Combating Family Violence

The nature and extent of violence within the family is tragic and alarming. Family violence - intimate partner violence, child maltreatment, and elder abuse - is still a significant problem that often results in an increase in the use of criminal and civil justice processes. However, progress is being made in addressing this problem.


Violence against women by intimate partners fell by 21 percent from 1993 through 1998, according to the Intimate Partner Violence report released by the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) in May 2000. The data are from BJS's National Crime Victimization Survey, in which a nationally representative sample of men and women age 12 years old and older are interviewed twice a year. The report provides information on violence by intimates (current or former spouses, girlfriends, or boyfriends) and covers trends in intimate violence, characteristics of victims (race, sex, age, income, ethnicity, and whether the victims live in urban, suburban, or rural areas), type of crime (physical assault, verbal threats), and trends for reporting to police. Intimate victimizations measured include rape, sexual assault, robbery, aggravated assault, and simple assault. Data on murder by intimates are also given.

According to the report, an estimated 876,340 violent victimizations against women by intimate partners occurred during 1998 down from 1.1 million in 1993. In both 1993 and 1998 men were the victims of about 160,000 violent crimes by an intimate partner. On average each year from 1993-1998, 22 percent of all female victims of violence in the United States were attacked by an intimate partner, compared to 3 percent of all male violence victims.

Other highlights from the Intimate Partner Violence report include:

According to data contained in the Federal Bureau of Investigation's Supplementary Homicide Reports:

Although the incidence of family violence has shown a decline, family violence continues to occur across the country. In July 2000, OJP's National Institute of Justice and the Department of Health and Human Service's Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDCP) released the report, Extent, Nature, and Consequences of Intimate Partner Violence: Findings from the National Violence Against Women Survey (NVAWS). This study, which followed the release of the BJS Intimate Partner Violence report containing NCVS data, used a different method to collect the data. The NCVS asked respondents specifically about their experiences with crime, whereas the NVAWS was administered in the context of a personal safety survey. As a result, the surveys showed both similarities and differences in their findings. For example, both surveys indicate that women are much more likely to be victimized than men and are more likely to suffer injuries as a result of victimization. However, the surveys differ in the number of victimizations reported by survey respondents and the proportions of those reporting their victimization to the police. Both surveys are part of the Justice Department's efforts to develop multiple measures to improve understanding of violence between intimates and formulate more effective policy, including prevention and intervention tools.

According to the NVAWS report, nearly 25 percent of surveyed women and about 7 percent of surveyed men said they have been raped and/or physically assaulted by a current or former spouse or partner at some time in their lives. The NVAWS compared victimization rates among women and men, specific racial and ethnic groups, and same-sex and opposite-sex couples.

The NVAWS found the following:


In October 2000, OJP's Violence Against Women Office (VAWO) awarded $131.6 million under the STOP (Services, Training, Officers, Prosecutors) Violence Against Women Formula Grant program to improve law enforcement, prosecution, and victim services responses to domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and five territories. Since the first grants were awarded in 1995, VAWO has awarded over $681 million in STOP funds and over $1.6 billion in overall VAWA grant programs since its legislative enactment in 1994. STOP funds are used for the training of law enforcement officers

and prosecutors to more effectively identify and respond to domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking; to develop domestic violence units in police departments and prosecutors' offices; to enhance victim services; and to improve court responses to these crimes.

Ninety-four jurisdictions across the country received a total of $28.9 million to continue their efforts in implementing policies that encourage or mandate the arrest of batterers and enforce protection orders. The VAWO Grants to Encourage Arrest Policies Program fosters collaboration among law enforcement officers, prosecutors, judges, and victim advocates to treat domestic violence as a serious crime. With the help of the Arrest Program, communities are sending a strong message to batterers that domestic violence will not be tolerated. In FY 2000, this program was reauthorized by the enactment of the Violence Against Women Act of 2000, further improving the enforcement of protection orders.

VAWO awarded funds to 94 communities in 41 states and the District of Columbia to continue Arrest Program projects that began with FY 1998 and FY 1999 funds. In FY 2000, there were 176 jurisdictions participating in the Arrest Program, with at least one jurisdiction in almost every state receiving funding. In order to receive this funding, states, local jurisdictions, and Indian tribal governments have to certify that their laws or official policies encourage or mandate the arrest of domestic violence offenders when there is probable cause or when a protection order has been violated. Applicants also have to demonstrate that their laws and policies discourage the arrests of both offender and victim.

Police officers, prosecutors, and victim advocates have been using Arrest Program funds to build on their efforts to hold offenders accountable and to improve victims' safety. While there is not yet an official evaluation of the program, communities have reported that the Arrest Program has made a real difference in their fight to eliminate violence against women.

FY 2000 Arrest Program funds are being used to:


Delivery of domestic violence services in rural areas can be difficult. Rural battered women and children face challenges, such as geographic isolation, not encountered by victims living in urban areas. The unique circumstances of rural communities also complicate the ability of the criminal justice system to investigate and prosecute domestic violence and child victimization cases, and they present barriers for victim service providers in identifying and assisting abused women and children.

In FY 2000, VAWO awarded $23.9 million in funding under the Rural Domestic Violence and Child Victimization Enforcement Grant Program to continue projects begun with FY 1998 grant funds. As a result, victims of domestic violence and their children living in 63 rural areas in 41 states will receive improved services. These grants will help improve the investigation and prosecution of domestic violence and child abuse cases and increase victims' access to advocacy and counseling in rural areas. This program assists criminal justice and social service staff to find creative solutions to some of the problems they face in rural communities.

The Rural Program provides a unique opportunity for rural jurisdictions to address the needs of law enforcement, prosecution agencies, the courts, and nonprofit nongovernmental victim services agencies responding to domestic violence and child abuse cases. Rural jurisdictions are encouraged to create or enhance partnerships among criminal justice agencies, community organizations, health and social service providers, and child welfare agencies to implement prevention and education programs, as well as to develop innovative strategies to address the unique challenges of preventing and responding to domestic violence and child victimization in rural areas.

States, Indian tribal governments, local governments in rural states, and other public and private entities in rural areas are eligible to apply. According to the VAWA statute. There are 19 states classified as rural. In non-rural states, the state may apply on behalf of one or more of its rural jurisdictions.

The STOP Violence Against Women Program, authorized under VAWA, has allowed OJP to assist tribal justice agencies to partner with service providers that assist Indian victims of domestic violence and sexual assault. This collaboration promotes the safety and sovereignty of Native American women and also emphasizes holding offenders accountable.

At a December 1999 domestic violence conference convened in Flagstaff, Arizona, over 100 tribal governments and Native American organizations from 25 states met to learn about the promising practices and programs addressing violence against Native American women. Two nonprofit Native American organizations, Mending the Sacred Hoop and Sacred Circle National Resource Center to End Violence Against Native Women, spearheaded the program as part of a VAWO technical assistance grant.

Conference attendees, which included tribal grantees from VAWO's STOP Violence Against Indian Women program, discussed promising efforts within the areas of law enforcement, prosecution, tribal courts, tribal leadership, victim's advocacy, and coordination with county, state, and federal agencies, including United States Attorney's Offices. Tribal grantees also had the opportunity to visit the Hopi Tribe to see its community response to domestic violence. Assistant United States Attorneys from various districts, along with the Northwest Tribal Court Judges Association and the American Indian Law Center, assisted with training and presentations.

Since the inception of the STOP Violence Against Indian Women Discretionary Grant

program in 1995, VAWO has awarded over $36 million to tribal governments to strengthen the tribal justice system's response to violent crimes against Indian women. In FY 2000, VAWO awarded 82 Indian tribal governments $6.35 million in 23 states to continue projects begun in previous fiscal years that help Indian women who are victims of domestic and sexual abuse. These funds also assist law enforcement officers and prosecutors who investigate and prosecute cases involving violence against Indian women. In FY 2000, total funding for the STOP Violence Against Indian Women Discretionary Grant Program was $8.27 million.


Sexual assault and other violent crimes against women often go unreported on college campuses because appropriate services are not available to victims or there is a lack of coordination with the local criminal justice system. For the second year, VAWO awarded $6.8 million to higher education institutions under its FY 2000 Grants to Combat Violent Crimes Against Women on Campuses program.

In order to receive funding, colleges and universities must:

Congress appropriated $10 million for the FY 2000 Grants to Combat Violent Crimes Against Women on Campuses program, which is authorized by the Higher Education Amendments of 1998. VAWA received 120 applications requesting $40.1 million and awarded 20 grants. The remaining funds were used for a national evaluation of the program and technical assistance. The Grants to Combat Violent Crimes Against Women on Campuses program was reauthorized as part of VAWA 2000.


Many domestic violence victims do not have access to civil legal services, which can provide important avenues for victims to escape from circumstances that lead to domestic violence . Under the Legal Assistance to Victims Grant Program, in FY 2000 VAWO awarded 30 new grants totaling $7.7 million to law school legal clinics, victims and legal services organizations, domestic violence programs, and bar associations so that victims of domestic violence in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and three territories can receive legal assistance with matters related to the abuse.

These funds provide legal assistance to victims of domestic violence to address their immediate concerns about physical safety and financial security, and enable them to escape the violence. Grantees are using the civil legal assistance funds to:

VAWO also awarded 56 grants totaling $15.9 million to continue projects begun with FY 1998 Legal Assistance grant funds.


OJP also is working to assist children exposed to violence. Nine sites are sharing more than $6 million in grants during the first year of a five and a half year Safe Start Initiative to develop comprehensive efforts to help children exposed to violence. The sites are San Francisco, California; Bridgeport, Connecticut; Pinellas County, Florida; Chicago, Illinois; Washington County, Maine; Baltimore, Maryland; Rochester, New York; Chatham County, North Carolina; and Spokane, Washington. Each grantee receives approximately $670,000 per year from OJP's Office of Juvenile Justice Delinquency Prevention.

The Safe Start Initiative is part of the Children Exposed to Violence Initiative (CEVI), which was launched in December 1998. CEVI is a nationwide effort to seek new and effective means to prevent children's exposure to violence, to adopt innovative intervention efforts, and to find better ways to hold perpetrators accountable.

The Safe Start Initiative is based in part on the Child Development-Community Policing (CD-CP) pilot program developed by Yale University and the New Haven (Connecticut) Police Department with OJJDP support. The CD-CP program brings police officers and mental health professionals together through training, consultation, and support to provide constructive intervention for children who are victims and witnesses of violent crime.

OJJDP, which administers the Safe Start Initiative, selected the 9 grantees after a review of the 208 applications. First-year funding is dedicated to a thorough review of existing community services and gaps that need to be filled. Based on this review, the grantees will plan a 5-year comprehensive response. The sites' plans will be based on coordination among law enforcement, mental health and medical professionals, and child protective service providers. The plans will include efforts such as child advocacy centers, home visitation programs, and domestic violence services for battered mothers whose children are at a high risk of exposure to violence.

In addition to the nine Safe Start sites, OJJDP also awarded $670,000 to each of three sites - Miami, Florida; New Orleans, Louisiana; and Newark, New Jersey - for a 2-year period. These sites are focusing on specific improvements to services for children exposed to violence. The National Center for Children Exposed to Violence in New Haven is working with OJJDP to provide training and technical support to the Safe Start sites.

As part of CEVI, the Office for Victims of Crime (OVC) released a video series and companion resource guide, Responding to Child Victims and Witnesses: Innovative Practices that Work. The Responding to Child Victims series includes three individualized videos, which highlight innovative practices for specific groups that work with child victims and witnesses - law enforcement, prosecution, and the courts. A fourth video stresses the importance of partnerships among these groups, mental health providers, and community organizations to effectively respond to children who are exposed to violence. The companion resource guide offers discussion questions on how to address child victims. OVC also produced a video, Through My Eyes, which features the voices and artwork of children who have experienced or witnessed violence and comments from mental health and treatment providers on the effects of violence on children.

BJA-funded Closed-Circuit Televising of Child Victims of Abuse (CCTV) grants were instrumental in securing portable videotape and closed-circuit television equipment that allowed the testimony of child victims at Children's Advocacy Centers to be televised and linked to courtrooms. CCTV grants purchased document cameras and electronic whiteboards that clarify the testimony of child victims through physical evidence such as drawings. The grants also funded the creation of forensic interview rooms in Children's Advocacy Centers and training for criminal justice professionals in interviewing child victims that examined legal requirements, minimizing trauma, and a range of issues related to children's memory.

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