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The Advocacy Learning Center: A Force for Change
November 23, 2009 Posted by

The Office on Violence Against Women (OVW) announced the inaugural class of the Advocacy Learning Center, a program created to improve the skills and abilities of advocates to be a powerful force in the movement to end violence against women. OVW awarded a $3.5 million technical assistance grant in Fiscal Year 2009 to Praxis International of St. Paul, MN in partnership with Manavi of New Brunswick, NJ to create the Advocacy Learning Center. 

Whether organizations work with those who have been sexually assaulted, battered, or stalked, or with women who are trafficked or prostituted, the Department of Justice and organizations working in the field share the same vision: an end to violence against women.  These groups may advocate in different ways, but something about the work is the same.  Something about the different women served is the same.  Something about the harm to survivors is the same.  And the questions asked are the same: Where did this violence come from?  What can we do to end it?

Often, the communities with strong, effective responses to violence against women first had a strong and compelling advocacy program. This advocacy uses a specialized set of knowledge and skills to empower, support, and facilitate victims’ efforts to preserve their safety, rights, and integrity. At the same time, it also reforms social institutions, public policy, and community norms to protect victims, hold abusers accountable, and create violence-free communities. 

The Advocacy Learning Center is intended to build upon a 30-year legacy of thousands of advocates and advocacy programs around the country working to protect survivors and create violence-free communities. It will strengthen how advocates provide individual, community and systems advocacy, and improve their ability to strategize and act to change responses to violence against women.

Catherine Pierce, OVW Acting Director, explained the benefits of the Advocacy Learning Center:

“The work of advocates is critical to the work of ending violence against women and providing a life line to victims. Advocates have long been a source of hope and support to survivors in the aftermath of trauma, and we will support them and create a network of strong advocates that will work together for generations to come through the Advocacy Learning Center.”

OVW worked with Praxis International and Manavi through a cooperative agreement to establish the Advocacy Learning Center.  The first class of trainees assembled in October and included 50 participants from 17 organizations, representing 12 states and one U.S. territory.   Each selected organization sent a team of participants, including management and front-line staff, to the course.  Over a two-year period, these teams will try new approaches to their advocacy. They will participate in on-site and distance learning activities, in addition to site visits and independent study.

As Ellen Pence, the founder of Praxis International and a victim advocate since 1975, says:

 “We must work in a way that recognizes that, as we stand for this woman, we also stand for countless others who will share her plight.  We must be about the business of making a path forward for all women that is free of institutional obstacles, free of paradigms that blame women for the attacks on their bodies, free of the insistence that if she had just done things differently she could have avoided all of this. The principle that a woman cannot be free of this violence until women are free of it is at the core of our work.”

Learn more about The Advocaacy Learning Center (PDF), here.

Ending Domestic Violence: Crazy Love
October 28, 2009 Posted by

Leslie Morgan Steiner is a writer and an advocate for victims of domestic violence. Her memoir about surviving domestic violence, Crazy Love, is a New York Times bestseller. Last week, Leslie joined us at the Justice Department’s Domestic Violence Awareness Month event where she shared her story.

As a survivor of domestic violence, Leslie inspires us all with her strength and grace. She reminds in order to put an end to the violence we must speak out for, as Leslie says, “abuse only thrives in silence.”

If you, or someone you know, are a victim of domestic violence, please call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-799-SAFE (7233), 800-787-3224 (TTY). For more information on resources that may be available to you, visit:

Learn more about Leslie Morgan Steiner and her work at:

Ending Domestic Violence: Casa de Esperanza
October 27, 2009 Posted by

Last week, the Department of Justice came together to commemorate the recognition of October as Domestic Violence Awareness Month.  We were fortunate to hear from a variety of speakers, including Department leaders Attorney General Eric Holder, Deputy Attorney General David W. Ogden, and Associate Attorney General Tom Perrelli.

We were also joined by a number of representatives from organizations that work to end domestic violence and brave survivors of domestic violence, who generously shared their stories. This week, we’ll be sharing their stories with you.

First, meet Rosie Hidalgo, the Public Policy Director of Casa de Esperanza. Casa de Esperanza is a Latina organization founded in 1982 that works both locally and nationally to support families, end domestic violence, and increase access to effective services for Latinos across the country.

In her remarks, Rosie discusses the role her organization has played in ending domestic violence, the challenges Casa de Esperanza faces, and the ways the Violence Against Women Act has made a difference in the lives of Latinas.

Learn more about Casa de Esperanza at

10 Facts on Female Victims of Violence
October 21, 2009 Posted by

This month the Bureau of Justice Statistics released their latest report on Female Victims of Violence (PDF). The report focuses on intimate partner violence, rape and sexual assault, and stalking. It includes estimates of the extent of crimes against females and the characteristics of crimes and victims. The following 10 facts are a small sampling of findings from the report.  

  • In 2008, females age 12 or older were five times more likely than males age 12 or older to be victims of intimate partner violence. 
  • In 2007 intimate partners committed 14% of all homicides in the U.S.
  • The total estimated number of intimate partner homicide victims in 2007 was 2,340, including 1,640 females and 700 males.
  • Females made up 70% of victims killed by an intimate partner in 2007, a proportion that has changed very little since 1993.
  • Females are generally murdered by people they know. In 64% of female homicide cases in 2007, females were killed by a family member or intimate partner.
  • The overall rate of female homicides fell 43%  between 1993 and 2007.
  • Between 1993 and 2008 the rate of rape or sexual assault against females declined by 70% (from 4.7 to 1.4 per 1,000 females age 12 or older).    The rate of rape or sexual assault against males declined by 36% between 1993 and 2008 (from 0.5 to 0.3 per 1,000 males age 12 or older).
  • One in five rape or sexual assaults against females (20%) was committed by an intimate partner.
  • During a 12-month period in 2005 and 2006, an estimated 3.4 million persons age 18 or older were victims of stalking.
  • Females were at higher risk of stalking victimization than males.   During the study period, females experienced 20 stalking victimizations per 1,000 females age 18 or older. The rate of stalking victimization for males was approximately 7 per 1,000 males age 18 or older.

October has been recognized by President Obama and The Department of Justice as Domestic Violence Awareness Month. The findings in this report, while not limited to domestic violence, certainly remind us of why awareness around this issue is so critical

If you, or someone you know, are a victim of domestic violence, please call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-799-SAFE (7233), 800-787-3224 (TTY). For more information on resources that may be available to you, visit:


Data from the Bureau of Justice Statistics’ National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) Uniform Crime Reporting Program’s (UCR) Supplementary Homicide Reports (SHR). The full report as a PDF is available at the Bureau of Justice Statistics Web site.

The Justice Department Recognizes Domestic Violence Awareness Month
October 19, 2009 Posted by

This afternoon Justice Department leadership came together in a rare joint event to commemorate the Justice Department’s recognition of October as Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

Attorney General Eric Holder, Deputy Attorney General David W. Ogden and Associate Attorney General Tom Perrelli all delivered remarks at the ceremony to celebrate the work that has been done around the country to end violence against women and, more importantly, to discuss the work still left to do in order to end such violence once and for all.

Attorney General Holder began by speaking about a survivor he met while visiting SHAWL House, a women’s shelter in California.

At SHAWL House, I heard from women whose struggles and successes inspired me.

Every woman there had a compelling story to tell. One person I met there, Gabby, grew up in a household of drug users with an abusive father. She found herself in trouble from an early age as she became involved in abusive relationships with her partners, and she began using illegal drugs herself. After losing her four children and winding up on the streets, Gabby turned to SHAWL’s transitional housing facility. There she received the help she so desperately needed, got “clean,” graduated from the program, and turned her life around.

Gabby’s story – and the stories of others like her – illustrate how personal courage and community support can give survivors a chance at a fresh start and the hope of a bright future.

The Attorney General also stressed our responsibility to act:

But just listening to, and learning from, these women is not enough. We also need to take action, both in our personal and professional lives, to help others in our community who find themselves in this situation. We owe it to them. We owe it to ourselves.

Last year, there were over a half million non-fatal violent victimizations committed against women age 12 or older by an intimate partner. And more than 2,000 women and men were killed by intimate partners last year. These are not mere statistics we are talking about – we are talking about individual human beings: friends, colleagues, co-workers, neighbors, relatives. We should be appalled that this type of violence is visited upon them in this day and age. And we must do everything in our power to stop it.

Read the rest of this entry »

A Report from the National Conference for OVW Rural Grantees
October 16, 2009 Posted by

This post appears courtesy of the Office of Violence Against Women and their Acting Director, Catherine Pierce.

 Grantees under the Office on Violence Against Women’s (OVW) Rural Assistance Program convened in the Crescent City for a two-day conference called “Rural Innovations: Exploring Effective Interventions to End Violence Against Women” hosted by Praxis International.

 Associate Attorney General Tom Perrelli opened the conference by noting the Department’s renewed dedication to helping diverse geographic communities end violence against women:

You face a very different set of challenges than your colleagues in the field.  For you, sometimes the question of providing medical care to victims is not a matter of minutes, but hours.  Removing a woman or child from an abusive home can require snow or heavy-duty equipment.  And we also know that what works for some communities will not work for all…I am here to tell you that this Department of Justice and this administration are committed to ensuring that these issues are elevated in importance in matters of policy and funding resources. 

Survivors of violence living in rural jurisdictions face unique barriers to receiving assistance and additional challenges rarely encountered in urban areas.  The geographic isolation, economic structure, particularly strong social and cultural pressures, and lack of available services in rural jurisdictions significantly compound the problems confronted by those seeking support and services to end the violence in their lives and complicate the ability of the criminal justice system to investigate and prosecute domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking cases.

However, this conference, OVW’s Rural Grant Program, and Praxis’ technical assistance equip our grantees with new strategies and tools to ensure that every survivor receives the services they need to end the cycle of abuse. 

Allison Smith-Estelle, Executive Director of the Domestic and Sexual Violence Services of Carbon County, MT, and an OVW grantee since 2008, recently wrote us about the challenges of implementing common practices to address violence in rural Montana:  

Teens experiencing stalking are advised to change their class schedules and women experiencing domestic violence are advised to change their driving routes to work.  But in tiny rural towns where the entire high school has 20 students and there is only one road in and out of town, such strategies are unfeasible. One of our program’s very first funders gave us the same amount of local travel funds as it did to a program in Rhode Island, not differentiating what “local travel” means in a state that is bigger than Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey and Rhode Island combined!  

But she continues that funds awarded under OVW’s Rural Assistance Grant Program are making a real difference:

Rural OVW funding helped our program pilot several new strategies to ensure that we have the most coordinated and comprehensive response to violence possible.   While we have always been able to address our clients’ emergency needs, we now have the opportunity to figure out how to best help our clients safely move beyond the emergency, with short-term rent and utilities assistance, financial literacy classes, one-on-one financial and job counseling, and other forms of economic advocacy and support. 

Rural OVW provided funding, human-power and legitimacy to engage community partners from the fields of law enforcement, criminal justice and medicine in systems development work, through training and interagency policy and protocol development.  We are identifying creative ways to engage men in our frontier community as partners in the work to end violence against women, children and families. 

Finally, this funding gives us the opportunity to take to scale a model we’ve developed to reach students with messages about dating violence and healthy relationships.

The Office of Violence Against Women  made 76 awards totaling more than $33 million in Fiscal Year 2009, in addition to hundreds of ongoing projects funded under this program in previous years.  We are committed to helping our rural partners overcome their unique challenges to build their coordinated community response, despite the barriers of geographic isolation.  Only then can a truly informed understanding of the experience of violence in rural and frontier communities begin to emerge and all communities around the country can end the cycle of violence.

For additional information about OVW’s Rural Program and other funding opportunities, visit OVW’s website:

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