Office on Violence Against Women
|Formed||1995 (18 years ago)|
|Headquarters||Robert F. Kennedy Department of Justice Building|
|Agency executive||Bea Hanson, Acting Director|
|Parent agency||United States Department of Justice|
|Website||Office on Violence Against Women|
The United States Office on Violence Against Women (OVW) was created by the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) of 1995. The VAWA was renewed in 2005 and again in 2013, and mandates the OVW to work to combat and reduce violence against women in many different areas, including on college campuses and in people's homes. The OVW also serves to administer justice and strengthen services for victims of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking.
The OVW is headed by a director, who is appointed by the President. and confirmed by the Senate. The Principal Deputy Director serves directly under the Director, and the Deputy Director  right under the Principal Deputy. The current Acting Director of the OVW is Bea Hanson.
As an office in the United States Department of Justice, the Office on Violence Against Women receives federal funding for federal grants that are awarded to communities across America. These grants aim to create successful partnerships between federal and state authorities as well as provide helpful services to victims of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking. Currently the OVW funds 21 grant programs. These grants are for programs that aim to reduce these crimes; programs such as the Sexual Assault Services Program which assists victims of sexual assault and family members affected by it and others. The OVW has awarded over $4.7 billion in grants directed towards such projects.
The Office on Violence Against Women and its programs do have critics as well. The primary criticisms of the OVW are more directly related to the manner in which it allocates its funds than to the OVW programmatic work. Some argue that the OVW does not appropriate its monetary resources to the communities that have the greatest need for them, such as men who suffer domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, or stalking.
The Office on Violence Against Women (OVW) is headed by a Director. The Principal Deputy Director serves under the Director, and the Deputy Director just under the Principal Deputy Director. On the same echelon as the Deputy Director are four main sectors: the Criminal Justice Division, the Community Division, Policy Analysis and the Administration. On the third and lowest tier of the office rests Training and Technical Assistance, Program Development and Evaluation and Demonstration/Special Projects.
Since 2002, the Director of the OVW has been a position that must be appointed by the president and confirmed by the Senate. The Director serves as the liaison between the Federal government and state governments in regards to matters concerning Violence Against Women (i.e., crimes of domestic violence, sexual assault, dating violence and stalking). The Director also serves in that role internationally, with Native American tribes in the country, and within other offices of the United States Government. The Director reports to the Attorney General and is responsible for the legal and policy provisions that are implemented under the Violence Against Women Act. The Director of the OVW also has ultimate control over all grants, cooperative agreements and contracts that OVW issues, and oversees a budget of almost $400 million.
List of Directors
|1||Stuart, DianeDiane Stuart||2001-2006||Stuart was appointed by President George W. Bush in 2001, and then officially nominated by President Bush and confirmed by the Senate in 2003  (under the new provisions of the Office that mandate a formal nomination). As Director, Stuart increased grant and cooperative agreement awards by fifty percent (50%), implemented the President’s Family Justice Center Initiative, and developed the Safety for Indian Women Initiative. Under her supervision, the OVW also developed and implemented the Judicial Demonstration Oversight Initiative, the “Greenbook” Initiative, and the Supervised Visitation Demonstration Program.|
|2||Buchanan, BethBeth Buchanan||2006-2007 ||Buchanan (acting director) is a graduate of California University of Pennsylvania (1984) and of the University of Pittsburgh School of Law (1987). With her guidance as Director, the OVW opened the New Orleans Family Justice Center as part of the Family Justice Center concept, launched the National Teen Dating Abuse Hotline  and released PSAs to increase education about domestic abuse.|
|3||Dyer, CindyCindy Dyer||2007-2009 ||Dyer was nominated by President George W. Bush in August 2001 and confirmed by the Senate in December of that same year. She is a graduate of Texas A&M University, B.A. and Baylor Law School, J.D.  Under her direction, the OVW awarded money to Tribal Governments for the first time under the Grants to Indian Tribal Governments Program. The National Domestic Violence Hotline also received its two millionth call while Dyer was Director of the OVW.|
|4||Pierce, CatherineCatherine Pierce||2009-2010 ||Pierce was designated Acting Director by President Barack Obama in January 2009. She had also previously served in that role from January to October 2001. She joined the OVW in 1995 as one of original staff members, and started working as the Deputy Director of the Office in 1997. In that capacity, she was responsible for public outreach and communications; helped launch OVW's Sexual Assault Services Program and the Culturally and Linguistically Specific Services Program; developed new grant programs created by the Violence Against Women Act; created OVW's technical assistance program; oversaw numerous demonstration initiatives; and implemented a comprehensive effort to measure the effectiveness of OVW's grant programs.|
|5||Carbon, Susan B.Susan B. Carbon||2010-2012 ||Judge Carbon was appointed by President Barack Obama in 2009  and confirmed by the Senate in early 2010. During her tenure as Director, the OVW continued to press for the reauthorization of the VAWA. While she was in Office, the OVW also worked on the Domestic Violence Homicide Prevention Demonstration Initiative  and helped to elevate the discussion of sexual violence, including the redefining of rape in the UCR Summer Reporting System. With her guidance, the OVW also launched the Sexual Assault Demonstration Initiative, wrestled with reform for family courts regarding domestic violence, and expanded the OVW’s sphere internationally |
|6||Hanson, BeaBea Hanson||2012-current ||Hanson is currently serving as the Acting Director of the OVW. Previously, she worked as the Principal Deputy Director of the OVW (2011-2012). Her goals for her tenure as Acting Director are to maintain the financial commitments the Office has made to prevent and respond to domestic violence, sexual assault, dating violence, and stalking; to increase support for victims of sexual assault via expanding support services and improving the criminal justice system’s response to sexual assault; to expand education about rape and its impact; to continue with the OVW’s initiative to reduce the rate of domestic violence homicide; and to provide appropriate services for low-income communities. She has already succeeded in what was her final goal: to encourage Congress to reauthorize the VAWA, as President Obama reauthorized the VAWA in March, 2013.|
There are currently twenty-one grant programs that the OVW administers. Eighteen of these programs use discretionary grants, which are a specific type of grant in which the Office determines both how funds will be used and in what context. The remaining three grants are formula grants, which are grants that must be distributed according to how the legislation describes. In order to receive a project grant, the grant must meet certain standards and qualifications and the recipient must be eligible for the grant.
- "improved internal civil and criminal court functions, responses, practices, and procedures"
- "education for court-based and court-related personnel on issues relating to victims' needs, including safety, security, privacy, confidentiality, and economic independence, as well as information about perpetrator behavior and best practices for holding perpetrators accountable"
- "collaboration and training with Federal, State, tribal, territorial, and local public agencies and officials and nonprofit, nongovernmental organizations to improve implementation and enforcement of relevant Federal, State, tribal, territorial, and local law"
- "enabling courts or court-based or court-related programs to develop new or enhance the following types of programs."
These guidelines are expanded through the definition of the programs mentioned in part four:
- "court infrastructure (such as specialized courts, dockets, intake centers, or interpreter services)"
- "community-based initiatives within the court system (such as court watch programs, victim assistants, or community-based supplementary services)"
- "offender management, monitoring, and accountability programs"
- "safe and confidential information-storage and -sharing databases within and between court systems"
- "education and outreach programs to improve community access, including enhanced access for underserved populations"
- "other projects likely to improve court responses to domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking ”
That final restriction is included in order to “provid[e] technical assistance to Federal, State, tribal, territorial, or local courts wishing to improve their practices and procedures or to develop new programs."
Additionally, there are eligibility requirements for each grant. These standards vary based on the possible recipients of the funds. Grants must be applied for, and an award process follows the distribution.
Currently Operating Programs
|Campus Grant Program||The “Grants to Reduce Domestic Violence, Dating Violence, Sexual Assault, and Stalking on Campus Program” give money to institutions of higher education to help them improve their services, policies and protocols regarding domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking. With this grant, institutions are required to "create a coordinated community response to violence against women on campus ”, including forging external partnerships with law enforcement, non-profit organizations and the courts, as well as internal relationships with on-campus offices and organizations. Additionally, the institutions must create a prevention and education program, a judicial or disciplinary board and provide for law enforcement training “to effectively respond in sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence, and stalking cases on campus.”|
|Children and Youth Exposed to Violence Grant Program||The VAWA of 2005 authorized the use of $20 million for the fiscal years 2007-2011 for the Children and Youth Exposed to Violence Grant program. This program specifically targets children: it is designed to decrease the effects that domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking may have on youth, and lessen the risks of their future victimization. By supporting programs that provide “direct counseling, advocacy, or mentoring ", and coordinating programs that refer families and children to direct services and service providers, the Children and Youth Exposed to Violence Grant Program aims to help “[v]ictim service providers, tribal nonprofit organizations, and community-based organizations.”|
|Court Training and Improvements Program||This program is designed to improve the United States' court system by awarding grant money for a period of 36 months by the creation of either a Sexual Assault or a Domestic Violence Docket, a Dedicated Sexual Assault or a Domestic Violence Court, or Specialized Court Enhancement. Additionally, courts may apply for funding for Judicial Education or Staff Training for a budget period of 24 months to allow their staff to better address dating violence, sexual assault, domestic violence and stalking issues.|
|Culturally and Linguistically Specific Services for Victims Program||This grant aims to fund successful already existing programs that serve specific groups of victims. In addition, the grant is designed to enhance the access that victims, children and families have to local services and resources. The focus of the grant is on community-based programs that provide culturally and linguistically specific services to victims of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking.|
|Education, Training and Enhanced Services to End Violence Against and Abuse of Women with Disabilities||This program's mission is to promote organizations that provide services for women with disabilities. The grant targets individuals with disabilities and funds programs that supply education, advocacy, and outreach for them. The grant also provides for cross-training with participating organizations, technical assistance to modify policies and protocols and funding to improve existing facilities to better serve deaf individuals or those with other disabilities.|
|Engaging Men||According to Futures Without Violence, one of the recipients of this grant, this program will focus on the role that men hold in preventing (both directly and indirectly) violence against women by being their allies and supporters.” In April of 2011, the Department of Justice announced there would be $6.9 million in grants awarded to 23 projects. These initiatives were proposed by non-profit, state, and governmental institutions as a part of “OVW’s ongoing commitment to support gender and culturally specific education on healthy relationships and strengthen existing community outreach efforts to men and boys”|
|Services, Training, Education and Policies (STEP) to Reduce Domestic Violence, Dating Violence, Sexual Assault and Stalking in Secondary Schools Grant Program (STEP)||The STEP program received an appropriation of $5 million from VAWA 2005 for Fiscal Years 2007 through 2011. This program is designed to “support middle and high schools to develop and implement effective training, services, prevention strategies, policies, and coordinated community responses for student victims of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, or stalking " The non-profit Break the Cycle in Washington D.C. notes that STEP in the 2005 VAWA will help both middle and high school students, and the schools themselves, to create safe environments for young victims.|
|Tribal SASP and SASP-Cultural||SASP, the Sexual Assault Services Program, has a separate grant designated for Native American Tribes as well as another separate grant for nonprofits that support culturally specific communities. The goals of both of these grants are to “[t]o provide direct intervention services and related assistance to victims of sexual violence and others collaterally affected ” These services include advocacy, support groups, hotlines, crisis intervention, and training of agency members and outreach by agency members to make communities aware of the services that are available to them. Both grants provide for prevention efforts, research projects, criminal justice related projects, forensic medical examiner projects and training of other organizations or professionals.|
|Enhanced Training and Services to End Violence and Abuse of Women Later in Life Program||The objective of this grant is to address the needs of women 50 years and older by providing for training and other services that meet their specific needs." States, units of local government, Indian Tribal governments or Tribal organizations, nonprofit and nongovernmental victim services organizations with demonstrated experience in assisting elderly women or demonstrated experience in addressing sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence, and stalking are eligible for this grant. Specific programs and areas of interest for this grant are focused on improving law enforcement, courts, government and community responses to sexual assault against victims over the age of 50 as well as providing for cross-training and enhancing services for victims.|
|Grants to Encourage Arrest Policies and Enforcement of Protection Orders||The aim of this program is to promote “the Department of Justice’s mission by encouraging State, local, and Tribal governments and State, local, and Tribal courts to treat sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence, and stalking as serious violations of criminal law requiring the coordinated involvement of the entire criminal justice system." Additionally, “[t]he Arrest Program challenges the community to listen, communicate, identify problems, and share ideas that will result in new responses to ensure victim safety and offender accountability."  Purpose areas of the grant include pro-arrest programs in police departments, new policies and educational programs for judges and police, as well as coordinated computer tracking systems and centralized police enforcement of policies. E. Assata Wright for On The Issues notes that the mandatory arrest policy can be problematic with dual arresting because if a woman hits her abuser, she may be arrested in addition to the attacker, which discourages women from defending themselves and/or calling the police.|
|Grants to Indian Tribal Governments Program||This program is designed to give grant money to Indian Tribal Governments in order to “[d]evelop and enhance effective plans for tribal governments to respond to violence committed against Indian women". This includes working with the criminal justice system, enacting education campaigns and improving the communities by addressing legal and housing concerns, children affected, and the victims themselves.|
|Grants to Tribal Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Coalitions||The Tribal Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Coalitions Program (Tribal Coalitions Program) targets non-profit organizations, groups and individuals to improve systems of advocacy in Indian Tribes in order to help the women living there. The Tribal Coalitions Program primarily pursues and works with judicial agencies and police to organize well-coordinated responses to sexual assault within the state, tribe or territory.|
|Legal Assistance for Victims Grant Program||This program is designed to make it easier for victims of abuse or violence to get access to “civil and criminal legal assistance."". The main goal of the Legal Assistance Program is to provide representation for victims of violent crime through “innovative, collaborative programs." Camille Carey in the Columbia Journal of Gender and the Law noted that these grants generally go towards representation in family law cases and this can leave victims of domestic violence outside family court jurisdiction with their needs unmet.|
|Rural Grant Program||The Rural Grant Program works to lessen the frequency and effect of sexual crimes occurring in rural areas. It utilizes a collaborative approaches amongst the community, including those members of the legal system, to offer victims as much support as possible. A study by Mitchell Brown for the Public Administration Review noted that this program contributed to modest positive improvements in communities that were affected by these grants, but that there was little evidence grants would have long term positive benefits beyond the grant period.|
|Safe Havens: Supervised Visitation and Safe Exchange Grant Program||The Supervised Visitation and Safe Exchange Grant Program helps children of victims get the safe environment that they require to grow up emotionally healthy. Because domestic violence can be difficult on children, this program ensures that their safety is of paramount importance.|
|Services to Advocate for and Respond to Youth Grant Program||By using information from the past and newer modeling techniques, this program aims to optimally respond to victims’ needs post trauma. This program was highlighted in the VAWA of 2005, which provides for training to prepare those who work with children and young adults to diagnose and treat victims.|
|Sexual Assault Services Program||SASP’s mission is “to provide intervention, advocacy, accompaniment, support services, and related assistance” for all who are adversely affected by sexual assault. The utilities include a 24-hour sexual assault hotline and the maintenance/expansion of rape crisis centers. More specifically, the grants for SASP help rape prevention clinics to provide up-to-date technology and methods of communication between young victims of sexual assault and caregivers. These public awareness campaigns play a critical role in informing teenagers of their rights and responsibilities with respect to sexual abuse. A fraction of SASP’s funds support the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, which contains resources related to sexual violence. “VAWA 2005 authorized the appropriation of $50 million for each of Fiscal Years 2007 through 2011 for SASP ”|
|State Coalitions Grant Program||This program creates statewide sexual assault coalitions that work with federal and local entities to support victims through advocacy, education, training and other services. According to the VAWA Measuring Effectiveness Initiative of the Muskie School of Public Service at the University of Southern Maine, the VAWA of 2000 required the grant recipients and Attorney General to collect data that measures the effectiveness of each grant in the community where the money was donated in a semi-annual progress report.|
|STOP (Services, Training, Officers, and Prosecutors) Violence Against Women Formula Grants to States||According to the Department of Justice, this program encourages law enforcement and criminal justice systems to improve their strategies and advocacy in response to violent crimes against women. This grant requires that state governments, organizations, and tribes “allocate 25 percent of the grant funds to law enforcement, 25 percent to prosecution, 5 percent to courts, and 30 percent to victim services. The remaining 15 percent is discretionary within the parameters of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA).” According to Robert D. Evans representing the American Bar Association in congressional testimony for the VAWA of 2005, “VAWA-funded programs, including the Civil Legal Assistance and STOP Grants programs, have improved and aided in the prosecution of domestic violence, sexual assault, and child abuse cases; provided necessary training and support for law enforcement personnel; and increased civil legal services for victims of domestic violence, especially in the areas of civil protection orders and family law matters." STOP grants (Services, Training, Officers, Prosecutors) were appropriated $175 million, and an additional $50 million went to Transitional Housing Assistance Grants. A Criminal Justice Policy Review on this program and its effectiveness revealed that an increase of involvement of agencies with the community leads to a greater likelihood of programs experiencing success.|
|Transitional Housing Grant Program||The Transitional Housing Assistance Program Grant for Victims of Domestic Violence, Dating Violence, Stalking, or Sexual Assault Program (Transitional Housing Assistance Program) aims to move victims to permanent housing by creating well-rounded, victim-centered transitional housing programs.
Besides these specifically mentioned grant programs, the Senate bill that enacted the VAWA also created National Domestic Violence Hotline and provided grants for police training and other additional training in the judicial system. The bill also reassessed current laws on prosecuting domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking and provided for the creation of new laws to address gaps in jurisdiction. According to the non-profit Break the Cycle, the community focus of many of these grants has made the legislation influential in improving services, advocacy, and responses by criminal justice across the country.
There have been critiques of the OVW. Generally, the criticisms regard the implementation of the OVW’s programs, i.e., how effective the programs have been in actually decreasing domestic violence. While many scholars do not object to the idea of the VAWA, some specialists have opinions about to whom, where and how the OVW should allocate its funding.
A study from the Journal of Marriage and Family stated that the “VAWA does not specifically target funds to areas that are in the greatest need-communities with the most intimate partner violence. Instead of being targeted, such organizations must apply for VAWA funding. Although some effort has been made to distribute funds to reach the high-need areas and to address specific inadequacies, the funding process currently favors existing organizations. However, this may not be the most effective way of reaching communities with the greatest need." As such, the OVW has taken this criticism under consideration, is currently in the process of finding new strategies to improve in these areas.
Other critics postulate that the VAWA does not allocate enough resources to men who suffer from domestic violence. There are claims that the OVW portrays women as the only victims of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking, while men are solely perpetrators of these crimes. The CDC offers that 13.8% of males have reported abuse, but supporting organizations of the VAWA, such as the NNEDV, posit that that number has actually increased up to 37%. Others, including Connie Morella for the National Council of Jewish Women, have said that the VAWA does not allocate enough funds or provide assistance to immigrant women, who they say often cannot receive state or federal assistance because of their status.  Concerned Women for America believe that the OVW should do more to promote a better image of marriage and healthy relationship and focus on real abuse crimes, instead of using the VAWA to expand the meaning of domestic violence to more trivial cases and leaving less monetary funding and judiciary assistance for the 'real' victims. At present, the OVW's definition of domestic violence encompasses all forms of abuse, including those of an emotional, economic, psychological, physical and sexual nature.
The reauthorization of the VAWA on February 28, 2013 was achieved despite some significant controversy in regards to the new provisions of the Act that include the LGBT community, Native Tribes, and undocumented immigrants. Twenty-two members of the U.S. House of representatives opposed the reauthorization because of the additional provision that protects those minority communities. However, according to the CDC, partners in homosexual relationships say that they have encountered similar or greater levels of domestic violence in their lifetime than their straight counterparts. The 2013 re-authorization of the VAWA proved to be more challenging than its last re-authorization in 2005, but the achieved changes focus mostly in who the VAWA will now protect and how much money the Act allocates for helping those additional groups.
- Dating Violence
- Domestic Violence
- Sexual Assault
- United States Associate Attorney General
- United States Department of Justice
- Violence Against Women Act
- Women's Rights
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