White House Highlights Initiatives of the Department of Justice to Combat Violence Against Women
Focus on Attorney General’s Defending Childhood Initiative, Sexual Assault Kit Backlog Action Project, Attorney General’s National Advisory Committee, and Workplace Resources
In commemoration of Domestic Violence Awareness Month, the White House today highlighted unprecedented coordination and cooperation across the entire government to provide services for and protect victims of domestic and sexual violence and hold perpetrators accountable drawing attention to key initiatives of the Department of Justice.
“It has been this administration’s commitment to ensure law enforcement has the resources necessary to combat violence against women and bring offenders to justice,” said Attorney General Eric Holder. “These crimes devastate lives, families and communities, but I’ve never been more hopeful about our ability to make meaningful progress in ending violence against women.”
“In the 16 years since the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) passed, we have witnessed a sea change in our nation’s response to domestic violence and countless lives have been saved as a result,” said Susan Carbon, Director of the department’s Office of Violence Against Women. “Today we reaffirm our commitment to building upon this work and ensuring that the needs of victims are met, and offenders are held accountable.”
The White House today highlighted the following initiatives of the Department of Justice:
The Defending Childhood Initiative was launched by Attorney General Holder on Sept 23, 2010 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.
The Sexual Assault Kit Backlog Action Research Project, an initiative sponsored by the Department of Justice Office of Justice Programs National Institute of Justice (NIJ), was launched to identify long term solutions to eliminate the ba cklog of untested sexual assault kits that have not yet been submitted to a crime laboratory. The first phase in this effort will be the awarding of up to $200,000 to “action research” teams in up to five jurisdictions that currently have a backlog of 500 or more untested sexual assault kits. The jurisdictions receiving these awards will use the funds to create teams composed of researchers, law enforcement, crime lab directors, prosecutors and victim advocates, who will audit their jurisdiction’s rape kit backlog. The teams will explore the reasons for the backlog and then develop a plan to tackle the problem. In the second phase of the project, NIJ will award up to $4 million for sites to implement their plans.
Today, in partnership with the Family Violence Prevention Fund and other national organizations, the Office on Violence Against Women is launching 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 launches today at: www.workplacesrespond.org .
Attorney General Holder announced today that he has re-chartered the National Advisory Committee on Violence Against Women, as a discretionary federal advisory committee 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.
Today, the Department of Justice Office on Violence Against Women, in partnership with the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges, released new tools for communities to improve enforcement of 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. The guide in available online at: www.ncjfcj.org/images/stories/dept/fvd/pdf/cpo_guide.pdf
Today, the Department of Justice, with assistance from the White House, is launching Access to Justice for Domestic Violence Victims, a pilot project to encourage more commitment from the private bar to provide pro bono legal services to victims of domestic violence. 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. Access to Justice will encourage ongoing pro bono partnerships between private law firms, domestic violence service providers and law school clinics.
The Department of Justice Office on Violence Against Women (OVW) is launching a new national campaign to reduce sexual violence in the United States by improving the criminal justice system response, increasing services for victims, and changing attitudes. Today, the White House Council on Women and Girls and the Department of Justice held the first ever national roundtable on sexual violence at the White House. Over the next six months, OVW will hold regional forums around the country to engage the public in their sexual assault reduction campaign. In the 2011 budget, President Obama has proposed doubling funding for VAWA sexual assault program.
Violence is still a significant barrier in many women’s lives, and the Obama administration, including Attorney General Holder, has committed to taking concrete action to reduce domestic violence in this country. One-in-every-four women experiences domestic violence during their lifetimes and more than 20 million women in the U.S. have been victims of rape. Approximately 15.5 million children are exposed to domestic violence every year. The impact of abuse lingers for years, both for victims and their children. Domestic violence affects people of every race, gender, sexual orientation and socio-economic status. It not only impacts individual victims but entire communities.