Justice News

Principal Deputy Director Katharine Sullivan of the Justice Department’s Office on Violence Against Women Delivers Remarks at Annual International Family Justice Center Conference
Fort Worth, TX
United States
Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Thank you all for attending this amazing International Family Justice Center Conference. A special welcome goes out to our international visitors, particularly the European Family Justice Center Alliance team and the team from Moldova.

Thank you to Casey Gwinn and Gael Strack for their tireless leadership in building collaborative responses to domestic violence for more than 30 years. The Power of Hopegivers is a perfect theme for this conference.

This is the only conference in the country supported by the Office on Violence Against Women (OVW) that measures outcomes in attendees to demonstrate improvements from this training. We are glad to support a conference with such clearly measured outcomes.

It is an honor to be with you here today and highlight the valuable role of Family Justice Centers, as well as the importance of addressing near-fatal strangulation cases, working effectively with victims who experience more than one type of crime, and using multidisciplinary teams to investigate, prosecute, and advocate for all victims of crime.

It is also exciting to hear about how Camp HOPE America is helping children exposed to trauma. I saw so many young people come through my courtroom who were profoundly affected and severely traumatized by being raised in abusive homes. For these children and teens, programs like Camp HOPE America are vital to breaking the cycle and becoming whole again.

We all know the impact of childhood trauma in producing the next generation of offenders and, in some cases, victims. The opioid crisis has also posed many challenges for service providers and first responders as they struggle to help victims of family violence and sexual assault.

I know all of you care deeply or you would not be called to work with survivors. As I talk to people in the field across this nation, I hear so many say, “It’s not enough! There are still so many being abused and assaulted!” I have felt this way myself many times.

But today, I urge you to think about all the amazing accomplishments you have already made. By focusing on one survivor at a time, one prosecution or investigation at a time, we are planting seeds – seeds that grow into these beautiful Family Justice Centers and Camp HOPE America, for instance.

I have had the great privilege of being on the front lines to see the impact of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), particularly in the criminal justice system. I was in Washington, DC when VAWA first passed in 1994. As a prosecutor in 2000, I handled the very first cases prosecuted under new, much stronger, domestic violence laws in Colorado. I helped educate our law enforcement officers on proper investigation techniques.

We developed effective advocacy and services for victims of crime, and we worked tirelessly to hold offenders accountable. As a private practitioner, I assisted survivors in pursuing restraining orders and divorces.

In my last 11 years serving as a state court trial judge, I developed protocols in the courtroom to protect victims. I presided over thousands of domestic violence and restraining order cases, and I experienced firsthand an effective coordinated community response.

Think about this: In my 17 years working in the criminal justice system, we have gone from initial implementation of domestic violence laws to offering nuanced wrap-around services that meet survivors where they are.

Family Justice Centers embody this progress. Casey Gwinn recognized that having all services under one roof helps the community coordinate a response to domestic violence, sexual assault, dating violence, and stalking. Offenders are held accountable because law enforcement and prosecutors are a key component of the Centers. The Family Justice Center model meets the complex and diverse needs of adult and child survivors of many types of crime.

There is no doubt a multidisciplinary team approach to combatting violence is the approach that works. I created and presided over two problem-solving courts in my time as a judge, and I know that there is magic in the team. It is very powerful to bring together committed, caring representatives from law enforcement, the District Attorney’s office, and victim service providers to share ideas and develop solutions unique to each community.

Now I challenge you to take the next step and find ways to coordinate with Project Safe Neighborhoods. This initiative is very important to Attorney General Jeff Sessions as we strive to reduce violent crime and make our communities safe for all.  

I am honored to provide leadership to OVW as we support thousands of direct service organizations across the country and champion collaborative models like Family Justice Centers, Project Safe Neighborhoods, and other types of coordinated community responses and multi-agency centers.

The future of our work must be better collaboration, closer working relationships, and partnering across every agency that touches the lives of victims. The future will be integrated models that produce greater accountability for offenders and safety, hope, and healing for adult and child survivors. I look forward to working with all of you to achieve that future.

Thank you for all you do. You are in our hearts and thoughts always.


Updated April 24, 2018