Ending Gender-Based Violence a Priority

by Robin Abb and Margaret Sewall, NOW Intern

Now that the Violence against Women Act is law, what happens? That is the question being asked by hundreds of concerned activists all over the country. A main concern is the millions of dollars in new funding available. Where does it come from, who get it and how?

Most of the funding will be distributed through the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Justice. A special task force will administer the funds and an advisory board will meet at least four times a year.

 The Justice Department will dispense grants to states through agencies, local governments, non-profit victim services programs and Indian tribes to create and strengthen law enforcement and prosecution strategies.

 Grants can be used to train police officers and prosecutors to better identify and respond to violent crimes against women, including sexual assault and domestic violence. The grants can help develop and train units of police officers and prosecutors who will specialize in domestic violence and sexual assault. The grants will also help to develop and enlarge victim services programs and anti-stalking initiatives.

 The legislation authorizes $26 million for fiscal year 1995, allotting $500,000 to each state and 4 percent for grants to Indian tribal governments. The grants increase each year, to $130 million for fiscal year 1996, $145 million for 1997, $160 million for 1998, $165 million for 1999 and $174 million for 2000.

Pro-arrest Grants Limited
When applying for grants to encourage arrests in domestic violence cases, states will have to have existing pro- arrest or mandated arrest policies in place in order to receive some of the funds. The grants may then also be used to train police to improve on the tracking of domestic violence cases, to strengthen legal advocacy programs for victims and to educate judges about handling domestic violence cases. Authorized funding levels are $28 million for fiscal year 1996, $33 million for 1997 and $59 million for 1998.

 The Justice Department will provide grants for rural domestic violence and child abuse enforcement. The legislation authorizes $7 million for fiscal year 1996, $6 million for 1997 and $15 million for 1998. States defined as rural are: Alaska, Arkansas, Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Maine, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, Vermont, and Wyoming.

Justice will provide grants to improve processes for entering data related to stalking and domestic violence into local, state, and national crime information databases. The authorized funding is $1.5 million for fiscal year 1996, $1.75 million for 1997, and $2.75 million for 1998.

 For more information about the grants coming through the Justice Department, call the U.S. Department of Justice Response Center at 1-800-421-6770.

Health and Human Services
The Violence Against Women Act has authorized money to be appropriated to some agencies already administered by HHS. For example, the Office of Community Services, which administers the Family Violence and Prevention Services Act, will be responsible for shelter and state coalition grants, the national domestic violence hotline, youth education regarding domestic violence and community programs dealing with domestic violence.

 The OCS can give grants for emergency battered women's shelters totaling $450 million for fiscal year 1996, $60 million in 1997, $70 million in 1998, and $72.5 million in 1999 and 2000. The national hotline has $1 million for fiscal year 1995 and $400,000 for each year through 2000.

 Beginning in fiscal year 1996, HHS will make grants to states for rape-prevention education initiatives by rape crisis centers and other non-profits, including seminars, hotlines, training and materials. There is $35 million authorized in 1996 and 1997, and $45 million in each of the following three years.

 The legislation also amends the Runaway and Homeless Youth Act to provide grants to nonprofit groups for street- based outreach, education, treatment and counseling for street youth subjected to, or at risk of, sexual abuse. It authorizes $7 million for fiscal year 1996, $8 million for 1997, and $15 million for 1998. In addition, Victims of Child Abuse Programs are authorized $7 million in 1996, $8 million in 1997, $10 million in 1998, $12 million in 1999 and $13.3 million in 2000.

 The Office of Community Services will provide grants to nonprofit community domestic violence intervention and prevention projects. Programs must be coordinated among local healthcare providers, educators, the religious community, the justice system, state human service agencies and other pertinent entities. There will be $4 million for fiscal year 1996 and $6 million for 1997.

Grants by Other Agencies
The Department of Transportation can spend up to $10 million from the Crime Trust Fund in fiscal year 1995 on capital grants and loans to states and local public agencies to provide lighting, camera surveillance and security phones at bus stops, subway stations, garages, and other public transit areas. Similarly, the Department of Interior can spend $10 million in 1995 to improve security in national parks and $15 million on grants to states to increase safety in public parks.

The State Justice Institute can award $600,000 in grants to states in 1996 to develop model programs to train judges and court personnel in laws relating to rape, sexual assault, domestic violence and other crimes motivated by the victim's gender.

 For more information contact the National Resource Center at 1-800-537-2238.

What You Can Do
State domestic violence agencies and coalitions are probably already working to make sure their state is eligible to receive the grant money, but they can still use support. Activists in states that do not now qualify for federal funding are urged to apply the pressure where necessary to meet the standards.

 Feminists can also help keep funding for the Violence Against Women Act secure by making your communities more aware of the issue of violence against women. Hold candlelight vigils for survivors and victims of violence, organize "Take Back the Night" marches and implement court watches. Start a Clothesline Project.

 Encourage schools to have more programs about dating violence and rape, teen parenting, conflict resolution and sexual harassment. If your community cable station has a talk show, ask to be a guest to address these issues. Hold town hall forums, and start making plans to attend NOW's "We Won't Go Back!" actions April 7-9 in Washington, D.C.

Editor's note: Information for this article was taken from Families in Crisis Funding Report distributed by CD publications in Maryland, and the office of the House Subcommittee on Crime and Criminal Procedure, in Washington, D.C.

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