Tuesday, November 23, 2010

A Message from OVW Director Susan B. Carbon

from the Department of Justice, Office on Violence Against Women
edited in this post, you can find the entire letter here

Dear Friends,

First and foremost, on behalf of the Office on Violence Against Women, let me congratulate all of our grantees and others in the field on a very successful Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Organizations from across the country spent this last month having important conversations, increasing awareness, and h elping end domestic violence against women. We are proud of your efforts!

Additionally, it was an incredible honor for the White House to host an event centered on the Administration’s unprecedented coordination across the Federal government to combat violence against women on October 27th. President Obama, Vice President Biden, Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett and Advisor on Violence Against Women Lynn Rosenthal addressed the need to continue to confront domestic and sexual violence in this country. The importance of better communication between law enforcement and direct service providers, enforcement of protective orders, and changing public attitudes were discussed at length. President Obama specifically highlighted the financial barriers of domestic violence and the need for emergency relocation and housing accommodations so that “no one has to choose be tween a violent home and no home at all.”


The Office on Violence Against Women worked with Attorney General Holder to re-charter the National Advisory Committee on Violence Against Women (NAC) to provide advice and recommendations to the Department of Justice and the Department of Health and Human Services on how to improve the nation’s response to violence against women, with a specific focus on successful interventions with children and teens who witness and/or are victimized by domestic violence or sexual assault. The committee includes highly regarded advocates, justice system and child welfare professionals, and researchers.


OVW worked with the Department of Justice Office of Justice Programs National Institute of Justice (NIJ) to develop the “Sexual Assault Kit Backlog Action Research Project” to identify long term solutions to eliminating the backlog of untested sexual assault kits that have not yet been submitted to a crime laboratory.


As Domestic Violence Awareness Month has now closed, we begin our focus on April: Sexual Assault Awareness Month. When the Violence Against Women Act was passed in 1994, sexual assault was included as on e of the crimes to be addressed. There is a general consensus, however, that for a variety of reasons, sexual assault has not received the same level of attention as has domestic violence. As a result, sexual assault remains a tragically pervasive and costly problem.

In preparation for what we hope to be a very effective Sexual Assault Awareness Month in April, we wanted to begin a national conversation about sexual violence: what it looks like now, and what we want to be able to accomplish in the next five years. With this in mind, OVW was proud to collaborate with the White House Council on Women and Girls to host a first-ever national sexual violence Roundtable. Advocates, law enforcement, judges, survivors, prosecutors, medical professionals and federal employees travelled from all across the country to heighten our discussions as well as develop a plan of a ction to address this unacceptable epidemic. While advocates and experts from the field discussed a public awareness campaign, federal experts were able to listen to the needs of the stakeholders on the ground and hear how the federal government can and should heighten their assistance to address sexual violence in America. The Roundtable allowed those in the field and at the national level to effectively communicate how each can help the other to achieve mutual success, both at the local and the national level, by establishing next steps to ultimately end sexual violence against women.

It is clear from our discussions, as well as the comments from the champions of this cause in the White House, that awareness must be a cornerstone to our actions moving forward. For many community members our advocates and experts interact with each day, the myths of sexual violence are pre valent and hard to un-learn. Contrary to what many Americans believe, sexual violence does not just occur in dark alleys, perpetrated by strangers. Sadly sexual violence is often perpetrated by someone known to the victim, in places where the victim feels the safest, such as at home or at a friend’s home. Sexual violence spans every demographic: every race, socioeconomic background, geographic location, sexual orientation, and age group. On average, one in six women will be sexually assault in her lifetime. For certain populations such as for women on college campus, in assisted living facilities and on Native American lands, this number increases to staggering levels. As President Obama stated: “It is simply unacceptable.”

In a country that has made such progress in addressing domestic violence, it is a moral imperative that we develop a nation al dialogue and focus on ending sexual violence against all women, children and men. As we continue our multi-disciplinary conversations about sexual violence in America, we will be asking for assistance from every member of the community. It will require each and every one of us to end this tragic problem. And as Vice President Biden stated at the White House last month, “It’s not about reducing; it’s about ending.” It’s not only time, it’s beyond time.

With deep respect and gratitude,

Susan B. Carbon
OVW Director
U.S. Department of Justice

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