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.
VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN GRANTS OFFICE
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.
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.