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Press Release

Statement of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for Domestic Violence Awareness Month

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, District of Vermont

By Presidential Proclamation, October is Domestic Violence Awareness month.  Domestic violence is a heinous crime that terrorizes adults and children, destroys relationships, and shatters the home, which should be a place of safety, love, and respect.  Across the country, domestic violence threatens – in the worst cases ends – lives.  During this month of awareness, we reaffirm our steadfast commitment to empowering survivors and ending this horrible, destructive, and life-threatening form of abuse.  As a country, we must resolve to show zero tolerance for acts of domestic violence.  This is a top priority for the Department of Justice.  In Vermont, the zero tolerance policy is in full effect.  The U.S. Attorney’s Office is doubling down on efforts to combat domestic violence in the Green Mountain State.  We are working with our state and local law enforcement partners and community providers as never before to prevent and bring serious consequences to domestic abusers and to ensure victims and survivors are connected to support and empowerment networks.  The reason:  domestic violence is a problem in Vermont.  In recent years, nearly half of Vermont’s homicides have arisen in the domestic context, and Vermont has outpaced the national average for instances of male perpetrators and female victims. 

The first component of our renewed and invigorated campaign is outreach to state and local law enforcement.  Roughly 40 percent of Vermont’s domestic violence homicides are committed with a gun.  There is a collection of federal laws – many pertaining to firearms – that can be used to prevent domestic violence and bring justice to perpetrators.  These federal crimes can very often be proven without the testimony of the victim, who, for obvious reasons, may be unready and reluctant to testify in a court proceeding against an abuser.  The U.S. Attorney’s Office has created a comprehensive brochure listing and summarizing the federal statutes that may be charged in the domestic violence context.  The brochure can be found on our website at /media/1025776/download?inline. The U.S. Attorney’s Office is circulating this information to State’s Attorney’s Offices, the Vermont Attorney General’s Office, and to federal, state, local, and county law enforcement.  The written information will be accompanied by in-person meetings. 

The pertinent federal domestic violence laws can generally be grouped into two different categories.  First, crimes under the Gun Control Act, particularly those proscribing prohibited persons – such as convicted felons, individuals previously convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence offenses, individuals subject to restraining orders, drug users, individuals previously adjudicated mentally defective, and others – from possessing firearms.  It is also a federal crime to lie to a gun store about your prohibited person status in the course of buying a firearm.  Second, the Violence Against Women Act contains a series of prohibitions relating to domestic violence, including laws against interstate travel to commit domestic violence or to violate a restraining order, cyberstalking, and interstate stalking.  We are committed to ensuring we inform our state and local partners of these laws and maximize referral of these cases to the U.S. Attorney’s Office. 

As with all issues of public safety, while we will make as many arrests as we can consistent with the interests of justice, we cannot arrest our way out of the problem.  We are working closely with our partners in the prevention, education, and victim-survivor support communities to advance a comprehensive approach to ending domestic violence in Vermont.  The Department of Justice recently awarded Vermont a Project Safe Neighborhoods grant.  The Vermont Project Safe Neighborhoods Task Force – comprised of federal, state and local law enforcement, and a community nonprofit partner – has elected to direct the grant monies toward combatting domestic violence in Vermont.  The grant will be administered by the anti-domestic violence nonprofit organization, Circle, and we will encourage solicitations that seek to use the money for domestic violence prevention and education.  In addition, along with its brochure describing relevant federal crimes, the U.S. Attorney’s Office has created a short flyer summarizing the resources available to domestic violence victims and survivors in every county of Vermont.  The flyer can be found on our website at /media/1025771/download?inline.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office also recently worked closely with the Vermont Attorney General’s Office to support its successful application for a Domestic Violence Technical Assistance Grant from the Department of Justice Office of Violence against Women and the National Council for Juvenile and Family Court Judges.  Vermont is one of only a handful of locations in the country to receive this grant, and the only state to receive the grant on a statewide basis.  Discussion amongst stakeholders is currently underway to determine how best to deploy the technical assistance grant. 

Lastly, the U.S. Attorney was recently appointed to the Domestic Violence Working Group of the U.S. Attorney General’s Advisory Committee.  This group serves to advise the Attorney General and federal law enforcement nationwide as to how to effectively marshal federal resources to combat domestic violence. 

As Vermonters and Americans, we must remain vigilant in our quest to end the horror of domestic violence and promote peace and safety in the home.  While we must recognize and face head-on the existence and tragedy of domestic violence, we should also take heart in knowing that combatting and preventing this crime are top priorities of law enforcement at all levels, and that stakeholders are working closely across disciplines to bring a stop to it. We are working with urgency, because this is a matter of life and death.

Updated October 16, 2019

Topics
Community Outreach
Project Safe Neighborhoods
Violent Crime