4: Combating Family Violence

Since the passage of the Violence Against Women Act as part of the 1994 Crime Act, OJP has devoted resources to helping communities improve their responses to domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking by treating these offenses as serious crimes. OJP has provided more than $800 million for state, tribal, and local programs of law enforcement, prosecutors, and courts to address violent crimes against women, as well as research on family violence issues. Because violence against women is often closely associated with other problems such as child maltreatment, OJP has formed partnerships with the government agencies and private organizations that address these related issues. The inclusion of community organizations in the planning process, the coordination of the criminal justice system with social services, and the development of up-to-date research are all practices that exemplify OJP's approach to community justice.


To address violence against women and improve the safety of domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking victims, OJP has been working to build coordinated community responses system that treat these crimes as serious offenses. The STOP Violence Against Women formula grant program, the flagship program of the 1994 Violence Against Women Act, provides grants to states to strengthen the systemwide response to violence against women. STOP stands for Services, Training, Officers, and Prosecutors - all an essential part of a community response. States must allocate 25 percent of the grant funds to law enforcement, 25 percent to prosecution, and 25 percent to victim services. The remaining 25 percent can be allocated at each grantee's discretion, within program guidelines. In FY 1999, OJP's Violence Against Women Office (VAWO) awarded more than $138 million to all 50 states, five territories, and the District of Columbia.

In keeping with OJP's commitment to rigorous evaluation of its funding programs, the Urban Institute has been conducting ongoing studies of the effectiveness of the STOP program. Evaluation of the STOP Formula Grants to Combat Violence Against Women, was released in August 1999. It found:

To supplement programs like STOP, which have been targeted at law enforcement, prosecution, and victim services, OJP initiated a new program to further integrate judges and courts into local responses to domestic violence. The Judicial Oversight Demonstration Initiative challenges the judiciary to take an active role in increasing offender accountability and promoting victim safety. In FY 1999, VAWO awarded about $2 million to each of three demonstration sites in Dorchester, Massachusetts, Washtenaw County, Michigan, and Milwaukee, Wisconsin. These sites were selected after an extensive evaluation process by VAWO and NIJ, including site visits to six finalists. The three funded sites, along with the remaining nine sites, will also receive technical assistance from the Vera Institute of Justice of New York, which received about $1.5 million. NIJ will conduct an evaluation of each of the three demonstration sites.

The judicial oversight grants can be used for a variety of collaborative, court-based activities. Communities can create specialized domestic violence dockets or courts, improve comprehensive services for victims that promote safety and autonomy and create data collection systems for the judiciary that include the defendant's history of abusive behavior. Funds can also be used to hold offenders accountable through the enforcement of graduated sanctions ranging from batterer intervention and alcohol and drug treatment programs to incarceration. The first three sites will do the following:

The Grants to Encourage Arrest Policies program helps communities investigate and prosecute domestic violence as a serious criminal offense. In FY 1999, VAWO awarded 52 grants totaling about $28.5 million. These awards mark the fourth year of funding under this program and include continuation grants and grants for new programs.

These grants encourage jurisdictions to implement mandatory or pro-arrest policies as an effective intervention that is part of a coordinated community response to domestic violence. Arrest, accompanied by a thorough investigation and meaningful sanctions, demonstrates to the offender that he has committed a serious crime and communicates to the victim that the system will support her.

In FY 1999, funding under this program was used to train state and local police officers, prosecutors, judges, and victim advocates on the "full faith and credit" provision, which requires that protection orders from one jurisdiction must be enforced in all other jurisdictions. Before enactment of the full faith and credit provision, victims with protection orders issued by one state had difficulty enforcing the order if they went to work in, traveled to, or moved to most other states. Now a victim does not have to wait to be attacked again, meet jurisdictional requirements, or register a protective order for it to be valid in another state.

The inability to identify valid protection orders issued in other jurisdictions is a barrier to implementation of full faith and credit. OJP is helping communities to establish registries of protection orders and to link these registries to the FBI's National Crime Information Center (NCIC). The National Criminal History Improvement Program (NCHIP), administered by BJS, supports state activities in collecting, identifying, and making available records relating to stalking and domestic violence.


In rural areas, it can be difficult for victims of domestic violence and their children to gain ready access to safe shelter, treatment, and counseling. Since FY 1996, OJP has committed $52 million to improve services under the Rural Domestic Violence and Child Victimization Enforcement Grant Program. In FY 1999, VAWO awarded more than $15.7 million in new awards to 53 jurisdictions in 26 states, and nearly $5 million to continue 15 existing programs. Projects funded include the following:

To help tribal communities, a traditionally underserved population, address violence against women and provide victim services, four percent of STOP funds are statutorily set aside for American Indian and Alaskan Native tribal governments. Under the STOP Violence Against Indian Women program, VAWO awarded $6.5 million to 60 Indian tribal governments to improve services for Indian women who are victims of domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking. These FY 1999 awards include 10 new grants to tribal governments that have not previously received funding, and 50 grants to continue existing projects. In addition, the Mending the Sacred Hoop technical assistance project, comprised of experts and leaders in tribal communities, received a total of $1.6 million to provide technical assistance and training to the STOP Indian tribal grantees. The consultants include tribal judges, prosecutors, law enforcement officers, advocates, and Indian law scholars.


Another new program in FY 1999 was the Grants to Combat Violent Crime Against Women on Campuses program, which provided $8.1 million to 21 colleges and universities. The universities and colleges receiving these funds must train campus police about responding to sexual assault, domestic violence, and stalking, establish a mandatory prevention and education program on violence against women for all incoming students, and create a coordinated response to violence against women. Funds may also be used to train campus administrators and disciplinary boards to identify and respond more effectively to violence against women, and to strengthen support services, such as medical treatment or counseling, for victims. Data collection and communication systems, which link campus security to local law enforcement-- to identify and track arrests and prosecutions relating to violence against women--and capital improvements, such as improved lighting, may also be supported as part of comprehensive efforts to address violence against women on campuses. Projects funded include the following:


All Violence Against Women Act programs include a focus on victim services. Often, domestic violence matters include both criminal and civil legal issues, such as protection orders, divorces or separations, child custody, and housing issues. In FY 1998 the Justice Department established a grant program to specifically address the legal needs of domestic violence victims. In FY 1999, VAWO awarded $21.9 million under the Civil Legal Assistance program to law school legal clinics, victim and legal services organizations, battered women's shelters, and bar associations in 31 states and Puerto Rico. These organizations use the funds to provide legal services to battered women on civil legal matters arising from abuse. Grantees are linking civil legal services and domestic violence victim advocacy programs. They are also reaching out to underserved populations such as rural, Spanish-speaking, and Asian and Pacific Islander victims who are often isolated by language and cultural barriers.


NIJ's Violence Against Women and Family Violence Research and Evaluation program sponsors research to promote the safety of women and to increase the efficiency of the criminal justice system's response to domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking.

In November 1998, NIJ published Prevalence, Incidence, and Consequences of Violence Against Women: Findings From the National Violence Against Women Survey. This study reported the results of a national telephone survey on violence against women, which was conducted from November 1995 to May 1996. Respondents were queried about physical assault they experienced as children by adult caretakers, physical assault they experienced as adults by any type of perpetrator, and forcible rape or stalking they experienced at any time in their life by any type of perpetrator. The survey found:

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