505,000: The number of victims who were assisted by the STOP Violence Against Women Formula Grant Program, a project of the Office of Violence Against Women.
1,201,000: The number of services provided to these victims in communities across America as a result of the grants awarded by the Office of Violence Against Women’s STOP program.
4,700: The number of individuals arrested for violations of protection orders intended to prevent violence against woman under the STOP program.
This data, from 2007, is startling, because we know it only represents a fraction of the women who are victims of violence. One in every four women will experience domestic violence in her lifetime. An estimated 1.3 million women are victims of physical assault by an intimate partner each year, and one in six women will experience an attempted or completed rape at some time in her life.
That is why today, President Obama issued a Presidential Proclamation lauding the 15th Anniversary of the Violence Against Women Act:
This bipartisan accomplishment has ushered in a new era of responsibility in the fight to end violence against women. In the 15 years since VAWA became law, our Nation's response to domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking has strengthened. Communities recognize the special needs of victims and appreciate the benefits of collaboration among professionals in the civil and criminal justice system, victim advocates, and other service providers. With the support of VAWA funds, dedicated units of law enforcement officers and specialized prosecutors have grown more numerous than ever before. Most importantly, victims are more likely to have a place to turn for help -- for emergency shelter and crisis services, and also for legal assistance, transitional housing, and services for their children.
In 1994, then Senator Joe Biden authored this landmark legislation. Created in recognition of the severity of the crimes associated with domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking, it led to the creation of the Department of Justice’s Office on Violence Against Women.
This critical component of the Justice Department administers a wide variety of financial and technical assistance to communities around the country. These grants than facilitate the creation of programs, policies and practices aimed at ending domestic and dating violence, sexual assault and stalking – programs like the STOP program.
Today the Department of Justice marks the start of a year-long anniversary effort to raise public awareness on issues around violence against women, to reinforce and build coalitions among federal, state, local and tribal law enforcement and victim services communities, and to reinforce the goal of ending domestic and dating violence, sexual assault and stalking for men, women and children across the country.
Attorney General Holder noted the Act’s importance to the Department of Justice:
"The Violence Against Women Act forever changed the way this nation meets our responsibility to survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault. It has been an essential building block in the Justice Department’s work to end violence against women. The Justice Department will continue to take every possible step to enforce laws protecting victims of violence and to provide resources to aid victim service providers."
Over the last 15 years, the Violence Against Women Act, and the work done by the Office of Violence Against Women, has created a paradigm shift in how the issue of violence against women is addressed in communities throughout the nation, but there is still work to do.
As Vice President Biden said today:
"We’ve made tremendous progress since the Violence Against Women Act first passed in 1994, but we have much more to do. We cannot rest. It will take all of us to fulfill the promise to end domestic violence and sexual assault."
You can learn more about the Office and Violence Against Women and the Violence Against Women Act at http://www.ovw.usdoj.gov/.
Tracy Russo is New Media Director at the Department of Justice