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Principal Deputy Director Katharine Sullivan of the Justice Department’s Office on Violence Against Women Delivers Remarks at Annual Conference on Crimes Against Women


Dallas, TX
United States

Remarks as prepared for delivery

Thank you all for attending this amazing Conference on Crimes Against Women.

It is an honor to be with you here today. As you know, successfully combatting violence against women requires that we come together with a coordinated community response. Prosecutors, law enforcement, nurses, advocates, service providers, and everyone here today – you play a crucial part in ending violence against women.

I want to particularly thank our brave law enforcement officers who risk their lives daily to help survivors everywhere.

Thanks are also due to Jan Langbein, Becky Park, and all the staff with the Genesis Women’s Shelter and Support for your incredible efforts in hosting this annual conference. Your tireless work to strengthen the systemic responses to crimes against women is inspiring.

This is an important month. President Trump has proclaimed this to be Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month. I know many of you will be involved in your communities’ efforts to bring attention to survivors of sexual assault on Denim Day, April 25. 

The Office on Violence Against Women (OVW) is deeply committed to supporting survivors of sexual assault and other crimes against women – not only on April 25, but every day of the year.  I am proud to lead this office of dedicated staff, several of whom are here with me today.

In fact, Sherriann Moore, our Deputy Director for Tribal Affairs, worked with the Genesis Women’s Shelter and Support team to develop the Tribal Track for this conference. As you know, it is essential to recognize that American Indian and Alaska Native women are disproportionally effected by sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence and stalking.

OVW’s mission is to provide federal leadership in developing the nation’s capacity to reduce violence against women and administer justice for and strengthen services to victims of sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence, and stalking.

I am proud to lead OVW in fulfilling this mission, and to work with you to create and implement coordinated community responses to sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence, and stalking. The efficacy of the coordinated community response was recently demonstrated in Michigan’s Sexual Assault Unit, based in the Michigan Attorney General’s Office, successfully prosecuted Larry Nassar, the former doctor for USA Gymnastics who sexually assaulted over 150 young women and girls. The OVW grant also assisted in providing access to services for Nassar’s victims.    

The magic in a coordinated community response is that we provide survivors with wraparound services, including a trauma-informed initial contact from law enforcement, as well as educating our communities about these crimes. Involving all the agencies and service providers that touch the lives of survivors not only coordinates these services but also creates lasting change in the community.

I often say the world looks different depending on where you sit. For instance, a tall person sees the world very differently than a short person. The same is true of the many different places I sat in the Courtroom. As a prosecutor in 2000, when Colorado’s new domestic violence laws – based on the Violence Against Women Act – took effect, the world looked one way. As an attorney in private practice who helped victims obtain protection orders, my perspective changed. In my last 11 years, serving as a judge, everything looked different again. As a judge, I created and presided over two problem-solving courts and had the good fortune to experience first-hand an effective coordinated community response.

This is the beauty of collaboration – all of you bring your own views of the world to the conversation. We come together with a willingness to learn from others and to develop the best possible care for survivors.

OVW’s grant programs fund these types of collaborative responses across the entire country. We have too many programs to name, but they include the Rural Grant Program, which meets the unique needs of rural communities; the Transitional Housing Program, which funds over two million bed nights for survivors and their children every year; the Improving Criminal Justice Responses Program, which assists in the creation of dedicated courts and law enforcement units; and even a program that reaches college students on campus. The unique needs of vulnerable populations are another focus of OVW, and we have many targeted grant programs such as the Consolidated Youth Program, which focuses on teens and works to prevent violence before it ever starts.

OVW strives to reach every part of the system that responds to survivors, helping ensure that effective services are provided to survivors and offenders are held accountable. 

I am often asked about my priorities for OVW. My first priority is to support the Attorney General’s and President Trump’s agenda. I have experienced nothing but strong support from the Attorney General and President Trump. In fact, President Trump’s 2019 proposed budget includes a $5.5 million increase for OVW programs. Their priorities, such as reducing violent crime and combatting human trafficking, dovetail perfectly with OVW priorities.

It is also important that we continue our systemic, community-based approach and meet victims where they are – whether in a courtroom, an advocate’s office, a substance abuse treatment program, or a community center.

It is vital that the absolute maximum amount of money is used for the care of survivors and holding offenders accountable, not extraneous expenses. We need to spend as efficiently and effectively as possible.

Finally, the Violence Against Women Act is up for reauthorization this year. As you can imagine, OVW is working hard to ensure all ideas and proposals are considered.

As I reflect on my 17 years working in the criminal justice system, I see the changes brought about by the work of law enforcement, victim advocates, and other dedicated professionals represented here today. The work you do every day makes a difference.

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

Updated April 20, 2018