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Blog Post

Advancing Our Nation’s Commitment to End Gender-Based Violence

The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), landmark bipartisan legislation first enacted by Congress in 1994, is a testament to the power of collective action. The hallmark of VAWA and its subsequent reauthorizations is a coordinated community response, which seeks to bring together advocates, service providers, agencies, and community partners across many disciplines to break down silos so that all survivors can access safety, justice, healing, and well-being, tailored to their own unique needs and circumstances. We know there is no one-size-fits all approach and that supporting survivors requires collective action and a sustained commitment.

As we prepare to commemorate the 30th anniversary of VAWA this September, we take time to reflect on the progress made and to renew our dedication to advancing our nation’s commitment to preventing and addressing intimate partner violence, sexual assault, stalking, and other forms of gender-based violence, wherever it occurs.

As a result of the implementation of new provisions in the VAWA Reauthorization Act in 2022 and increased appropriations, OVW has launched various new grant programs and initiatives over the past year, and we were pleased to make the following announcements this month:

  • OVW released for the first time a solicitation for the Healing and Response Teams Special Initiative. This special initiative, using VAWA innovation funds, was created in response to recommendations made by the Not Invisible Act Commission. It will support the creation, training, and sustainability of healing and response teams, including the funding of three pilot sites, using a Tribal-based model of care to respond to missing or murdered Indigenous persons (MMIP) cases related to domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, stalking, and sex trafficking.
  • OVW launched the Restorative Practices Pilot Sites Program solicitation. This new grant program—which was authorized in VAWA 2022—will support, strengthen, and expand existing restorative practices programs that prevent or address domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, or stalking, and it will focus on building evidence for victim-centered, trauma-informed, and culturally restorative practices addressing these harms. OVW anticipates selecting up to 15 pilot sites and awarding up to $1.5 million each for a five-year project that will involve planning and implementation phases. OVW has also recently made grant awards under the Restorative Practices Technical Assistance Project to three entities to serve as national training and technical assistance providers: ValorUS, New York University, and Men as Peacemakers. Additionally, the Restorative Practice Pilot Program Evaluation solicitation, released in March 2024, will support research and evaluation of restorative practices in collaboration with the pilot program sites and technical assistance providers to inform practitioners and policymakers on developing and using restorative practices to redress harm caused by gender-based violence and expand options for survivors to seek justice and healing.
  • OVW, in close collaboration with state and federal prosecutors, released A Framework for Prosecutors to Strengthen Our National Response to Sexual Assault & Domestic Violence Involving Adult Victims. It provides prosecutors with a blueprint for building provable cases in a trauma-informed manner that treats victims with humanity and ensures due process for defendants. It sets out five principles that are designed to address myths and misconceptions that often derail investigations and prosecutions of credible allegations. The guide is focused on supporting better outcomes for victims, safer communities, and greater accountability for perpetrators of sexual assault and domestic violence. It is also designed to complement DOJ’s 2022 updated guidance for law enforcement on Improving Law Enforcement Response to Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence by Identifying and Preventing Gender Bias.
  • While there are important laws to prohibit those convicted of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence from purchasing or possessing firearms, we know that for laws to be effective it requires collaboration across sectors to ensure implementation and the provision of critical support to survivors at increased risk of serious injury or death. OVW worked with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF), the Executive Office for United States Attorneys, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation to issue this month the Misdemeanor Crimes of Domestic Violence Prohibitions Reference Card. This is an important tool, that along with increased training and technical assistance, will improve investigations and prosecutions of domestic violence offenders who illegally possess or seek to obtain firearms—including supporting implementation of the new dating violence prohibitors from the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act.

Yet even as we highlight these accomplishments and others, and we reflect on the substantial progress that has been made, we recognize that we still have further to go. There have been significant paradigm shifts in society’s perceptions of gender-based violence and our responses to it, but many survivors still encounter significant challenges navigating complex systems and accessing critical resources and support that are trauma-informed, survivor-centered, and meet their unique circumstances. It is for that reason that we must collectively advance a whole-of-society approach that continues to lift these issues out of the shadows, increase prevention efforts, support survivors, and hold offenders accountable.

The U.S. National Plan to End Gender-Based Violence (GBV National Plan), which celebrated its first anniversary on May 25th this year, is just such an approach. It provides an important framework for establishing and strengthening the “federal coordinated community response” to preventing and addressing gender-based violence. The GBV National Plan provides a blueprint for advancing a coordinated federal approach that builds on lessons learned, rooted in the progress that courageous survivors, advocates, and others have led over the past several decades. This framework has enabled agencies across the federal government—including the Department of Justice—to strengthen inter-agency collaborations and advance a public safety and public health response to gender-based violence.

In recognition of the first anniversary of the GBV National Plan, OVW had the opportunity this month to attend several events that featured survivors, advocates, foundations, federal partners, and other stakeholders who shared how the GBV National Plan has provided strategies for action that have prompted broader societal interest at the local, state, and national level and has increased investments in preventing and addressing gender-based violence. During these engagements, some of which were hosted by universities, foundations, and national domestic violence and sexual assault advocacy organizations, OVW learned what is working well, but also about gaps and barriers that need to be addressed; information that is critical to ensuring that all of OVW’s work is rooted in the voices and lived realities of survivors.

As we move forward together, we must collectively chart a course toward strengthening prevention efforts and increasing pathways to safety, justice, healing, and well-being for all survivors and all those impacted by gender-based violence. It is critical that our work be rooted in hope and a shared vision where gender-based violence is a relic of the past so that all individuals, families, and communities may thrive free from violence.

If you are in immediate danger, call 911. Contact your local police department to report stalking and stalking-related incidents and/or threats. OVW does not provide services directly to the general public. Local resources are available on our website. Immediate and confidential support is available 24/7 through the National Domestic Violence Hotline by visiting, calling 1-800-799-7233 (TTY 1-800-787-3224), or texting “START” to 88788. You can also call the National Center for Victims of Crime hotline at 855-4-VICTIM (855-484-2846) or the Strong Hearts Native Helpline at 844-762-8483.

Updated June 5, 2024