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Commemorating a Decade of Progress: The Tenth Anniversary of National Stalking Awareness Month
January 31, 2014 Posted by

The Office on Violence Against Women (OVW) is proud to stand with the Obama Administration in renewing our commitment to increase support services for victims of stalking and to strengthen accountability measures for stalkers.  Over the past ten years we have seen a paradigm shift in the way the criminal justice system, and our Nation, understands and responds to stalking.

When the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) was signed into law nearly 20 years ago it established a coordinated community response to the crimes of domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking, encouraging jurisdictions to bring together multiple stakeholders to share experience and information and to use their distinct roles to improve community‐defined responses to these crimes.  VAWA also created full faith and credit provisions – a crucial and life-saving provision for stalking victims – that require states and territories to enforce protection orders issued by other states, tribes and territories.

Since 1994, we have made tremendous strides in enhancing the criminal justice system’s response to stalking. Yet more is left to be done.  Results of the 2010 National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey (NISVS), released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), found that, conservatively, 6.6 million people were stalked in a 12-month period and that 1 in 6 women and 1 in 19 men were stalked at some point in their lifetime.  These numbers are staggering and indicate that stalking remains a serious issue for every community across the United States.

The CDC’s NISVS report also confirmed what law enforcement, prosecutors, victim service providers, and other professionals have been hearing from victims for years – that most stalking cases involve some form of technology.  More than  three-quarters of victims reported having received unwanted phone calls, voice and text messages; and roughly one-third of victims were watched, followed, or tracked with a listening or other device.  These findings underscore how critical it is that professionals who respond to and work with stalking victims understand the dynamics of stalking and particularly how stalkers use technology. 

As the Department of Justice continues to improve the criminal justice response to stalking through the implementation of VAWA, it is imperative that we honor the many accomplishments achieved in the last decade.

  • Stalking is a crime under Federal law and under the laws of all 50 States, the U.S. Territories, the District of Columbia, and the Uniform Code of Military Justice.
  • In January 2004, the first time National Stalking Awareness Month was observed, the Justice Department’s Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS Office) released a Problem-Oriented Guide for Police on Stalking.  This guide, still used today and developed in partnership with the National Center for Victims of Crime, provides law enforcement officials with necessary information about stalking to better assess the problem of stalking in their community and to develop strategies for addressing the problem. 
  • The first National Tribal Summit on Stalking was convened in Salt Lake City in September 2005 to explore the issues of stalking for Native American women and how to address stalking in Indian Country.
  • To commemorate the fifth anniversary of National Stalking Awareness Month, the Stalking Resource Center launched StalkingAwarenessMonth.org and the Bureau of Justice Statistics, in partnership with OVW, released Stalking Victimization in the United States, a Supplemental Victimization Survey to the National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS).  This 2009 survey is one of a few national studies that has measured the extent and nature of stalking in the United States and represents the largest comprehensive study of stalking conducted to date.
  • Launched in January 2012 The Use of Technology to Stalk Online Course was produced by the Stalking Resource Center to assist criminal justice and victim service professionals on the use of technology in stalking.
  • The National Network to End Domestic Violence’s SafetyNet project educates and trains law enforcement, social services, and victim advocates how to hold perpetrators accountable for misusing technology.

Although we have made substantial progress in recognizing and treating stalking as a serious crime, much work remains.  Stalking can be challenging to recognize, so we must do more to train law enforcement, prosecutors, parole and probation officers, and victim service providers to recognize stalking, to aggressively investigate and prosecute cases, to work to ensure victims safety, and to give victims the help they need.

As we look toward the future, it’s important to remember that the progress we have made has not been inevitable.  It is the result of the work of committed advocates, policymakers, law enforcement officers, and brave survivors who tirelessly fight to combat stalking in our communities.  OVW remains committed to working together to bring an end to stalking.

FY 14 Grant Solicitation Announcement: A Message to Our Stakeholders
December 11, 2013 Posted by

OVW’s top priority is to save lives by ensuring that victims receive the services and protection they need. OVW’s small, dedicated team cares profoundly about these issues and about seeing the dollars spent well. We see how VAWA funds save lives around the country, so we know how precious they are.   

Congress and OVW’s stakeholders – from law enforcement to victim service providers to state governments – have asked OVW to get grants out earlier, launch the new VAWA programs, keep stable funding for the field, improve customer service, and provide the in-depth grant management that helps grantees succeed. In addition, Congress has asked OVW to focus on good governance, enhanced monitoring, and increased accountability. 

To accomplish all this in today’s difficult fiscal climate, OVW had to get creative and make trade-offs for FY 14 that increase efficiency without compromising victim services. We worked long and hard to find the best approach for the field – from shelters to law enforcement offices – that would most support victims. OVW’s solution is to streamline the grant competition process, and will change the pool of eligible applicants for many FY 14 grants. 

In FY 14, OVW is implementing many new VAWA changes:   

  • Instituting new statutory requirements across many programs, including STOP Violence Against Women Program and Sexual Assault Services Program formula grants to states and territories
  • Implementing new 25% sexual assault requirement in Grants to Encourage Arrest Program, and legal services purpose area in Rural Grant Program
  • Launching initial phases of the new VAWA Justice for Families Program and the Outreach and Services to Underserved Populations Program
  • Establishing Tribal Coalitions Grants as a formula program
  • Providing guidance on new civil rights provisions
  • Conducting conferrals and listening sessions
  • Adopting strengthened accountability provisions 

Every VAWA grant program is different, but many OVW solicitations will focus on continuation applicants. In some programs, there will be a targeted competition, or eligibility will be limited for a portion of the funds. A chart of grant program eligibility is available online at http://www.ovw.usdoj.gov/open-solicitations.htm#proposed

We know these changes will cause some confusion, and we want to work to minimize them. Some of you have been asking OVW to do more continuation awards, while others were looking forward to the opportunity to compete for a particular grant. OVW has only partially limited eligibility for FY 14 grant programs, and we believe full competition is important. OVW plans to resume competitions for all VAWA programs when prudent management will allow. 

Issuing solicitations with these changes in eligibility provides continued funding to serve victims and prevent violence, responds to requests from the field to keep funding stable and improve customer service, and frees up enough OVW staff time to conduct proper management and monitoring.  For the good of victims, DOJ stakeholders, and taxpayers, OVW had to make these tough choices. 

We want to emphasize that all grantees that will receive an invitation to apply for those programs that are being administered on a “continuation only” basis have previously competed successfully for funding in that program. All applicants will be subject to a programmatic review to ensure that their project meets the statutory scope of the program; assess their past performance, including compliance with audit findings; and ensure that proposed activities do not compromise victim safety. In addition, because of uncertain funding levels in FY 14, many – and possibly all – grants that are “continuation only” will still be competitive. 

We want to answer your questions and give you the information you need to plan for FY 14.  OVW will host a Q&A session via webinar on Thursday, December 19, at 4pm eastern.  Go to http://ta2ta.org/events/webinars/fy14-grant-solicitation.html to register for the webinar. 

Thank you for the hard work you are doing every day in this challenging economic climate.

Supporting Workplaces in Providing an Effective Response to Domestic Violence, Sexual Assault, and Stalking
November 20, 2013 Posted by

It is with great pride that I share the announcement of the new DOJ policy on addressing domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking in the workplace.  Given the seriousness of these crimes and their impact on employees, we believe this is an important step toward creating a workplace that is safe for all staff.  Deputy Attorney General James Cole announced the release of the policy at OVW’s Domestic Violence Awareness Month event earlier today.  DOJ is the first major federal agency to submit a final workplace policy in response to the Presidential memorandum. 

It is our sincere hope that this new policy will be used by other federal agencies, as well as private sector workplaces, as a model for developing a comprehensive workplace response that values the safety needs of survivors. 

One-third of women killed in U.S. workplaces were killed by a current or former intimate partner according to one multi-year study.  Another study found that nearly one in four large private industry establishments reported at least one incidence of domestic violence, including threats and assaults. 

Domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking does not stop when a survivor arrives at work.  The violence is devastating for victims and takes a toll on the entire workplace as victims are often traumatized, harassed and terrified by abusers while at work.  In fact, domestic violence victims lose a total of nearly 8 million days of paid work each year—the equivalent of more than 32,000 full-time jobs as a result of the violence they experience.  Victims are often forced to take time off work to go to court to obtain a restraining order or to seek medical and mental health care.  Many are forced to leave their jobs altogether.  Perpetrators also lose productivity by stalking, calling, and badgering victims – often on company time and using company resources like phones, the internet, and company cars.  The CDC estimates that intimate partner violence, which includes rape, physical assault, and stalking, costs $1.8 billion in lost workplace productivity each year. 

The Obama Administration is committed to addressing the issue of domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking in the workplace.  In April of 2012, President Obama issued a memorandum requiring each federal agency to develop and implement a policy to prevent domestic violence and address the effects of domestic violence on its workforce.  The federal government is the country’s largest employer, and with President Obama’s leadership, will serve as a model for creating workplaces that reduce the harmful impact of domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking. 

The new DOJ policy and its provisions are grounded in victim safety and perpetrator accountability, and seek to further a healthy, productive workplace.  For example, the policy helps victims keep their jobs through clearly described flexible leave options, enabling them to attend a protection order hearing or visit a mental health professional.  The policy also includes provisions that hold offenders accountable with disciplinary actions and security procedures, and addresses complex situations, such as a perpetrator and victim who work in the same building – or even the same office.  Importantly, the policy calls for training and education so all employees can play a part in promoting workplace safety. 

To help employers implement similar policies, OVW has funded the Workplaces Respond to Domestic and Sexual Violence: A National Resource Center (Resource Center) and Futures without Violence in their efforts to educate, train, and support organizations and business looking for strategies to address domestic violence in the workplace. 

Today, I am also pleased to announce the release of a new and valuable toolkit that will support workplaces in providing an effective response to domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking.  The Resource Center’s toolkit provides useful information for co-workers, employees, and supervisors.  For example, the toolkit includes a “Safety Card for Employees,” a protection order guide for employees, a training video for supervisors, and a quiz to help start a conversation about the impact of violence on the workplace.  The toolkit even has a poster that employers can put up to inform their workplace about domestic and sexual violence and stalking, and how every employee can address it. 

We encourage employers and employees alike to utilize the toolkit – found at www.workplacesrespond.org – and take the next step in addressing domestic violence and promoting safety in the workplace. 

OVW is launching other resources to help survivors find the economic support and security they need.  Economic insecurity, often a result of abuse, undermines survivors’ ability to seek safety and justice leaving them vulnerable to future violence. The criminal and civil justice systems have many ways to help survivors, but prosecutors and attorneys don’t always know how to best utilize those opportunities. 

We are excited to share with the OVW community Wider Opportunities for Women’s Prosecutor’s Guide to Safety and Economic Security for Victims of Violence Against Women (Prosecutor’s Guide), which outlines how prosecutors can protect and support survivors’ economic security.  The Prosecutor’s Guide contains practical tools like checklists for each stage of the case and a Pocket Guide

For example, prosecutors can:

  • Address economic needs in safety planning so that survivors are better protected and insulated from witness intimidation.
  • Charge offenders for the economic crimes they commit, in addition to physical abuse, in order to achieve to broader economic justice for survivors and address the full extent of their victimization.
  • Request all available restitution and economic relief in protection orders to hold offenders fully accountable and restore survivors financially. 

Adopting these practices and strategies will help prosecutors hold offenders fully accountable and better support survivors’ safety and economic security.  

Another example of excellent work in this area is the Center for Survivor Agency and Justice (CSAJ).  The CSAJ launched the Consumer Rights for Domestic Violence Survivors Initiative (CRDVSI).  The initiative, funded by OVW, enhances economic justice for survivors by building the capacity of and developing collaborative partnerships between domestic violence and consumer law attorneys and advocates.  After conducting an Economic Justice Needs Assessment, CSAJ is collaborating with organizations across the country to devise and implement Building Partnerships for Economic Justice Pilot Projects.  These pilot sites, focused upon collaborative approaches to enhance economic advocacy for survivors, are receiving specialized web-based trainings, intensive individualized technical assistance, and on-site training.  This spring, CSAJ will publish a Building Partnerships Manual, which will offer best practices to communities that are interested in engaging in collaborative economic justice work. 

To access CSAJ’s wealth of resources, including conference training materials, webinar materials and recordings, best practices, and economic advocacy tools, visit CSAJ’s resource library at: www.csaj.org  

Domestic violence touches all of our lives, whether through a friend, loved one, co-worker, or through personal experience.  With the new DOJ workplace policy and the resources provided through Workplaces Respond, Wider Opportunities for Women, and CSAJ, we are promoting a dignified response to survivors, guidance for employers, and strategies to keep victims out of poverty.  It is truly an honor to work for an agency that recognizes the importance of economic security for victims and has taken a leadership role in ensuring that our workplace is safe and free from the devastating impact of domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking.

Vice President Biden’s Visit to the National Domestic Violence Hotline
November 6, 2013 Posted by

Last Wednesday I joined Vice President Joe Biden, White House Advisor on Violence Against Women Lynn Rosenthal, Director of Family Violence Prevention and Services Program Marylouise Kelley, and Mariska Hargitay, founder of the Joyful Heart Foundation, at the National Domestic Violence Hotline in Austin, TX to announce a $500,000 grant from OVW to continue support of the National Dating Abuse Helpline.

The National Dating Abuse Helpline, launched in February 2007 in partnership with Liz Claiborne, Inc., was developed in response to the growing number of teens who were calling the National Domestic Violence Hotline.  Through the Helpline’s experiences it become abundantly clear that youth and young adults struggle to navigate an advocacy and judicial system that was originally designed for adults.  In 2010, the Helpline formalized a partnership with Break the Cycle and in Fall 2011 loveisrespect.org was launched.  Loveisrespect.org is an invaluable resource for teens and young adults to find information on healthy relationships, dating basics, and signs of abuse.

Since OVW made its first award to the Helpline in 2009, we have seen its hours and services expanded so that teens and young adults can reach a trained peer advocate 24 hours a day by phone, text, or chat.  In 2011 the Helpline became the nation’s first organization to provide assistance via text messaging and each year the Helpline reaches 18,000 youth and young adults via text messaging.

OVW is proud to continue our support of this critical service that reaches over 40,000 teen and young adult victims and survivors every year.  The Helpline estimates 12,000 callers utilize phone services and 28,000 youth and young adults are reached via online chat services.  With nearly 1.5 million high school students experiencing dating violence each year we must work together to end this violence.

We are fortunate to have the unwavering support of Vice President Biden and the entire Obama Administration in calling for an end to domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking.  Earlier this year OVW announced twenty grants made under the Consolidated Youth Grant Program.  OVW’s Consolidated Youth  grantees are providing services to children and youth exposed to violence, training teachers, coaches, and professionals to improve responses, and developing innovative prevention strategies that encourage men and boys to work as allies with women and girls to prevent domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking.

Working together, we can end this epidemic and prevent violence before it begins.

To learn more about teen dating violence and what you can do, please visit www.loveisrespect.org.

The Helpline provides confidential objective one-to-one peer support through phones, text, and chat.  Services are available 24/7, 365 days a year. Text “loveis” to 22522 or call 1-866-331-9474 to be connected with a peer advocate.

National Domestic Violence Awareness Month
October 24, 2013 Posted by

This October, as we recognize National Domestic Violence Awareness Month, the Office on Violence Against Women joins communities across our country in celebrating the tremendous progress we have made over the past nineteen years in creating safer homes, safer communities and a safer Nation.  Unfortunately, this message is clouded by the recent government shutdown that coincided with the beginning of Domestic Violence Awareness Month and the continued financial insecurity organizations, tribes, and local governments are facing.  In a time when service providers, local and tribal law enforcement, courts, prosecutors  and others working to address violence against women have already experienced  reductions in funding due to state budget cuts and sequestration, we know that the unnecessary and harmful government shutdown created additional financial uncertainty for our grantees and cooperative agreement recipients.

During the two week government shutdown OVW heard from grantees about the dire financial circumstances many programs faced.  In communities across the country domestic violence services providers, shelters, and health care clinics were forced to shorten business hours, and in some cases furlough employees.  For the countless advocates, victim service providers, law enforcement officials, and prosecutors working to make a difference in the lives of victims and survivors, we thank you for your steadfast dedication and sacrifice in this difficult time.

As victim service providers are being asked to do more with less, President Obama’s 2013 National Domestic Violence Awareness Month Proclamation holds more importance than ever.  Since 2009 his Administration’s unwavering commitment to “[e]nding violence in the home…” has been demonstrated time and time again – most recently with the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA).  On March 7, 2013 the Administration reaffirmed its pledge “to provide protection and justice for survivors” and extends legislative protections to more victims and survivors.    For the first time in any federal funding statute, VAWA 2013 recognizes the civil rights of LGBT victims and survivors by explicitly prohibiting VAWA grantees from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. We are fortunate to have an Administration dedicated to ensuring that victims achieve their goals of safety, autonomy, healing, and economic security.

In this month’s email, I am sharing excellent examples of work and events from our many partners.  I hope you will follow up with OVW or the relevant organizations if any of these ideas sound like a good resource for your endeavors.

Collaboration between OVW, other components in the Department of Justice, agencies and offices across the Administration, and our partners in the field is crucial to eliminating domestic violence.  And we will continue to work diligently toward expanding and improving services, including those that meet the specific cultural and linguistic needs of survivors; preventing domestic violence homicides; developing specialized domestic violence courts; and enhancing the safety of American Indian and Alaska Native women in Indian country.

Examples of recent successful collaboration:

  • As part of OVW’s Domestic Violence Homicide Prevention Demonstration Initiative launched in March 2013, Vice President Biden and Attorney General Holder announced grants to twelve programs targeting reduction of domestic violence homicides.
  • To further develop specialized domestic violence courts across the country the Court Training and Improvements Program announced its Mentor Court Initiative in March 2013.  Three courts, Brooklyn, NY; Ada County, ID; and Dallas, TX, were selected to offer peer-to-peer resources to civil and criminal domestic violence courts across the country on best practices, training and programming.
  • On November 14, the 8th Annual Violence Against Women Tribal Consultation will be held in Washington, DC.  DOJ officials and OVW will engage in dialogue with tribal leaders regarding resources and the grant-making process, as well as solicit recommendations from tribal leaders about how to enhance the safety of Alaska Native and American Indian communities, improving the federal response to violence against Indian women, and administration of grant funds.
  • In March 2012, an interagency federal working group was formed to explore issues concerning the intersection of AIDS/HIV, gender-based violence, and gender-related health concerns.  In September 2013 the working group released, Addressing the Intersection of HIV/AIDS, Violence against Women and Girls, & Gender–Related Health Disparities.  The report outlines recommended actions for federal agencies to improve the effectiveness of responses to the complex intersection of HIV/AIDS, violence against women and girls, and gender-related health disparities.
  • In honor of Domestic Violence Awareness Month OVW’s Children and Youth Exposed to Violence Grant Program released its third and final newsletter this month.  The CEV grant program seeks develop partnerships between community-based organizations and governmental agencies to increase the resources, services, and advocacy available to children, youth and their nonabusing parent or caretaker, when a child has been exposed to violence.

In addition to the invaluable work OVW grantees and technical assistance providers do with victims and survivors, our partners are critical in promoting domestic violence awareness and reaching members of the community.

We are excited to share some recent innovative projects developed by local organizations to address domestic violence in their community:

Raising awareness in communities, including the use of social media, can be a powerful tool for effective responses to domestic violence.  Examples of social media utilization:

Expanding efforts to reach culturally-specific and other underserved communities in culturally-appropriate ways will ensure that we meet the diverse needs of individuals in our communities.  Here are two recent examples:

Recognizing consequences of trauma and working with victims will help to insure their recovery and survival.  Two events to increase awareness of the consequences of trauma:

Domestic violence affects an entire community.  Building relationships between advocates, law enforcement, the criminal justice system, service providers, and health care practitioners is critical to assisting victims.  Members of the community can also help in raising awareness, forming alliances, and understanding that domestic violence impacts everyone.  At the Office on Violence Against Women, we will continue to work with our partners to enhance and expand programs and support to victims.

To all of you who assist victims of domestic violence, whether a member of law enforcement, a prosecutor, a health care provider, a shelter worker, advocate, advisor or friend, your contribution is valued and important.  We could not continue this effort without you.

We encourage those in need of assistance, or concerned friends and individuals, to call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233); 1-800-787-3224 (TTY).

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Ensuring Access for LGBT Victims of Domestic Violence, Sexual Assault, Dating Violence and Stalking
September 30, 2013 Posted by

Tomorrow, October 1, the grant-related provisions of the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013 take effect. 

OVW is looking forward to implementing these provisions during the FY 2014 award cycle, including measures that will strengthen our national response to sexual assault, focus attention on reducing domestic violence homicides, and recognize the needs of younger girls who are victimized.  You will hear more from us on these issues in the coming months, as OVW issues its FY 2014 solicitations and related guidance to our grantee community. 

With this post, I would like to single out one historic provision in the new Act.  For the first time in any federal funding statute, VAWA 2013 recognizes the civil rights of LGBT victims and survivors by explicitly prohibiting VAWA grantees from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.  This groundbreaking provision will ensure that LGBT victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, and dating violence and stalking are not denied, on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity, access to the critical services that OVW supports. 

We realize that victim service providers and other OVW grantees may have questions about how this new nondiscrimination provision may affect the way they run their programs and serve victims.  The Department is developing answers to “Frequently Asked Questions” and guidance will be forthcoming.

In the meantime, I know that many of you are eager to improve the way you serve the LGBT population. To learn more about how to provide effective and culturally competent services to LGBT victims and survivors, please consider contacting the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs (NCAVP).  With funding from OVW, NCAVP’s Training and Technical Assistance Center is available to provide education and technical assistance on this subject to OVW grantees.  For more information, you can reach NCAVP as follows: 

T&TA Center:  http://avp.org/resources/training-center
Toll-free warmline:  1-855-AVP-LGBT (1-855-287-5428) (Mon-Fri, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. EST)
Deaf/Hard of hearing accessible instant messaging (IM): AVPlgbt
E-mail: info@ncavp.org

As always, if you have particular thoughts or ideas, I would urge you to participate in the Office’s ongoing conferral process, which is designed to allow you to provide your input to OVW.  The schedule for our conferral calls can be found on our website at http://blogs.justice.gov/ovw/archives/2427 

I look forward to collaborating with all of you as we continue work to ensure that our response to domestic and sexual violence recognizes and includes LGBT victims and survivors and their unique needs.