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Acting Director Allison Randall of the Office on Violence Against Women Delivers Remarks at 23rd Annual International Family Justice Center Conference


San Diego, CA
United States

Remarks as Prepared for Delivery

Good morning, everyone! I am so excited to be here with you today in San Diego, the sacred, traditional and continuing homeland of the Kumeyaay people.

It is crucial that we acknowledge the original and rightful and ongoing stewards of this land. However, that acknowledgment is meaningless if not accompanied by action and by following the leadership of the Tribal advocates who are the mothers of this movement and who still guide the way.

Because being guided by the people who are on the ground building coordinated community responses (CCRs) – in other words, everyone in this audience today – is why we are here.

At the Office on Violence Against Women (OVW), we want our grants and policies to reflect the communities and, especially, the survivors they serve, to ensure that we are working to end to gender-based violence.

I so appreciate the work that Alliance for HOPE International President Casey Gwinn does to center hope and resiliency.

We know that telling survivors what to do or setting goals for them does not give hope. Instead, you give hope by helping survivors figure out what they want and finding pathways to achieve their goals.

I love hope as an outcome measure because hope is 100 percent, by necessity, survivor-centered. Hope looks different for different survivors.

Increasing hope means meeting survivors where they are and letting survivors lead.

To quote Lavon Morris Grant, a leader in our field and survivor herself, “We have to give survivors what they are asking us for, not what we think we should give them.”

Whatever your profession, you are hope-givers if you help survivors make their own choices and find their own way forward.  

But don’t forget about your own hope, too!

To quote our Associate Attorney General Vanita Gupta,

“Whether in government or elsewhere, you will find opportunities to uncover and reckon with hard truths ... To drive change where there is injustice. And to heal a nation that craves hope and decency.

“But there will also be times when the weight of the work, and the work left to do, will feel overwhelming. Stay hopeful. Remember that hope is a discipline; you must practice it every day.

“The beauty of this country and the promise of our legal framework is not that we are perfect, but that we never stop trying to live up to our highest ideals. We can change. We can make progress when people work to close the gap between what the law guarantees on paper and what people experience in their lives.”

Without hope, we can’t get there.

Hope drives us forward to create steady, incremental change, even when we see tragedies and see survivors running into the same barriers again and again.

And hope empowers us to create big, systemic change that removes those barriers, and to have the resiliency every day to keep fighting.

Over the past 30-plus years, Family Justice Centers (FJCs) have certainly changed and progressed, and today, FJCs operate in 44 states and 25 countries.

I love going to visit FJCs because it’s always a whole room full of people who absolutely embody a coordinated community response and who are really broadening that concept to include more systems and more partners.

Thank you all for your commitment to creating wraparound, multi-disciplinary services for survivors of domestic and sexual violence.

Creating a community of services is not simple – these collaborations can be challenging to form and even more difficult to sustain. I know that one on a visceral level!

But you are proving it can be done and done well – responding to what you are hearing from survivors, pivoting in the midst of COVID, helping survivors navigate the aftermath of what they have suffered, and holding offenders accountable.

OVW’s vision is a world where survivors have options and choices in their journeys to hope and healing.

A dynamic family justice center framework does just that – offers survivors the ability to choose, and helps reduce barriers to justice and safety by providing multifaceted services under one roof.

Many of you are also creating access points beyond that one roof, so you can meet survivors where they are – both literally and figuratively.

For example, the Tri-County Family Justice Center of Northeast New Mexico reports that their OVW grant funding gave them “…the ability to expand and provide services that were not available before in the extremely rural tri-county… We are able to go to the client when necessary, and clients have a choice of where they can go to get services…”

We have been able to expand our programs at the main office and offer more cultural, spiritual, and holistic programs, which are tailored to the area.”

Over the past year – as we’ve returned to more regular travel – I have been so fortunate to visit some amazing FJCs across the country.

The last time I was doing site visits to FJCs was 2018, and of course they were doing great work, but I’m so impressed with how FJCs have grown in just the last four years – years that have been tough for all the different professions who are represented here today.

In Asheville, North Carolina, the Buncombe County Family Justice Center is engaged in tangible racial equity work, which includes economic justice and improving law enforcement responses. The FJC is run by the county, so they are an integral part of the county’s plan.

Buncombe County FJC used their OVW grant to partner with both a domestic violence and a sexual assault service provider to provide two full-time Intake Specialists. These Intake Specialists serve as the first point of contact for survivors seeking services at the FJC.

They welcome survivors into their client rooms – client rooms that are so welcoming and allow survivors to stay in one place while whichever professionals those survivors want to see come to them.

At Denton County Friends of the Family, in Texas, a victim service provider takes the lead, and I was moved to tears by their presentation.

The FJC has done so much analysis and relationship-building to figure out how to move the needle for survivors in their community. That includes economic self-sufficiency, but economic self-sufficiency doesn’t come out of nowhere.

Survivors need jobs – Denton County Friends of the Family developed strategies to connect survivors with good jobs.

Survivors need to get to those jobs – the FJC found options to provide transportation, even in a semi-rural area without good public transportation.

Of course, survivors can’t work without childcare and childcare is wildly expensive – so the FJC found a way to pay for it.

But Denton County Friends of the Family eventually ran into a barrier because there are almost no qualified childcare providers in the county, particularly not ones that operate beyond normal business hours. I think they said there were two.

That conversation was about nine months ago and I’m willing to bet they’ve found a solution to the childcare issue by now, because they were so focused on systemic change, problem-solving and bringing culturally specific organizations and population-specific organizations to the center of their work, such as their homicide reduction strategy.

In Louisiana, we visited the New Orleans Family Justice Center and their formidable founder, Mary Claire Landry, and saw their medical clinic and onsite alternative medicine and wellness services. Amazing!

The New Orleans Family Justice Center is also implementing a police outreach follow-up project, called the Advocacy Initiated Response or AIR Program. The program aims to increase victim safety, provide linkages to resources and disrupt violence in the community by having FJC advocates contact identified victims directly after an incident to provide risk assessments, assist with case management and referrals, meet immediate needs and connect survivors with the FJC.

If you are not already an OVW grantee, I encourage you and your communities to partner with us at the Office on Violence Against Women. We are an office full of advocates and survivors, not bureaucrats.

We are always looking to welcome new grantees and we currently have solicitations open for applications on our website.

We have lots of resources, like updated guidance on how to improve law enforcement response to sexual assault and domestic violence by identifying and preventing gender bias, plus links to tons of training and technical assistance to make that happen.

I know you all embody the principles in that guidance so it might be a helpful organizing tool for you, or you might find useful resources through our Law Enforcement Training and Technical Assistance Consortium – LETTAC – which provides a portal you can use to find and request resources.

Many of our grant programs help reduce violent crime and homicides by emphasizing the effectiveness of a coordinated community response, and FJCs often convene all the parties and ensure they work as a true CCR.

This matters, because what these systems and advocates can accomplish together is so much more than the sum of their parts.

Another OVW grantee, the Parish of Ouachita, Louisiana, said, “While our area still has a much higher rate of domestic violence than the nation, the rate of domestic violence in Ouachita Parish has dropped 35 percent since the opening of the FJC in 2005.

“Because of the [OVW] funds, our area has [also] seen a reduction in homicides. Recent data showed that there has been a drop of roughly 70% in domestic violence homicides since 2011. After recent review of 2016/2017 domestic violence homicide statistics, it [was] determined that this reduction has been maintained for six years.

“This proves that collaboration [between] the FJC, [the] CCR [Team] and [the] community is saving lives while being firm about holding batterers accountable for their actions.”

As new challenges arise in addressing violence and abuse, OVW will continue to work together with all of you in mutual respect to produce the best outcomes for survivors.

Thank you all for practicing hope as a discipline every day in your own lives and for your commitment to creating opportunities for hope for survivors and for communities who might otherwise feel despair in the face of seemingly barriers to justice.

Thank you for your commitment to find new ways to work together to bring the most vulnerable communities from the margins to the center – and to start initiatives with those communities at the heart of the work, not just add them in later.

Thank you for expanding access to justice, particularly because access to justice means something different to every survivor and you have to be so agile in response.

And thank you to the Alliance for hope for bringing us all together and giving us the tools and the inspiration to make it all happen.

You give us hope at OVW because we know that together we can end domestic and sexual violence. Let’s go change the world!

Violent Crime
Updated May 10, 2023