DVAM 2023: Ending Domestic Violence Requires Us All to Work Together
Survivors are at the center of our work at the Office on Violence Against Women and it is their courage, leadership, and vision that drives the commitment to continue to improve efforts to address and prevent domestic violence, dating violence, sexual violence, and stalking. We observe Domestic Violence Awareness Month (DVAM) to take stock of the collective progress we’ve made, strengthen our commitment to advancing our work, and ensure that millions of people who are impacted by abuse from intimate partners every year know that they are not alone and can reach out for help.
We can all help break down barriers to safety and justice, support the healing and well-being of survivors and their children, and create a society that does not tolerate abuse. DVAM also gives us the opportunity to express gratitude for the dedication of advocates, direct service providers, allied partners, and all the OVW grantees who assist survivors and help change lives.
As President Biden said in his proclamation that recognizes October as National Domestic Violence Awareness and Prevention Month, “Every survivor should know that they are not alone and they deserve better. Together, we will keep spreading awareness, changing culture, supporting survivors, and moving toward a world free of gender-based violence.”
Domestic violence impacts people in every community – and its consequences can last a lifetime and affect generations. Home is where we are supposed to feel the safest, but domestic violence strips survivors of that fundamental right. The effects of domestic violence also stretch well beyond the home, impacting extended families, schools, the workplace, and the community. Data from the last National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey indicate that 41% of women and 26% of men stated that they had experienced contact sexual violence, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner during their lifetime and experienced an intimate partner violence-related impact. Domestic violence rates are even higher for American Indian and Alaska Native populations, Black individuals, people from communities of color, those with disabilities, and LGBTQI+ individuals.
Throughout my career, I've had the privilege of collaborating with dedicated advocates and front-line responders across many systems who play a pivotal role in addressing various forms of violence, including domestic violence, dating violence, sexual violence, and stalking. Their work is invaluable in supporting survivors. Now, in my role at OVW, it remains a top priority to maintain direct engagement with communities to stay informed about emerging issues and effective approaches to overcoming barriers that survivors may face and ensuring that there are multiple pathways to safety and support.
During a recent trip to Los Angeles, my colleagues and I had the opportunity to visit culturally specific, community-based organizations focused on supporting survivors from historically marginalized communities. We also visited a community violence intervention program and a reentry program focused on helping individuals with experiences of violence and incarceration. These programs provide a comprehensive approach by addressing the varied needs of survivors – economic support, systemic barriers for historically marginalized communities, culturally specific needs, the impact of gun violence, individual and community trauma, and more – to provide a holistic path toward healing and transformation. These visits underscored the importance of offering support to survivors and families who often receive inadequate assistance from mainstream services.
Additionally, OVW’s ongoing efforts involve engaging with Tribal communities to discuss their unique challenges – particularly when navigating jurisdictional and resource-related issues - as well as their unique strengths in addressing these issues. Through participation in OVW’s annual government-to-government Tribal Consultation, as well as a recent visit to Alaska to hear directly from advocates and leaders from Alaska Native Villages, we continue to advance the Department’s commitment to promoting Tribal sovereignty and enhancing safety for American Indians and Alaska Natives.
Supporting a coordinated community response has been a hallmark of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). Actively listening to survivors and those who serve survivors is essential in broadening our understanding of how to help individuals in all communities find viable pathways to safety, healing, and justice. This also involves enhancing training and trauma-informed approaches and expanding promising practices in systems that support these communities in seeking safety and holding offenders accountable. Looking forward, I am enthusiastic about continuing meaningful dialogues with communities to improve OVW's grant and policy-making processes and to continue to support more comprehensive coordinated community responses. Our goal is to uplift and support efforts that establish partnerships, fostering a comprehensive approach to addressing and preventing domestic violence and related issues.
Recently, when I was in Oklahoma, I visited a great example of a coordinated community response in Oklahoma City, where an expansive family justice center includes over 40 community partners and collaborates across many systems at the federal, state, and local levels to support survivors. This includes their work with the U.S. Attorney’s Office to identify and respond to highly lethal domestic violence cases through Operation 922, implementing the Justice Department’s Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN) initiative. This initiative in Oklahoma City seeks to prosecute domestic violence-derived violent crime cases by focusing on enforcing federal gun laws. A vital component of that effort is the partnership with agencies that can provide survivors with essential resources, such as a safe place to live, trauma-informed services, and legal assistance. The solid and expansive partnerships of Operation 922 with community partners and advocates help keep survivors and their children, and ultimately, neighborhoods, safer.
Over nearly three decades, VAWA has expanded, and so has the federal government’s support for programs that support organizations and communities doing the hard work every day to support survivors and end domestic violence and other such crimes. Today, our grant funding includes expanded services for survivors of underserved and marginalized communities and additional support for Tribal nations seeking to exercise expanded Tribal criminal jurisdiction to protect their citizens.
In September, OVW awarded the most grants in our history – more than 800 individual awards totaling more than $627 million in funding for the 2023 fiscal year. In OVW’s history, we have made more than $10 billion in grant funding available to organizations supporting survivors of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking. In the next few weeks, you’ll start seeing announcements for grant solicitations for the 2024 fiscal year; you can sign up to get automatic email notifications every time we post a new grant opportunity.
While we have come a long way in the effort to support survivors and end domestic violence, we know much more remains to be done. OVW is proud to work with our grantees who are doing the valuable daily work of supporting survivors and helping them achieve a pathway to safety, justice, and healing. DVAM is an opportunity not only to recognize the courage and leadership of survivors and the dedicated work of service providers and advocates throughout the country but for each of us to commit to doing our part, not only in October but throughout the year, so that all individuals and communities can thrive free from domestic violence.
OVW does not provide services directly to the public. If you or someone you know needs help today, you can see our state-by-state guide to find a domestic violence provider who serves your area. Immediate and confidential support is available 24/7 through the National Domestic Violence Hotline by visiting thehotline.org, call 1-800-799-7233 (TTY 1-800-787-3224), or text “START” to 88788. You can also visit the StrongHearts Native Helpline – strongheartshelpline.org, and the National Sexual Assault Hotline – www.rainn.org.
Updated October 31, 2023