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Message from Director Carbon: November 2011

Dear Friends, As we reflect back upon the month of October, the month we use to highlight Domestic Violence Awareness, we hosted two major events to raise awareness and engage the public in meaningful conversations. On October 3-4, 2011, OVW hosted the first-ever National Summit on Campus Safety for College and University Presidents. We brought together presidents from across the country to open a dialogue about the dynamics and impact of domestic violence and sexual assault on college campuses, and to engage their participation in leading efforts to end these crimes. With an outstanding faculty that included our first Director, Bonnie Campbell, who recently served as a Regent for the University of Iowa, the Summit provided an opportunity for peer-to-peer exchange on effective interventions including campus safety plans, model campus policies (including Title IX and the Clery Act), proven and innovative practices, and victim-centered responses. We know that college presidents are faced with a pressing need for accountability and growing concerns for safety and security for all their students. The Summit face us the opportunity to showcase assistance that is already available through the Federal government. For example, representatives from the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, the Department of Education Office of Safe and Healthy Students and Office of Civil Rights, the Department of Health and Human Services Administration for Children and Families, Centers for Disease Control, and Office on Women's Health, and of course the Department of Justice Community Oriented Policing Services, National Institute of Justice, Federal Bureau of Investigation and Office of Law Enforcement Coordination, in addition to our Office, participated in an information-exchange moderated by Lynn Rosenthal, White House Advisor on Violence Against Women - and this was just the beginning! The presidents are already talking about replicating these forums on their own campuses. Another priority for our Office is addressing domestic violence homicide. Domestic violence often begins with "minor" criminal offenses. Left unchecked, however, domestic violence can culminate in its most lethal form -- quite literally, homicide. On October 20th, we hosted a Domestic Violence Awareness Month forum for the Department, our colleagues in partner agencies, and local service providers to raise awareness about the prevalence of domestic violence-related homicide and the steps that can be taken by communities around the country to prevent these tragedies. We were honored to have the Deputy Attorney General, James Cole, open the event with his passionate, personal commitment to this issue. William Kellibrew, IV, who as a child witnessed the brutal assault on his mother and brother, was our keynote speaker. Through the unspeakable suffering he endured, he helped us understand the depth of this crime and motivate us to marshall our collective resources to help prevent similar deaths. We were also joined by Professor Neil Websdale of Northern Arizona University who led a panel discussion on homicide prevention initiatives and resources necessary to support victims and families of victims. Professor Websdale is also the Director of the National Domestic Violence Fatality Review Initiative (NDVFRI). In this capacity he serves as a resource to teams across the country that bring together community leaders to examine homicide cases from the perspectives of the victim and offender, with an eye towards what could have been done differently to prevent future homicides. Participating in the panel discussion were David Sargent from the Maryland Network Against Domestic Violence, who leads the implementation of the Lethality Assessment Tool, a resource for multiple different professionals to help guide risk assessment of victims of domestic violence, Susan Ley, Executive Director of the Wendt Center for Loss and Healing, and Marcia Rinker, Victim Witness Advocate for the United States Attorney's Office here in Washington, DC. The Bureau of Justice Statistics and FBI data show that between 1993 and 2008, the annual incidence of domestic violence dropped by 53% nationwide, and the number of individuals killed by an intimate partner declined 32% for women and 63% for men. Though homicides and incidents of domestic violence are still down dramatically from where they were in the early 90s, they have started to increase since the recession first began in late 2007. According to the Department's Bureau of Justice Statistics, all types of crime declined from 2008 to 2009, except domestic violence. Domestic violence homicides of women began increasing in 2007. FBI data show that, from 2006 to 2008, there was a 6% total increase in the number of women murdered by spouses, boyfriends, and former spouses. It is more important than ever that we use the lessons learned from initiatives like Domestic Violence Fatality Review Teams and the Lethality Assessment Project to engage our communities in preventing these homicides. We are excited to announce that 838 grants have been awarded for FY 2011. All of the award letters to our successful applicants were sent by September 30th. As exciting as this is for those who are new or continuing recipients, we realize there many others who were not successful, not because their applications were not worthy, but because the competition has become so fierce. In some cases we were able to award only 6% of the applications, funding 6% of the requested amounts. Communities know that these grants can be helpful -- in public engagement, coordination of services, enhanced services, new and improved protocols, and adoption of model policies, and we only wish we could fund more. We are also mindful that there has been concern expressed about what appears to be gaps in funding. It is critically important to me, to the Office, that everyone understand how hard the staff work to issue solicitations, conduct peer review, and make final decisions and issue award letters. In the past year we were delayed in beginning this work due to the lack of a federal budget. Until we know what resources will be allocated for the various grant programs, and until we know what our own budget is to be able to conduct peer review, we cannot make the necessary financial commitments to enter contracts and engage peer reviewers. We know this has been frustrating, but we are doing all we can to ensure funds are disseminated at the earliest opportunity. Having said that, we welcome hearing from you, and want to answer any questions you may have. You are our partners in this work, and it is critically important that we work together to meet the needs of your communities. Please call on us -- we are here to serve you. If you have questions and do not know who to contact, please email my inbox, ovw.director@usdoj.gov. As we look forward to November, let's keep in mind our friends, relatives and neighbors who are serving in the Armed Forces, and the families they leave behind when they are deployed. We ask so much of them -- the service members, their wives, husbands, partners, and their children -- let's be sure to keep them in our thoughts and prayers, and thank them at every opportunity for their service. And on November 11th, Veteran's Day, make a special effort to reach out and thank them. A simple act of kindness is so easy, and so appreciated -- and does so much. It costs nothing but a moment of your time, and generosity of your spirit. Thank you for all the work you do every day. It is an honor to call you our partners in this work, and a privilege to work with you in making the change we all want. With gratitude and respect, Susan B. Carbon, Director Office on Violence Against Women
Updated April 27, 2017