This October, as we recognize National Domestic Violence Awareness Month, the Office on Violence Against Women joins communities across our country in celebrating the tremendous progress we have made over the past nineteen years in creating safer homes, safer communities and a safer Nation. Unfortunately, this message is clouded by the recent government shutdown that coincided with the beginning of Domestic Violence Awareness Month and the continued financial insecurity organizations, tribes, and local governments are facing. In a time when service providers, local and tribal law enforcement, courts, prosecutors and others working to address violence against women have already experienced reductions in funding due to state budget cuts and sequestration, we know that the unnecessary and harmful government shutdown created additional financial uncertainty for our grantees and cooperative agreement recipients. During the two week government shutdown OVW heard from grantees about the dire financial circumstances many programs faced. In communities across the country domestic violence services providers, shelters, and health care clinics were forced to shorten business hours, and in some cases furlough employees. For the countless advocates, victim service providers, law enforcement officials, and prosecutors working to make a difference in the lives of victims and survivors, we thank you for your steadfast dedication and sacrifice in this difficult time. As victim service providers are being asked to do more with less, President Obama’s 2013 National Domestic Violence Awareness Month Proclamation holds more importance than ever. Since 2009 his Administration’s unwavering commitment to “[e]nding violence in the home…” has been demonstrated time and time again – most recently with the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). On March 7, 2013 the Administration reaffirmed its pledge “to provide protection and justice for survivors” and extends legislative protections to more victims and survivors. For the first time in any federal funding statute, VAWA 2013 recognizes the civil rights of LGBT victims and survivors by explicitly prohibiting VAWA grantees from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. We are fortunate to have an Administration dedicated to ensuring that victims achieve their goals of safety, autonomy, healing, and economic security. In this month’s email, I am sharing excellent examples of work and events from our many partners. I hope you will follow up with OVW or the relevant organizations if any of these ideas sound like a good resource for your endeavors. Collaboration between OVW, other components in the Department of Justice, agencies and offices across the Administration, and our partners in the field is crucial to eliminating domestic violence. And we will continue to work diligently toward expanding and improving services, including those that meet the specific cultural and linguistic needs of survivors; preventing domestic violence homicides; developing specialized domestic violence courts; and enhancing the safety of American Indian and Alaska Native women in Indian country. Examples of recent successful collaboration:
- As part of OVW’s Domestic Violence Homicide Prevention Demonstration Initiative launched in March 2013, Vice President Biden and Attorney General Holder announced grants to twelve programs targeting reduction of domestic violence homicides.
- To further develop specialized domestic violence courts across the country the Court Training and Improvements Program announced its Mentor Court Initiative in March 2013. Three courts, Brooklyn, NY; Ada County, ID; and Dallas, TX, were selected to offer peer-to-peer resources to civil and criminal domestic violence courts across the country on best practices, training and programming.
- On November 14, the 8th Annual Violence Against Women Tribal Consultation will be held in Washington, DC. DOJ officials and OVW will engage in dialogue with tribal leaders regarding resources and the grant-making process, as well as solicit recommendations from tribal leaders about how to enhance the safety of Alaska Native and American Indian communities, improving the federal response to violence against Indian women, and administration of grant funds.
- In March 2012, an interagency federal working group was formed to explore issues concerning the intersection of AIDS/HIV, gender-based violence, and gender-related health concerns. In September 2013 the working group released, Addressing the Intersection of HIV/AIDS, Violence against Women and Girls, & Gender–Related Health Disparities. The report outlines recommended actions for federal agencies to improve the effectiveness of responses to the complex intersection of HIV/AIDS, violence against women and girls, and gender-related health disparities.
- In honor of Domestic Violence Awareness Month OVW’s Children and Youth Exposed to Violence Grant Program released its third and final newsletter this month. The CEV grant program seeks develop partnerships between community-based organizations and governmental agencies to increase the resources, services, and advocacy available to children, youth and their nonabusing parent or caretaker, when a child has been exposed to violence.
In addition to the invaluable work OVW grantees and technical assistance providers do with victims and survivors, our partners are critical in promoting domestic violence awareness and reaching members of the community. We are excited to share some recent innovative projects developed by local organizations to address domestic violence in their community:
- To address the gap between homeless service systems and domestic violence, the National Center on Family Homelessness created Closing the Gap: Integrating Services for Survivors of Domestic Violence Experiencing Homelessness, which includes a Toolkit for Transitional Housing Programs, webinars, and accompanying materials. Housing continues to be the highest unmet need for domestic violence victims. The National Network to End Domestic Violence, one of OVW’s Transitional Housing Technical Assistance Programs, developed a Transitional Housing Toolkit for organizations to enhance services to survivors
- The effects of domestic violence are often compounded with financial concerns that prevent victims from leaving their abuser. Following their Law Enforcement Guide to Safety and Economic Security for Victims of Violence Against Women, Wider Opportunities for Women plans to release a second installment focusing on prosecutors and the court system.
Raising awareness in communities, including the use of social media, can be a powerful tool for effective responses to domestic violence. Examples of social media utilization:
- The Rhode Island Coalition Against Domestic Violence (RICADV) kicked off Domestic Violence Awareness Month with the launch of their "Know More" campaign to educate the public about the importance and impact of bystanders. Watch the RICADV bystanders video.
- On October 1, the Minnesota Coalition for Battered Women (MCBW) launched their Live Violence Free flag campaign. A Live Violence Free flag will be raised by participating organizations every time there is a domestic violence homicide in Minnesota, the day MCBW publishes their annual Femicide Report and on November 25, the International Day to Eliminate Violence Against Women.
- In southern Mississippi, the Gulf Coast Women’s Center for Nonviolence published 31 Days Of Making A Difference. This resource is available for members of the public to tweet and post Facebook status updates about domestic violence for the entire month of October.
Expanding efforts to reach culturally-specific and other underserved communities in culturally-appropriate ways will ensure that we meet the diverse needs of individuals in our communities. Here are two recent examples:
- OVW, in partnership with KARAMAH: Muslim Women Lawyers for Human Rights and Raksha, Inc., hosted a three-day training focusing on domestic violence in the American Muslim community.
- On October 1, the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs (NCAVP) released its 2012 Report on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, and HIV-Affected Intimate Partner Violence. The NCAVP provides technical assistance to OVW grantees regarding support and information for working with the LGBTQ community.
Recognizing consequences of trauma and working with victims will help to insure their recovery and survival. Two events to increase awareness of the consequences of trauma:
- In Ohio, the Ohio Domestic Violence Network released a manual on Trauma-Informed Care: Best Practices and Protocols for Ohio's Domestic Violence Programs. View a webinar describing the development of the manual.
- As part of their 8-part webinar series on Substance Abuse, Trauma, and Domestic Violence, the National Center on Domestic Violence, Trauma & Mental Health is hosting Building Capacity: Serving Survivors of DV/SA Experiencing Trauma Associated with Substance Abuse on Thursday, October 24 2:00 p.m. – 3:30 p.m. CST.
Domestic violence affects an entire community. Building relationships between advocates, law enforcement, the criminal justice system, service providers, and health care practitioners is critical to assisting victims. Members of the community can also help in raising awareness, forming alliances, and understanding that domestic violence impacts everyone. At the Office on Violence Against Women, we will continue to work with our partners to enhance and expand programs and support to victims. To all of you who assist victims of domestic violence, whether a member of law enforcement, a prosecutor, a health care provider, a shelter worker, advocate, advisor or friend, your contribution is valued and important. We could not continue this effort without you. We encourage those in need of assistance, or concerned friends and individuals, to call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233); 1-800-787-3224 (TTY).