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August 14, 2001 Contact: HHS Press Office
(202) 690-6343

PREVENTING VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN


Overview: Violence against women is an urgent criminal and public health problem with devastating consequences for women, children, and families. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) plays a key part in the federal government's overall strategy to prevent and stop violence against women. These efforts are designed both to reduce this violence and to ensure that women suffering from domestic violence have access to information and emergency assistance.

Since Congress enacted the Violence Against Women Act as part of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, HHS has significantly expanded its efforts. HHS quadrupled resources for battered women's programs and shelters, created a national toll-free domestic violence hotline (1-800-799-SAFE), and expanded efforts to raise awareness of domestic violence in the workplace and among health care providers. In fiscal year 2001, Congress appropriated $244.5 million for HHS programs to prevent violence against women, including $2.2 million for the National Domestic Violence Hotline. President Bush's fiscal year 2002 budget increases that commitment to $251 million.

BACKGROUND

The landmark Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), administered by HHS and the Department of Justice (DOJ), provided funding to hire more prosecutors and improve domestic violence training among prosecutors, police officers, and health and social services professionals. It also provided for more shelters, counseling services and research into causes of violence and effective community campaigns to reduce violence against women.

The VAWA set new federal penalties for those who cross state lines to continue abuse of a spouse or partner, making interstate domestic abuse and harassment a federal offense. It also requires states to honor protective orders issued in other states and gives victims the right to mandatory restitution and the right to address the court at the time of sentencing.

In 1995, HHS and DOJ created the National Advisory Council on Violence Against Women, consisting of experts from law enforcement, media, business, sports, health and social services, and victim advocacy. The council works with both the public and private sectors to promote greater awareness about the problem of violence against women and its victims, to help devise solutions, and to advise the federal government on these issues. In October 2000, the council released an "Agenda for the Nation on Violence Against Women," which outlines recommendations for future efforts to build on the early successes of the VAWA.

In October 2000, Congress reauthorized the Violence Against Women Act programs as part of the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act of 2000.

HHS PROGRAMS UNDER VAWA

Grants for battered women's shelters. The VAWA significantly expanded HHS funding for battered women's shelters. Since the law was passed, HHS' grants for these programs more than quadrupled from $27.6 million in fiscal year 1994 to $116.9 million in fiscal year 2001. The reauthorization legislation enacted in 2000 increased the minimum grant amount for each state from $400,000 to $600,000. These resources also support related services, such as community outreach and prevention, children's counseling, and linkage to child protection services.

The National Domestic Violence Hotline. In 1996, HHS launched the National Domestic Violence Hotline, a 24-hour, toll-free service that provides crisis assistance and local shelter referrals for callers across the country. Since then, the hotline has responded to more than 500,000 calls, mostly from individuals who have never before reached out for assistance. HHS funds the hotline through a grant to the Texas Council on Family Violence. The hotline number is 1-800-799-SAFE, and the TDD line for the hearing impaired is 1-800-787-3224.

Grants to reduce sexual assault. HHS provides grants to states for rape prevention and education programs conducted by rape crisis centers or similar nongovernmental, nonprofit entities. The funds support educational seminars, the operation of hotlines, training programs and other activities to increase awareness of and help prevent sexual assault, including programs targeted to students. HHS funding for the program in fiscal year 2001 is $44.1 million. In addition, $7 million from the Preventive Health and Health Services Block Grant is earmarked for rape prevention programs.

Coordinated community responses. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) works to build new community programs aimed at preventing intimate partner violence and strengthening existing community intervention and prevention programs. The CDC is currently funding a total of 10 projects and received $5.9 million to fund these efforts in fiscal year 2001. CDC has also conducted the National Violence Against Women survey and completed a study on the cost of violence against women. CDC funds numerous cooperative agreements with state health departments to improve understanding of the issue.

Outreach to runaway, homeless youth. HHS funds a program to provide street-based outreach and education, including treatment, counseling and provision of information and referrals to runaways, homeless and street youth who have been subjected to or are at risk of sexual abuse. The program was appropriated at $15 million for fiscal year 2001.

OTHER HHS INITIATIVES

National resource centers. The Administration for Children and Families (ACF) funds a network of five national resource centers that provide information, technical assistance and research findings related to domestic violence. The network includes the National Resource Center on Domestic Violence (800-537-2238), the Battered Women's Justice Project (800-903-0111), the Resource Center on Child Custody and Protection (800-527-3223), the Health Resource Center on Domestic Violence (888-792-2873), and the Sacred Circle Center on Violence Against Native Women (605-341-2050). The CDC funds the National Electronic Violence Against Women Resource Network (VAWnet) and the National Sexual Assault Resource Center (www.nsvrc.org). The VAWnet is an online resource for advocates working to end domestic violence, sexual assault and other violence in the lives of women and their children. The electronic library is available at www.VAWnet.org.

Child welfare grants. HHS has funded 26 grants over three years to local programs to stimulate collaboration between child welfare agencies and domestic violence providers. These projects train child welfare staff to identify and respond appropriately to instances of domestic violence in their caseloads. In addition, HHS has awarded 13 training stipends to schools of social work to develop curricula and train social workers in family violence.

Welfare Reform and Family Violence. In 1996, Congress enacted the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunities Reconciliation Act, which included provisions to help welfare recipients who are victims of domestic violence move successfully into work. Specifically, the provisions give states the option to screen welfare recipients for domestic abuse; refer them to counseling and supportive services; and temporarily waive any program requirements that would prevent recipients from escaping violence or would unfairly penalize them.

Guidelines on effective intervention. Supported by HHS and DOJ funding, the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges developed a best practice guidelines for handling child protection cases involving domestic violence. The group published "Effective Intervention in Domestic Violence and Child Maltreatment Cases: Guidelines for Policy and Practice" in 1999. In 2000, following a competitive process, six sites were selected to demonstrate the effectiveness of community collaborations in implementing the report's recommendations.

Mental health, substance abuse and violence. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) supports several programs addressing substance abuse and mental health issues among victims of violence. These efforts include a five-year study designed to develop effective integrated service programs for women and their children affected by violence and co-occurring mental and addictive disorders. The program has yielded several comprehensive curricula to train substance abuse, mental health and other health and human services professionals on working with women victims of violence. Another multi-year SAMHSA grant program focuses on the connection among domestic violence, mental illness, substance abuse and homelessness among women and their children by assessing the effectiveness of time-limited intensive treatment, housing, support and family preservation services to homeless mothers and their dependent children.

Research initiatives. In 2000, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) awarded $5.5 million to fund four comparative studies examining the effectiveness of intervention programs offered in health care settings. AHRQ and the nonprofit Family Violence Prevention Fund also jointly sponsor a Scholar in Residence, who is developing better ways to assess health system interventions. In addition, the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) funds a number of research studies focusing on the mental health consequences of violence, treatments for the traumatic consequences of violence, and factors that influence the initiation of physically aggressive behavior in intimate relationships. These studies have significant implications for preventing and reducing the mental health consequences of domestic violence.

Related programs. HHS agencies run and support a wide range of programs that provide services, information and other resources to address violence against women as part of broader program goals. For example, the Administration on Aging (AoA) funds elder abuse prevention programs in all 50 states that focus on the prevention of elder abuse, neglect and exploitation - including domestic violence. In addition, many HHS programs aim to strengthen families, prevent the abuse of women and children, and help families provide a healthy and safe environment for children. These programs include the Promoting Safe and Stable Families program and Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act grants.

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Last revised: June 24, 2002