April has been a whirlwind of activity at OVW! This month, I have had the honor to meet OVW grantees from across the country, as well as national, state, and local leaders in the anti-violence field. What amazing work you are all doing!
The excitement started with President Trump proclaiming April to be Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month and highlighting an OVW initiative, the Sexual Assault Victim Intervention Services Technical Assistance Center.
I then travelled to Chicago and saw over 2,000 of you at the End Violence Against Women International conference. The energy at the conference was incredible! While in Chicago, I had a terrific visit with Legal Assistance for Victims grantees at Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Chicago, heard about the work of Chicago’s domestic violence courts, met with leaders from the state sexual assault and domestic violence coalitions, connected with a local rape crisis center director, met the administrator of our formula grant funds for the state of Illinois, and talked with dozens of advocates. It was a jam-packed, super-productive 24 hours!
This month I also had the opportunity to visit both Dallas and Fort Worth to speak at the Conference on Crimes Against Women and the International Family Justice Center Conference. I had incredible conversations with the directors of Family Justice Centers, law enforcement leaders, and many of our remarkable grantees. Site visits to see the work you are doing firsthand are a priority!
While in Dallas, I met with the Safe Haven of Tarrant County team, who provide wrap-around services for survivors. Judge Anderson and her team at the DeKalb County Magistrate Court are working in a collaborative manner, using a coordinated community response in a very effective way through a Protective Order court to serve victims. My visit to Wellspring Living Center, which focuses on sex trafficking victims and is run by Mary Frances Bowley, a speaker at the DOJ Human Trafficking Summit last February, was inspiring. You can see photos from site visits in Fort Worth and Atlanta on OVW’s Twitter feed (follow us at @OVWJustice).
As I met with people in the field across this nation, I heard so many say, “It’s not enough! There are still so many being abused and assaulted!” I have felt this way myself many times. I know all of you care deeply about ending sexual and domestic violence, or you would not be called to work with survivors.
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 blossom into incredible coordinated community responses and multidisciplinary teams and survivor-driven solutions. Hang onto hope. Invest in it. I promise you, your work is making an impact. You are creating tremendous change in individual lives and across the world.
Thanks to your work, many communities are ready to take the next steps to ending all types of violence. I urge you to 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. And I urge you to look at emerging issues impacting vulnerable women and girls, like female genital mutilation and sex trafficking. I know you will bring the same passion, commitment and ingenuity to solving these problems that you have to combatting domestic and sexual violence.
How do I know? Because I spent the last month looking in your eyes and hearing your stories, and you are truly a force to be reckoned with. The entire OVW team stands with you, and thanks you for your work.
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