Interim Head Laura L. Rogers of the Justice Department’s has said that as you know, the Office of Violence Against Women (OVW) addresses four main crimes: sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence, and stalking. Many of you work hard to address these issues as well. Using these four crimes as our guiding pillars, OVW‘s overall priority is to ultimately reduce these violent crimes. The President has also prioritized reducing violent crimes and the Administration’s support for these issues has been made evident in the President’s Fiscal Year 2020 Budget. The budget request for the Violence Against Women Act programs administered by OVW is $492,500,000. This request, which is $500,000 above OVW’s FY 2019 CR level, reflects a continued need to address violence against women crimes.
Consistent with the Department of Justice’s overall priorities, the priorities that guided the FY 2020 budget request for OVW are, first and foremost, to reduce violent crime against women and promote victim safety. Secondly, to increase the response to victims of human trafficking. Although trafficking is not one of the four main crimes OVW addresses, human trafficking victims are often also victims of sexual assault or domestic violence. Thirdly, we want to include substance abuse professionals in coordinated community response teams and increase victim access to substance abuse services. Coordinated community responses are the cornerstone of an effective response to the four Violence Against Women Act crimes, particularly domestic violence. And lastly, it is a priority to increase efforts to combat stalking, which is often overlooked, and yet it is the crime that is most commonly present when one of the other three crimes occur.
Briefly mentioned before is a method that has proven to be most effective in reaching our priorities of reducing violent crimes and bringing justice to victims; the coordinated community response. The Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA) is widely recognized for their productive partnerships with prosecutors and law enforcement, which builds safer communities. For example, the YWCA of Western Massachusetts receives funding under multiple VAWA grant programs designed to do everything from providing transitional housing, to educating youth about violence prevention, to ensuring that families affected by domestic violence have a safe place to go for supervised visitation. One OVW grant to this YWCA provides funding for an advocate who is with victims every step of the way, helping them obtain protection orders and accompanying them in court. OVW is pleased to support robust, multifaceted approaches like these to assist in ending violence against women.
We recognize YWCAs are rooted in the community they serve and offer a full array of services to meet the diverse needs of the community. You all have used funding for services that reach out and accomplish our purpose areas: shelter services, case management, court advocacy, sexual assault intervention, group support, prevention education for middle and high schools, advocacy and legal representation, employment and job training, and financial literacy and credit counseling courses. In addition, some YWCAs advocate on behalf of clients for necessary social services including area food pantries, legal services, TANF, Section 8 programs, as well as acquiring furniture and clothing donations to help clients establish new homes.
The FY 2020 Budget Request proposes level funding with the FY 2019 CR for 18 of the 19 OVW programs with an additional $500,000 our Transitional Housing Program. Since joining OVW, I have consistently heard about domestic violence service providers, including some of you, that the biggest gap they are facing is in the area of housing beyond that initial 30 to 60 day emergency shelter stay. We know that for many domestic violence survivors the availability of transitional housing services of 12 – 24 months can be the difference between homelessness, returning to their abuser, or being able to move themselves and their children to safety.
Some of the most effective transitional housing projects OVW supports are offered by YWCA’s. These organizations also provide a myriad of other critical life-saving services needed by survivors.
YWCA programs have always taken victim care, education, and justice seriously, and it shows through their priorities and programs. OVW has been funding YWCA programs since 1999 and has made 151 awards to various YWCA organizations in the amount of over $55 million. YWCAs have received direct funding across 13 OVW Programs with California, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, and Wisconsin leading the charge in taking advantage of these funds.
OVW has witnessed first-hand how YWCAs have mastered the art of effective collaborations and partnership which is a common hallmark through its VAWA programs. Thank you all for your hard work, your adaptation towards ever-changing crimes, and spearheading the overall reduction of crime. You do life altering work that doesn’t go unnoticed.