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A Report from the National Conference for OVW Rural Grantees

This post appears courtesy of the Office of Violence Against Women and their Acting Director, Catherine Pierce.  Grantees under the Office on Violence Against Women’s (OVW) Rural Assistance Program convened in the Crescent City for a two-day conference called “Rural Innovations: Exploring Effective Interventions to End Violence Against Women” hosted by Praxis International.  Associate Attorney General Tom Perrelli opened the conference by noting the Department’s renewed dedication to helping diverse geographic communities end violence against women:

You face a very different set of challenges than your colleagues in the field.  For you, sometimes the question of providing medical care to victims is not a matter of minutes, but hours.  Removing a woman or child from an abusive home can require snow or heavy-duty equipment.  And we also know that what works for some communities will not work for all...I am here to tell you that this Department of Justice and this administration are committed to ensuring that these issues are elevated in importance in matters of policy and funding resources. 

Survivors of violence living in rural jurisdictions face unique barriers to receiving assistance and additional challenges rarely encountered in urban areas.  The geographic isolation, economic structure, particularly strong social and cultural pressures, and lack of available services in rural jurisdictions significantly compound the problems confronted by those seeking support and services to end the violence in their lives and complicate the ability of the criminal justice system to investigate and prosecute domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking cases. However, this conference, OVW’s Rural Grant Program, and Praxis’ technical assistance equip our grantees with new strategies and tools to ensure that every survivor receives the services they need to end the cycle of abuse.  Allison Smith-Estelle, Executive Director of the Domestic and Sexual Violence Services of Carbon County, MT, and an OVW grantee since 2008, recently wrote us about the challenges of implementing common practices to address violence in rural Montana:  

Teens experiencing stalking are advised to change their class schedules and women experiencing domestic violence are advised to change their driving routes to work.  But in tiny rural towns where the entire high school has 20 students and there is only one road in and out of town, such strategies are unfeasible. One of our program’s very first funders gave us the same amount of local travel funds as it did to a program in Rhode Island, not differentiating what “local travel” means in a state that is bigger than Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey and Rhode Island combined!  

But she continues that funds awarded under OVW’s Rural Assistance Grant Program are making a real difference:

Rural OVW funding helped our program pilot several new strategies to ensure that we have the most coordinated and comprehensive response to violence possible.   While we have always been able to address our clients’ emergency needs, we now have the opportunity to figure out how to best help our clients safely move beyond the emergency, with short-term rent and utilities assistance, financial literacy classes, one-on-one financial and job counseling, and other forms of economic advocacy and support.  Rural OVW provided funding, human-power and legitimacy to engage community partners from the fields of law enforcement, criminal justice and medicine in systems development work, through training and interagency policy and protocol development.  We are identifying creative ways to engage men in our frontier community as partners in the work to end violence against women, children and families.  Finally, this funding gives us the opportunity to take to scale a model we’ve developed to reach students with messages about dating violence and healthy relationships.

The Office of Violence Against Women  made 76 awards totaling more than $33 million in Fiscal Year 2009, in addition to hundreds of ongoing projects funded under this program in previous years.  We are committed to helping our rural partners overcome their unique challenges to build their coordinated community response, despite the barriers of geographic isolation.  Only then can a truly informed understanding of the experience of violence in rural and frontier communities begin to emerge and all communities around the country can end the cycle of violence. For additional information about OVW's Rural Program and other funding opportunities, visit OVW's website: www.ovw.usdoj.gov.

Updated April 27, 2017