark alleys, perpetrated by strangers. Sadly sexual violence is often perpetrated by someone known to the victim, in places where the victim feels the safest, such as at home or at a friend’s home. Sexual violence spans every demographic: every race, socioeconomic background, geographic location, sexual orientation, and age group. On average, one in six women will be sexually assault in her lifetime. For certain populations such as for women on college campus, in assisted living facilities and on Native American lands, this number increases to staggering levels. As President Obama stated: “It is simply unacceptable.” In a country that has made such progress in addressing domestic violence, it is a moral imperative that we develop a national dialogue and focus on ending sexual violence against all women, children and men. As we continue our multi-disciplinary conversations about sexual violence in America, we will be asking for assistance from every member of the community. It will require each and every one of us to end this tragic problem. And as Vice President Biden stated at the White House last month, “It’s not about reducing; it’s about ending.” It’s not only time, it’s beyond time. With deep respect and gratitude,   Susan B. Carbon OVW Director U.S. Department of Justice We remind all those in need of assistance, or other concerned friends and individuals, to call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE or the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE.
Updated April 27, 2017