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Acting Director Katharine Sullivan of the Justice Department’s Office on Violence Against Women Delivers Remarks at the National Sexual Assault Conference


Anaheim, CA
United States

Remarks as prepared for delivery

I am delighted to be here with you today at the National Sexual Assault Conference and join you as we partner in making bold moves to end sexual violence in one generation.

I am known for bold moves – just ask the defendants I saw in my 11 years on the bench – and I believe we can’t just keep doing the same things again and again if they are only working incrementally.  Ending sexual violence requires innovative thinking, strong leadership, and a willingness to take risks.  We must be brave enough to open ourselves to critique, evaluation, and new partnerships.  It will mean meeting victims where they are, particularly when they are facing complex challenges like substance abuse, traumatic brain injury, or a history of arrests due to victimization at the hands of a trafficker. And it will also involve taking the crime of stalking very seriously, because it is often part of sexual assault and is incredibly dangerous.

These are challenges I know you are ready to take on, which is why you are here in such incredible numbers. Eighteen-hundred attendees is the largest National Sexual Assault Conference ever, and you all represent a sea of change.  You are doing incredible community-driven and prevention-focused work.  You are expanding your sexual assault response teams to include culturally specific service providers, like those addressing forced marriage and female genital mutilation.

OVW stands with you in this work.  We want to make bold moves happen. We fund initiatives like Leadership Education and Advancement for Professionals, where the California Coalition Against Sexual Assault is working to develop leadership with underserved groups. We created the Sexual Assault Demonstration Initiative (SADI) to improve the work of multi-victimization organizations in centering sexual assault at the heart of their efforts, and I am excited to announce a national conference on the lessons we learned. “Embracing Change and Growth Conference: Strengthening Services for Survivors of Sexual Violence” will be held March 12 to 14, 2019 in Chicago, Illinois.

In FY 2017, OVW awarded funds to the Resource Sharing Project to establish a Sexual Assault Victim Intervention Services Technical Assistance Center (SAVIS TAC). The purpose of SAVIS TAC is to apply the lessons of SADI by supporting and training victim services programs and states in their efforts to build strong sexual assault services.

But victim services are just part of the coordinated community response to sexual assault that is needed.  Law enforcement, prosecutors, courts, probation, and all the parts of the criminal and civil justice systems must be strong if we are to end sexual assault. OVW is now in its third year of the Sexual Assault Justice Initiative, which supports prosecutors in seven jurisdictions in using effective strategies for prosecuting sexual assault, and looking beyond conviction rates to measure their success in handling these cases. 

Today, I am honored to have the opportunity to announce new tools and new grant awards – our next bold moves.  You are the first to hear that our updated National Training Standards for Sexual Assault Medical Forensic Examiners are now live on our website. We aren’t stopping there.  We are funding End Violence Against Women International to update an interactive training in a “virtual sexual assault forensic facility.”  In the virtual facility, students can participate in interactive training sessions on all aspects of the sexual assault medical forensic examination—from interviewing the survivor through courtroom testimony—with master practitioners and trainers.

It is terrific to see a campus track at this amazing conference! At this time of year, many of us are sending our kids back to school or off to college for the first time, and September is Campus Safety Awareness Month.  According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, a significant portion of sexual assaults on campus are perpetrated against first-year students during September and October,[1] meaning incoming freshmen are especially vulnerable at the time they are just starting out their college careers.

OVW’s Grants to Reduce Sexual Assault, Domestic Violence, Dating Violence, and Stalking on Campus Program supports institutions of higher education in implementing comprehensive, coordinated responses to violent crimes on campus through partnerships with victim services providers and justice agencies. Grantees work collaboratively with local law enforcement and prosecutors, campus athletic programs, Greek life organizations, and off-campus victim services, as each plays a critical role in making campuses safer and more just. For example, right here in California, the University of California-Irvine uses its Campus Program grant to provide training for university police, campus conduct officers, and the campus hearing board so that each group is familiar with state and federal laws, the dynamics of sexual violence, and the use of technology to stalk and abuse.

Today, we are announcing $18 million in grant awards to 57 colleges and universities through OVW’s Campus Program.  Learn more at:

We are also announcing the award of $32 million to 54 sites through the Improving Criminal Justice Responses Program.  Learn more at:  These grants exemplify the coordinated community response model and fund the kind of bold, collaborative initiatives we need to end sexual assault. Six new projects will focus primarily on sexual assault.

Ending sexual assault in one generation will take these kinds of bold moves – bold moves taken as a community in collaboration and partnership. We all need to work together: victim services, law enforcement, prosecution, courts, health professionals, federal and state governments, campuses, volunteers, bystanders, and survivors to end this terrible crime of violence. Looking out at this room gives me the hope that we can. Let’s keep taking bold steps forward together.

Thank you.



[1] Krebs, C., Lindquist, C., Berzofsky, M., Shook-Sa, B., Peterson, K., Planty, M., et al. (2016). Campus climate survey validation study. Final technical report. Washington, DC: Bureau of Justice Statistics, U.S. Department of Justice. Available at:

Updated September 7, 2018