Courtesy of Principal Deputy Director Bea Hanson, Ph.D., Office on Violence Against Women
Recently, Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch, Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and Secretary Julián Castro of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) released a letter to recipients of federal funding to provide more information on access to services for immigrant victims. The letter explains that immigrants cannot be denied access to certain services necessary to protect life or safety on the basis of their immigration status.
We know that immigrant survivors of violence need access to vital services and assistance so that they can successfully escape abuse, find safety, and start the healing process, as well as obtain assistance to pursue the special immigration remedies that Congress enacted through the Violence Against Women Act and the Trafficking Victims Protection Act.
The purpose of this letter is to clarify that service providers should not turn away immigrant victims, on the basis of their immigration status, from certain services necessary for life or safety – services such as emergency shelter; short-term housing assistance, including transitional housing; crisis counseling; and intervention programs.
The letter from the Attorney General and the Secretaries of HHS and HUD is not a new policy. It reiterates and consolidates the long-standing policies of all three Departments, reminding federal funding recipients that federal law restricting immigrant access to certain public benefits includes exceptions to protect life or safety.
Specifically, federal law does not restrict immigrant access to programs that (1) are necessary for the protection of life or safety; (2) deliver in-kind services at the community level; and (3) do not condition the provision of assistance, the amount of the assistance or the cost of assistance on an individual’s income or resources. These programs must be made available to eligible persons without regard to citizenship, nationality or immigration status.
This tri-agency letter should resolve questions that recipients of federal funding may have about their ability to serve all victims with OVW funds. I also hope that it will be a useful tool when working with community partners to ensure that all victims have access to services necessary to protect their lives or safety.
Courtesy of Principal Deputy Director Bea Hanson of the Office on Violence Against Women
The Office on Violence Against Women (OVW) was thrilled to participate in the United State of Women Summit on June 14, 2016. Over 5,000 people traveled to Washington, D.C., from all across the country and around the world; many thousands more attended via livestream, which you can watch on the Summit’s website. The White House Council on Women and Girls coordinated the event to both celebrate the progress that’s been made over the past seven and a half years and to galvanize action for the work that still lies ahead.
“Together we are all stronger” was a theme woven throughout the Summit, which was built on six pillars: violence against women and girls; health and wellness; economic empowerment; entrepreneurship and innovation; educational opportunity; and leadership and civic engagement.
President Obama addressed the Summit and expressed his optimism that tomorrow’s leaders will encourage a society that treats women with respect: “…So our girls see that they, too, are America -- confident and courageous and, in the words of Audre Lord, ‘deliberate and afraid of nothing.’”
During the Summit, various breakouts, referred to as “Solutions Seminars,” focused on violence against women issues. I had an opportunity to moderate one of these breakouts, entitled “From the Margins to the Center: Solutions to Stopping Violence in All Communities,” which was livestreamed nationally and can be viewed on the Watch the Summit (at 4:15:17). We had a very powerful discussion with courageous women who highlighted the increasing need for interventions addressing domestic and sexual violence to be led by and for diverse communities. Our panel discussed how this could be done through culturally based and innovative approaches that build on the strengths and resilience of their communities. The insights and activism of all the participants also demonstrated how our collective national response to gender violence can better address violence against all women and girls.
In preparation for the Summit, the White House Council on Women and Girls compiled a factsheet highlighting many significant accomplishments during the past seven and a half years, across many different federal agencies, to advance the Administration’s goal of ending violence against women and girls. This document is truly a testament to the tremendous hard work and dedication of advocates and stakeholders. And yet, as we all know, there is still so much more work to be done.
As part of the Summit, OVW, the Office for Victims of Crime (OVC), and the Department of Health and Human Services’ Family Violence Prevention and Services Program (FVPSA) cohosted a performance of Mary Kathryn Nagle’s (Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma) play “Sliver of a Full Moon,” which is a powerful reenactment of the historic congressional reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) in 2013. The play also highlights the efforts of tribal advocates and leaders from across the country to restore the authority of tribal governments to prosecute non-Native abusers who assault and abuse Native women on tribal lands. The performance was presented in partnership with the National Congress of American Indians and the National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center.
OVW, OVC, and FVPSA also cohosted a post-Summit event at George Washington University entitled “Reimagining, Reinvigorating and Moving Forward to End Sexual Assault, Domestic violence, Dating Violence and Stalking.” Leaders from national, state, tribal, and local domestic violence, sexual assault, dating violence, and stalking organizations facilitated discussions for more than 400 participants on promising practices, innovative approaches, and the needs of survivors in marginalized and underserved communities. Topics included improving the criminal justice response to violence against women, as well as exploring alternative pathways to safety and healing, enhancing the role of health care providers in prevention and intervention efforts, improving access to shelter and housing, economic justice, tribal sovereignty, youth and children in the civil courts, youth leadership, and technology. This event also featured a “White House Arm Chair Discussion” with both the current and former White House Advisor on Violence Against Women, and we look forward to sharing a summary report of this convening in the months ahead.
OVW also released some new reports and funding announcements in conjunction with the Summit, including the following:
“Twenty Years of the Violence Against Women Act: Dispatches from the Field.” This report summarizes the themes from the national tour of OVW grant recipients in which OVW staff visited 50 locations in 20 states—rural, urban, suburban, and tribal – and conducted listening sessions. The report summarizes those conversations, highlighting accomplishments and the lasting influence of VAWA on communities’ ability to respond to sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence, and stalking, as well as identifying barriers and gaps in services.
Awards to Reduce Domestic Violence Homicides. OVW announced new investments of more than $3.2 million to reduce domestic violence homicides due to firearms. The awards will be used for enhanced training and technical assistance, demonstration programs, and the establishment of a National Resource Center on Domestic Violence and Firearms.
Demonstration Programs to Provide Stable Housing to Victims of Domestic Violence Living with HIV/AIDS. OVW and the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Office on HIV-AIDS Housing announced grant awards of more than $9 million to support eight local programs across the country to provide housing assistance and supportive services to low-income persons living with HIV/AIDS who are victims of sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence, or stalking.
Additionally, the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention’s (OJJDP) National Girls Initiative published a report, “Unintended Consequence: Addressing the Impact of Domestic Violence Mandatory and Pro-Arrest Policies and Practices on Girls and Young Women.” This report was based on a roundtable that OJJDP and OVW had convened earlier this year, in conjunction with the National Girls Initiative, in which they brought together a group of advocates representing the violence against women and the juvenile justice reform for girls communities to discuss the unintended consequences of domestic violence mandatory and pro-arrest policies on girls and young women, as well as the disproportionate impact on communities of color.
As First Lady Michele Obama noted during the Summit, “the work always continues. And by that I mean we’re never done.” But, we know that, together, we are all stronger and have the ability to make incredible and long-lasting change to bring safety and justice to all women and girls.
Join the United State of Women and pledge to do your part so that today we can all change tomorrow. Here is the pledge:
Be in charge of my own body. Every powerful part.
Learn whatever I want like it's nobody's business.
Stand by my game-changing ideas.
Use my voice to stand up for my community.
Get paid the same as everyone else doing the same job.
Call out sexism when I see it.
Not be a silent bystander.
Today, the Office on Violence Against Women (OVW) joins communities across the world to commemorate the 10th anniversary of World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (WEAAD). WEAAD launched in 2006, to shine a spotlight on the abuse and neglect experienced by millions of older adults that is too often overlooked or unreported. On this day, we have the opportunity to increase awareness about abuse in later life, learn what to do if we suspect abuse or neglect, and stand united against elder abuse.
OVW remains committed to raising awareness about abuse in later life. For example, in March 2016, OVW, the Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) Administration on Community Living and Family Violence Prevention and Services, and the National Clearinghouse on Abuse in Later Life (NCALL), convened a roundtable with national, state and local leaders and older survivors to discuss the emergency shelter and transitional housing needs of older victims. This roundtable was part of a continued effort to address abuse across the lifespan and provided critical information that was used in a newly developed toolkit.
Today, I am excited to share that the first resource in this toolkit is now available. “Working with Older Survivors of Abuse: A Framework for Advocates” was developed by NCALL, an OVW technical assistance provider, to help advocates working with older survivors. We invite you and your colleagues to view a recording of the webinar “Promoting Respect and Dignity Across the Lifespan: Working with Older Victims of Domestic and Sexual Violence.” This webinar highlights national and local efforts to address abuse in later life and includes an overview of the new resource, including seven guiding principles and practical strategies for advocates to consider when working with older survivors.
As the percentage of Americans over the age of 50 continues to grow, the number of older adults experiencing abuse in later life is also increasing. We encourage you to get involved in local World Elder Abuse Awareness Day events because you can make a difference. Here are some ideas:
- Take advantage of World Elder Abuse Awareness Day to highlight domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking in later life in your community
- Use the phrase “victims across the lifespan” to promote recognition of older victims in written materials
- Include images of older adults in brochures, posters and presentations
- Include examples of abuse in later life in educational events
- Conduct outreach where older adults gather
- Highlight older victims during domestic violence, sexual violence and stalking awareness months
- Work collaboratively with experts in aging network services and elder abuse
For More Information on Elder Abuse
- National Clearinghouse on Abuse in Later Life (NCALL)
- U.S. Department of Justice Elder Justice Website
- National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA)
For More Information on World Elder Abuse Awareness Day
If you or someone you know is experiencing abuse, neglect, or exploitation visit, U.S. Department of Justice Elder Justice Website, NCEA’s State Resources webpage or call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or 1-800-787-3224 (TTY).
Since 2006, 86 communities have received funding through OVW’s Enhanced Training and Services to End Abuse in Later Life Program. The funds have been used to train thousands of law enforcement officials, prosecutors, judges, victim service providers, and other professionals who work with older victims.
Courtesy of Principal Deputy Director Bea Hanson of the Office on Violence Against Women
As we come to the end of Sexual Assault Awareness Month and the Justice Department’s inaugural National Reentry Week, I am humbled and inspired by the department’s – and the entire Obama Administration’s – commitment to inclusive criminal justice reform efforts. For example, last month the White House convened a group of justice-involved women and girls, family members of incarcerated individuals, women serving in law enforcement and other advocates to talk about women’s access to justice.
Today, I had the great fortune to travel to Federal Prison Camp Alderson in West Virginia with colleagues from the Office on Violence Against Women and the Bureau of Prisons as well as the White House Advisor on Violence Against Women. During this visit we saw a number of vocational training programs that provide women with skills for employment post-release, and about their trauma and drug treatment programs. We also met with a group of survivors of sexual assault, domestic violence and child sexual abuse and heard about their experiences of victimization prior to incarceration, as well as their need for support and programming while incarcerated and for reentry.
As we heard from survivor after survivor, I was reminded of the critical role direct services – legal assistance, advocacy, counseling and housing – have in the lives of victims and survivors. And we must continue to develop and strengthen partnerships between state, local and tribal governments and community-based organizations to fully meet the reentry needs of survivors. In the words of Attorney General Lynch:
“As long as we continue to make it difficult for those who have served time in prison to find their footing, we diminish our safety; hamper our prosperity; and, above all, compromise the ideals and principles that define our country. That’s why all of us, at every level, must work together to give returning individuals the resources and support they need to make a successful transition: not just because it’s sound policy, but because it’s the right thing to do.”
The Office on Violence Against Women stands with the Department of Justice’s commitment to standing with justice-involved survivors.
Courtesy of Principal Deputy Director Bea Hanson of the Office on Violence Against Women and Courtesy of Assistant Attorney General Karol V. Mason for the Office of Justice Programs
This month, as part of Sexual Assault Awareness month, Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch announced the Justice Department’s plan to release a protocol for pediatricians, forensic nurses and other health care providers who work with children, which will offer evidence-based recommendations for caring for child victims of sexual abuse. Today, we are excited to share that the Office on Violence Against Women (OVW) released the National Protocol for Sexual Abuse Medical Forensic Examinations, Pediatric (Pediatric SAFE Protocol).
As we all know, sexual violence is a serious problem that impacts all of us, and the Justice Department is committed to supporting communities across the country in their efforts to implement effective responses to support victims of sexual violence and hold perpetrators accountable. The medical forensic examination is an integral component of this response. It is designed to address victims’ health care needs and promote their safety and healing. In addition, forensic evidence collected during the examination – information gathered during the medical history, documentation of exam findings and forensic samples, if potentially available – can help facilitate case investigation and prosecution of perpetrators of sexual violence. Success in meeting these objectives depends not only on the skills and knowledge of the health care providers conducting the examination, but also the coordinated efforts of all disciplines involved in the response to victims.
In September 2004, the Attorney General released A National Protocol for Sexual Assault Medical Forensic Examinations, Adults/Adolescents (SAFE Protocol), which provides detailed, voluntary guidelines for criminal justice and health care practitioners in responding to the immediate needs of adult and adolescent sexual assault victims. In 2013, the Attorney General released a second edition of the SAFE Protocol that reflected changes in practice and technology since 2004 and emphasized the need for victim-centered care. After the release of the second edition of the SAFE Protocol, OVW heard from stakeholders in the field that there was a need for a similarly definitive document addressing the needs of child victims. Recognizing that the care of a prepubescent child following sexual abuse is significantly different than that of an adolescent or adult, OVW partnered with the International Association of Forensic Nurses (IAFN) to develop the Pediatric SAFE Protocol.
The Pediatric SAFE Protocol was developed through a collaborative process with national experts represented by child abuse pediatricians, pediatric sexual assault nurse examiners (SANEs), children’s hospitals, emergency departments, child advocacy centers, community and systems-based advocacy programs, law enforcement agencies and prosecutors. We also relied on the expertise of our federal partners in the Office of Justice Programs’ Office of the Assistant Attorney General, National Institute of Justice, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention and the Office for Victims of Crime; FBI; and the Department of Health and Human Services’ Indian Health Service to ensure the new Pediatric SAFE Protocol would be a comprehensive guide for an immediate response to child sexual abuse.
This much awaited protocol not only provides specific guidance on forensic medical examinations, it clearly identifies the need for a coordinated community response to child sexual abuse and the roles of victim advocates, law enforcement, prosecutors, child protective services and forensic scientists in a community’s response. As Attorney General Lynch said in her speech at the National Crime Victims’ Rights Week awards ceremony, “I am hopeful that it will help bolster efforts nationwide to care for the most vulnerable victims of sexual abuse. No child should ever have to experience that kind of abuse – and no child who does should be forced to bear that burden alone.”
We hope communities across the country will use the Pediatric SAFE Protocol as a roadmap to establish, strengthen or enhance their immediate response to child sexual abuse and promote the healing and well-being of these most vulnerable victims. Communities interested in learning more about the protocol can contact IAFN for technical assistance through Kids TA, a project supported by the Office on Violence Against Women’s Technical Assistance Initiative. The Kids TA project is designed to disseminate the Pediatric SAFE Protocol and provide education and resources to all sexual abuse responders regarding the unique needs of the sexually abused prepubescent child.
IAFN and OVW are hosting a webinar on June 16, 2016, at 3:30 p.m. EDT that will provide more details on the key recommendations of the protocol. Registration information and technical assistance is available at www.kidsta.org.
The Pediatric SAFE Protocol is available at www.justice.gov/ovw/selected-publications.
Courtesy of Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch
Last month, as part of my ongoing community policing tour, I traveled to Miami and Doral, Florida, to learn about some of the innovative work underway there to build trust and strengthen ties between police officers and the residents they serve. But in addition to the opportunity to meet with local law enforcement, civic leaders, and students, my trip to south Florida gave me a chance to visit with Janet Reno, the first woman to lead the Department of Justice and the second-longest serving Attorney General in American history.
I was working as an Assistant U.S. Attorney in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York when Attorney General Reno took charge of the department in 1993, and I was immediately impressed by her strength, her tenacity, and her devotion to the law. Her calm and steady leadership of the Department of Justice helped to shape the public’s perception of women’s role in government and public service, and to meet with her while serving as Attorney General in my own right was a profoundly moving experience that I won’t soon forget.
Attorney General Reno’s appointment was a watershed moment in the Justice Department’s history, and as we draw near to the end of Women’s History Month, it’s worth reflecting on the path that she forged. The official theme of this year’s commemoration – “Working to Form a More Perfect Union: Honoring Women in Public Service and Government” – presented an especially good opportunity to celebrate the ways that we’ve continued to expand our dedication to gender equality, both within the department and throughout the United States. Today, women are central to every aspect of the Justice Department’s work – from litigation and investigation to field work and advocacy. Women also play a prominent role in the department’s leadership – a fact we highlighted at our annual Women’s History Month event with a panel discussion featuring several of the women who head agencies and components at the Department of Justice. That panel was moderated by Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates, and featured the women who currently lead our Criminal Division (Leslie Caldwell), Tax Division (Caroline Ciraolo), Civil Rights Division (Vanita Gupta), Office on Violence Against Women (Bea Hanson), Office for Access to Justice (Lisa Foster), and Office of Justice Programs (Karol Mason). I am proud to say that the panel served as a powerful testament to our commitment to maintaining a skilled and diverse workforce representative of the American people it is our privilege to serve.
Of course, even as we strive to promote diversity and equality within our own ranks, we’re determined to protect the rights and dignity of women throughout the United States. To name just a few examples: Our Civil Rights Division remains vigilant in its investigations of employment discrimination against women by state and local government employers, and also in its work to ensure that colleges and universities comply with both Title IX and Title IV in their response to student reports of sexual harassment and sexual assault. Our Civil Rights Division, Office on Violence Against Women, and Office of Community Policing Services recently prepared a guidance document designed to help state and local police departments ensure that their response to cases involving sexual assault and domestic violence are effective, victim-centered, and free from explicit or implicit gender bias. Our advocacy helped to secure new protections for survivors of domestic violence in Indian Country as part of the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013. And one of my top priorities as Attorney General is preventing and prosecuting human trafficking – an appalling crime that disproportionately affects women.
In these and so many other ways, the Department of Justice is standing at the forefront of the struggle for gender equality. Still, even now, it is clear that our journey towards full equality is far from over. Despite the real and undeniable gains that women have made, we have more work to do. Our problems will not be solved overnight, and our challenges will not be fixed by laws and policies alone. But when I think of the courage and conviction of women like Janet Reno; when I think of the devotion and resolve of the many women I’ve been fortunate to work with throughout my career; when I think of the powerful women leaders we heard from today; and when I think of all that we’ve accomplished in just the last few months, I am confident that we will continue moving forward – and I am certain that the Department of Justice will be at the forefront of our progress toward a brighter and more inclusive future.
A rape crisis center, recognizing that some victims in the community are unlikely to use counseling services, develops a peer support group model for survivors of sexual violence. The group’s participation is at capacity and the participants say that talking with other survivors is helping them cope, but what about the model makes it successful? Would the model work in a different community?
A police chief establishes a specialized domestic violence unit and staffs it with detectives who are specially trained to handle domestic violence cases. What effect does this have on victims who seek help from the police, and how cases are investigated?
These are just two examples of questions that Office on Violence Against Women (OVW) grantees across the nation ask in trying to determine if what they are doing is working. Therefore, OVW has launched a Research and Evaluation Initiative to help grantees align their work with practices that are known to be effective and to strengthen communities’ capacity to generate knowledge on the efficacy of new and promising ways of doing things.
The first step of this initiative was to develop a comprehensive understanding of what we know about the effectiveness of approaches funded by the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) and determine which practices require a closer look and further study. A report summarizing this effort and describing OVW’s plans for evidence-based and evidence-building grantmaking is now available. The report identifies the following six areas of study:
- Victims’ needs: how victimization and its aftermath affect people’s lives, especially people who are marginalized (including but not limited to victims who are: people of color; immigrants; male; Deaf or hard of hearing; lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender ; people with disabilities; elderly; members of cultural, linguistic and/or religious minority groups; incarcerated or formerly incarcerated; and/or living in poverty), and what they need to cope, heal and achieve safety and justice.
- Cultures, disparities and access: ways in which cultural differences and social inequalities matter in terms of where and to whom people go for help, and whether people are able to access justice and get services that are useful to them.
- Justice: ways the justice system can effectively pursue and achieve justice in cases involving domestic/dating violence, sexual assault and stalking; with justice broadly understood to include autonomy for victims, accountability for offenders, procedural fairness for all and restorative justice.
- Impact: short- and long-term impact of the justice system’s response, victim services and other VAWA-funded interventions on victim safety and offender accountability.
- Indicators of success: what success looks like and how to measure it – for victims pursing safety and justice, for offenders being held accountable for their violence and for people who work with victims and offenders.
- Reducing recidivism: how to prevent violence from recurring.
To develop our understanding of what works in each of the areas of study, OVW is now inviting applicants to propose projects to conduct research and evaluation on VAWA-funded activities through a solicitation released today. This first-ever funding opportunity is designed to support researcher-practitioner partnerships, with an emphasis on enhancing knowledge and practice related to underserved and marginalized populations. OVW is seeking field-initiated research that will produce findings that are relevant to the day-to-day work of victim advocates, law enforcement officers, prosecutors, healthcare providers, attorneys, judges and others committed to helping victims and making communities safer. Applications are due on Monday, May 2, 2016.
All OVW open solicitations are posted at www.justice.gov/ovw/open-solicitations.
The fiscal year (FY) 2016 Coordinated Tribal Assistance Solicitation (CTAS) is now closed. The Office on Violence Against Women (OVW) offered funding through Purpose Area #5: Tribal Governments Program (TGP). OVW anticipates making FY 2016 CTAS awards by September 30, 2016. All awards are subject to the availability of appropriated funds and to any modifications or additional requirements that may be imposed by law.
FY 2016 CTAS reflected improvements and refinements from earlier versions based on feedback during Tribal consultations and listening sessions, from the FY 2015 CTAS assessment about the application experience, and from written comments from applicants and grantees. Detailed information about the now closed FY 2016 CTAS can be found at www.justice.gov/tribal along with other helpful information and resources. The OVW Purpose Area #5 Grantee Guidebook is located at www.justice.gov/tribal/open-sol.html. The closed FY 2016 solicitation, as well as sample documents, is available at www.justice.gov/tribal/closed-solicitations.
Courtesy of Principal Deputy Director Bea Hanson of the Office on Violence Against Women
Yesterday morning, the Justice Department’s Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) released a groundbreaking report: the Campus Climate Survey Validation Study (CCSVS) Final Technical Report, a key deliverable of the White House Task Force to Protect Students From Sexual Assault (Task Force). Established by President Obama on Jan. 22, 2014, to develop a coordinated federal response to campus rape and sexual assault, the Task Force recommended in its first report that schools conduct climate surveys to gauge the prevalence of sexual assault on campus, assess students’ perceptions of the climate at their school on the issue and obtain valuable information to develop solutions. The Task Force also released a toolkit and sample survey, which the BJS study – funded by the Justice Department’s Office on Violence Against Women (OVW) – revised and pilot tested at nine diverse colleges and universities, including public, private and community colleges.
A total of over 23,000 students completed the survey, and the results were incredibly informative. This study showed that each of the nine schools had unique “climate” factors – perceptions and beliefs related to sexual assault and sexual harassment. The BJS study also revealed different rates of sexual assault at each institution and how schools varied across different measures.
- For undergraduate females, prevalence rates of completed sexual assaults ranged from 4 percent to 20 percent at the nine schools during the 2014-2015 academic year, with 2 percent to 8 percent of female students experiencing the trauma of a completed rape during that time.
- For undergraduate males, the prevalence rate of completed sexual assaults ranged from about 1 percent to 6 percent during the 2014-2015 academic year.
- Over the course of their time in college, 13 percent to 51 percent of females in their fourth year had been a victim of sexual battery or rape. Females, younger students and lesbian, gay and bisexual students were most at risk. Transgender students were also among those most at risk for sexual assault. Since entering college, the prevalence rate of sexual assault for transgendered persons at all nine school was almost 28 percent.
The CCSVS report demonstrates that schools can successfully conduct a valid and reliable campus climate survey to measure the prevalence of sexual assault among their students and gauge student perceptions of the campus environment. The report provides a set of best practices – including an updated survey – to assist schools and researchers in the design and implementation of climate surveys.
Sadly, the report also documents the harmful impact of sexual assault, and in particular rape, on students’ lives, from problems with schoolwork and relationships to thoughts of transferring or dropping out of school. This makes it all the more crucial for schools to address sexual assault. Schools want their students to succeed, but it is evident that sexual assault takes a serious toll on academic enrollment, performance and coursework.
Incoming first-year female students were at the highest risk for sexual assault in the first few months of the academic year compared to older students and other times of the year. Particularly striking were the number of sexual assaults that occurred in August, given that the school year tends to start late in that month. This shows the need to reach incoming students with sexual assault prevention messages before they ever set foot on campus. Consistent with other studies, and Clery Act reports, very few sexual assaults were reported to any official – just 4 percent of rapes were reported to law enforcement and a mere 7 percent were reported to any school official. These statistics are disturbing and emphasize the importance of connecting survivors with the support they need. It is important to note, however, that the vast majority of victims in the study did tell a roommate, friend or family member about the assault, demonstrating the importance that friends and family members receive training on how to respond to disclosures of sexual assault.
We also know that confidential resources are crucial to enabling survivors to learn about reporting options, protections from retaliation and interim measures available to students, even if they are not ready to make a formal report. More than 20 percent of victims who didn’t report the assault cited concerns that their report would not be kept confidential, and nearly 30 percent cited fears of retaliation, which is closely connected to concerns about confidentiality.
In addition, the study found that schools where student respondents had a negative perception of school leadership on sexual assault issues had higher rates of sexual harassment and sexual assault at their school.
OVW and other components of the department, like the Office for Victims of Crime (OVC), the Civil Rights Division and the National Institute of Justice, are tackling this problem head-on. OVW funds colleges and universities to improve their responses to sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence and stalking, and along with OVC and other department components, OVW is exploring ways to help more schools implement quality climate surveys and take action to improve prevention and response efforts based on the results. BJS and OVW will offer a series of webinars on the CCSVS results and best practices for conducting campus climate surveys. These will be open to specific audiences and the general public, and information will be posted on the BJS and OVW website.
We can’t solve the problem if we don’t understand it, and each school has different resources, needs, students and experiences. It is clear that every school must be informed about the prevalence of sexual assault and the perceptions of students to develop campus specific programs to prevent and end sexual assault and intimate partner violence.
OVW administers financial and technical assistance to communities across the country that are developing programs, policies and practices aimed at ending domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking. OVW’s Grants to Reduce Sexual Assault, Domestic Violence, Dating Violence and Stalking on Campus Program strengthens the response of institutions of higher education to the crimes of sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence and stalking on campuses and enhances collaboration among campuses, local law enforcement and victim advocacy organizations.
In fiscal year 2016, Congress increased the appropriation for OVW’s Campus Grant Program from $12 million to $20 million. The fiscal year 2016 Campus Grant Program solicitation is open and accepting applications until March 3, 2016.
In fiscal year (FY) 2016, the Office on Violence Against Women (OVW) changed the working title of the Grants to Encourage Arrest Policies and Enforcement of Protection Orders (Arrest) Program to the Improving Criminal Justice Responses to Sexual Assault, Domestic Violence, Dating Violence, and Stalking Grant (Improving Criminal Justice Responses) Program to more accurately reflect the program’s scope.
The Improving Criminal Justice Responses Program is designed to encourage partnerships between state, local, and tribal governments, courts, victim service providers, coalitions and rape crisis centers, to ensure that sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence, and stalking are treated as serious violations of criminal law requiring the coordinated involvement of the entire criminal justice system and community-based victim service organizations. The Improving Criminal Justice Responses Program challenges the community to work collaboratively to identify problems, and share ideas that will result in new responses to ensure victim safety and offender accountability.
The Office on Violence Against Women (OVW) is excited to announce the release of the FY 2016 Improving Criminal Justice Responses to Sexual Assault, Domestic Violence, Dating Violence, and Stalking Grant Program solicitation. All applications are due by 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time (E.T.) on Thursday, March 3, 2016.
If you have any questions, please email OVW.Arrest@usdoj.gov or call 202-307-6026 and ask to speak to a member of the ICJR/Arrest Unit.