Not long ago, what happened within the home was considered to be a private, family matter and was excluded from scrutiny by the public. During the last two decades, there has been an increase in awareness of the seriousness of child abuse and neglect, spouse/partner abuse, and elder abuse not only as critical societal problems but as crimes. As a result, there has been an increase in the use of the criminal process in addressing family and domestic violence. National incidence reports and research studies reveal the dramatic increase in family violence and the increasing tendency to respond to the problem not only as crime within the family but also as the prevention of crime outside the family.

The Department of Justice focus on the family violence problem increased with the 1984 report of the Attorney General's Task Force on Family Violence. The Task Force stated: "A great proportion of those who assault both strangers and loved ones were raised themselves in violent households. This is learned behavior. To tolerate family violence is to allow the seeds of violence to be sown into the next generation." A justice focus on family violence is thus one that concerns violence prevention as well as a just outcome in individual cases.

Family violence has not only been acknowledged as a critical criminal justice issue, but as a major public health concern. Secretary of Health and Human Services Donna Shalala stated, "Domestic violence is a serious public health problem. . . We need doctors to do a lot more than treat injuries. We need our medical personnel to find out how the patient was injured. We need them to help prevent it from happening over and over. And we need medical workers to learn guidelines for treating abuse and learn where they can send victims for help. . ." (White House news conference, July 13, 1995). Similar to justice professionals, medical professionals play a significant role in the identification, intervention, and prevention of family violence.

The nature and extent of violence within the family is tragic and alarming. The following statistics and research findings suggests a continued burden and challenge to our society:

Given the important role of the criminal and civil justice systems, the limited resources available to address family violence, and the goals relative to family violence that are embodied in the Crime Act, particularly the Violence Against Women Act, it is important that OJP and other DOJ agencies closely examine current efforts, prioritize the use of available funds and resources, and coordinate efforts within DOJ, and other responsible Federal agencies.

The Department of Justice has begun to respond with an expanded and coordinated focus on the many justice related needs surrounding this grave national problem of violence within families.

One example of the coordinated and collaborative efforts occurring within OJP is the "Safe Kids - Safe Streets" program. "Acknowledging the correlation between child abuse and neglect and later violent delinquency and the need to improve system response, OJP set out to create a single program aimed at helping to break the cycle of early childhood victimization and later juvenile or adult criminality" (OJP Safe Kids - Safe Streets Joint Solicitation, 1996, p.3). The funding partners for the program are the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, the Executive Office for Weed and Seed, and the Violence Against Women's Grants Office, with additional support being provided by the Bureau of Justice Assistance, the Bureau of Justice Statistics, the National Institute of Justice, and the Office for Victims Of Crime. The Safe Kids - Safe Streets initiative represents a unique partnership that pools the resources, experiences, and expertise of all the OJP agencies. (OJP Safe Kids - Safe Streets Joint Solicitation, 1996, p.3)

The sections that follow detail further efforts of the OJP offices and bureaus to individually and jointly address the problem of family violence.


I. Legislative Mandate

In 1994, Congress passed and President Clinton signed into law the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act, which included the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) of 1994. The Violence Against Women Grants Office (VAWGO) was created within the Office of Justice Programs (OJP) to establish policy and administer the formula and discretionary grant programs authorized under this landmark legislation. Through its efforts, VAWGO serves as a catalyst for bringing about fundamental change in the way communities across this country are addressing crimes of violence against women and pursuing efforts to ensure victim safety. Working in partnership with state, local, and tribal government officials as well as private, non-profit organizations, VAWGO encourages the development and support of innovative, effective programs for preventing, identifying, and stopping violence against women.

II. Background

Over the past several years public attitudes towards violence against women have gradually begun to change. Unfortunately, insidious prejudices, a shortage of reliable information, and the criminal justice system's inexperience with the complexities of violence against women have continued to impede progress. VAWA was enacted in part to provide communities with tools and resources to change the system's response to violence against women. The resources provided under VAWA enable communities to offer a constellation of services from police departments, prosecutors' offices, pretrial service agencies, the courts, probation and parole, and non-profit, non-governmental victim service agencies, thereby creating a seamless web of support for victims of domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking. At its core, this comprehensive approach was designed, above all, to enhance women's safety and to bring the perpetrators of violence against women to justice.

Following the enactment of VAWA in 1994, Congress appropriated $26 million to fund violence against women programs in fiscal 1995. Lawmakers reaffirmed their support for these programs in subsequent years by increasing the appropriation to $166 million in FY 1996 and $193 million in FY 1997.

Upon receiving its funding for fiscal 1994, VAWGO invited states, territories, and tribal governments to apply for grants to develop and implement a coordinated criminal justice system response to violence against women. Each grant recipient was required to submit an implementation plan outlining its priorities for the coming year. To ensure the development and implementation of responsive, effective programs reflecting local priorities, these plans were to be produced in consultation with victim service providers, victims' advocates, and other interested community members, along with police, prosecutors, and the courts.

The grants and technical assistance provided to violence against women programs in the first year of VAWA have helped lay the foundation for an ongoing, collaborative system of support

whose primary mission is ensuring women's personal safety both within and outside their homes.

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