Yesterday, Office of Justice Programs Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Katharine T. Sullivan and Office for Victims of Crime (OVC) Director Jessica E. Hart spoke to federal, state and local law enforcement leaders during a roundtable discussion focused on domestic violence. PDAAG Sullivan and Director Hart joined U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Pennsylvania Scott W. Brady for the discussion, which was followed by a roundtable with leadership from the Women’s Center and Shelter of Greater Pittsburgh. October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month.
PDAAG Sullivan and Director Hart highlighted the incidence of domestic violence, the threats posed by domestic abusers to their partners and to law enforcement, and Department of Justice resources available to support victims. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics’ National Crime Victimization Survey, Americans experienced more than 1.2 million domestic violence victimizations in 2019. Data from other sources suggest that lockdowns and stay-at-home orders have precipitated a rise in domestic violence hotline calls and more calls for service to police for domestic violence incidents.
PDAAG Sullivan emphasized the dangers these calls represent for law enforcement. “Officers who respond to domestic violence very often find themselves under attack, and some have lost their lives responding to these calls.” She added, “In providing the safety, protection and support victims need, we realize you are putting your own lives at risk.”
Both described substantial investments made by the Department of Justice to address domestic violence. OVC recently awarded $1.8 billion to states to support victim compensation programs and thousands of local victim assistance programs. Victim assistance programs funded by OVC served more than seven million victims in 2019. Last week, OVC awarded a $1.5 million grant to the National Domestic Violent Hotline to expand its digital services and technology-based tools to assist victims.
At a press event held prior to the roundtable, PDAAG Sullivan and Director Hart announced $4 million in OVC funding to support the establishment or expansion of Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner, or SANE, programs on college and university campuses.