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Remarks of Mary Lou Leary, Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General
Office of Justice Programs

National Advisory Committee on Violence Against Women

Friday, January 28, 2011
Washington, DC

     Thank you, Sue [Carbon]. It's great to be here today. We're excited that this National Advisory Committee on Violence Against Women has been re-chartered. I'm confident it will bring a new level of energy and momentum to our efforts to address violence against women, children, and teens.

     The Office of Justice Programs, or OJP, works very closely with the Office on Violence Against Women, and the Department's other components, to provide vital funding, training, and technical assistance for frontline criminal justice providers. Our primary role is to partner with criminal and juvenile justice practitioners to enhance public safety and improve communities.

     One of the most important things we can do to build partnerships, I think, is to engage experts, practitioners, and advocates - people like you - in our efforts. In fact, OJP is hosting another meeting of researchers and practitioners - the Science Advisory Board - today - right now, just a few blocks away. That's why Assistant Attorney General Laurie Robinson couldn't join us, but she sends her enthusiastic support for your work. So, thank you, for your willingness to get involved!

     I'd also like to thank the previous panel for providing that wonderful overview of Defending Childhood. All of us at OJP have been so excited to watch this major initiative take shape. We're thrilled to be a part of Defending Childhood, and we're proud that we are able to help build the foundation for the initiative.

     Since 1999, our Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, or OJJDP, has been leading Safe Start - a program that uses evidence-based strategies to reduce children's exposure to violence. From the original demonstration sites to the current promising approaches sites, Safe Start continues to help us better understand how to connect research and practice in real communities. For example, in fiscal year 2010, we funded 10 new communities that will engage in both practice and research. We also continued to provide support for training and technical assistance, as well as resource development.

     One of the key components of Safe Start has always been its focus on partnerships among service providers - from educators to law enforcement. Safe Start also features ongoing research and evaluation efforts, including, most recently, the completion of the comprehensive National Survey of Children's Exposure to Violence, which you've already heard so much about. Safe Start, in many ways, created the foundation for Defending Childhood.

     OJP also provided support for the Greeenbook Initiative and the Child Development/Community Policing Program, both of which helped to move this field forward and increase our understanding of children's exposure to violence.

     Through Defending Childhood, this work is becoming even more comprehensive. In addition to the exciting demonstration sites the previous panel mentioned, our efforts include several projects focused on raising awareness and promoting partnerships. Our Office for Victims of Crime, or OVC, has taken the lead on these efforts.

     For instance, OVC is providing nearly $1.5 million to national professional organizations to improve services for victims. These projects range from the judicial curriculum on teen dating violence that the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges is developing - to the work of the American Academy of Pediatrics to help doctors identify and refer children exposed to violence. By supporting the education and training of targeted professionals, we will ultimately be able to serve more children and families.

     OVC also awarded nearly $1 million in public awareness and outreach grants as part of Defending Childhood. All of these projects target traditionally underserved populations including rural communities; Native American communities; and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer youth - just to name a few.

     Beyond their work under Defending Childhood, OVC promotes other efforts to assist children exposed to violence. In 2009, OVC partnered with the National Crime Prevention Council to use Recovery Act funds to help underserved populations. This exciting project features youth-led initiatives addressing issues such as teen dating violence and bullying.

     Following a training last October, these youth organizations started developing programs and are now using culturally relevant methods to reach their peers. Projects like this have the dual benefit of providing a service to communities and helping youth find their voice - and make sure it's heard.

     We're also promoting efforts to recognize and respond to youth in crisis. Specifically, in the area of teen dating violence, OJJDP is providing support for an innovative program in California that will help educate and mobilize healthcare professionals. The program, administered by the Public Health Institute, trains healthcare providers across the state to take action against teen dating violence by raising awareness among their young patients and providing referrals to victim services.

     In the effort to better understand teen dating violence, our National Institute of Justice has long been a leader. In just a moment, I'll introduce one of our social science analysts, Carrie Mulford. She'll provide a lot more detail about what the research shows - and where more research is needed. I'd just like to briefly highlight two key points.

     First, approximately 10 percent of adolescents reported being the victim of physical violence at the hands of a romantic partner in the last year, according to a 2007 study. This is a sobering finding and demonstrates that these are not isolated incidents.

     Second, research on the dynamics of teen relationships is sorely lacking. Too often, practitioners use an adult framework to evaluate teen dating violence. Teens are not adults, and their romantic and peer relationships function much differently. Medical professionals don't treat children and teens as miniature adults - and neither should researchers.

     In the area of research in general, I'd like to highlight one final initiative that includes all of OJP's bureaus and program offices. Last year, we launched the Evidence Integration Initiative, which we call E2I. E2I is designed to help people in the field better understand, access, and integrate evidence.

     As part of our efforts, we've already established Evidence Integration teams to synthesize research and develop principles for practice. One of our inaugural teams is addressing children's exposure to violence. They're still finalizing their report, but it will include promising practices and highlight areas for improvement.

     Of course, these are just a few of the many OJP programs and projects that address the unique needs of women and children. I encourage all of you to visit us on the Web - at ojp.gov - or stop by the resource table later today for more information.

     Thank you, once again, for giving so generously of your time and talent. We look forward to working with you.

     Now, it is my pleasure to hand things over to Dr. Carrie Mulford. Carrie has more than 10 years of experience researching juvenile justice, teen dating violence, child abuse, and various other topics that will no doubt inform your work. She is also the coordinator of the Federal Interagency Workgroup on Teen Dating Violence. Please welcome, Carrie Mulford.


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