May 25, 2023
Today, the White House released the first-ever U.S. National Plan to End Gender-Based Violence: Strategies for Action. When President Biden issued the Executive Order establishing the first-ever White House Gender Policy Council, he called on the Gender Policy Council to develop the first U.S. government-wide plan to prevent and address sexual violence, intimate partner violence, stalking, and other forms of gender-based violence (referred to collectively as GBV).
Gender-based violence is a public safety and public health crisis, affecting urban, suburban, rural, and Tribal communities in the United States. It is experienced by individuals of all backgrounds and can occur across the life course. Though we have made significant progress to expand services and legal protections for survivors, much work remains.
Through this National Plan to End Gender-Based Violence (National Plan), the Biden-Harris Administration is advancing a comprehensive, government-wide approach to preventing and addressing GBV in the United States. The National Plan identifies seven strategic pillars undergirding this approach: 1) Prevention; 2) Support, Healing, Safety, and Well-Being; 3) Economic Security and Housing Stability; 4) Online Safety; 5) Legal and Justice Systems; 6) Emergency Preparedness and Crisis Response; and 7) Research and Data. Building upon existing federal initiatives, the National Plan provides an important framework for strengthening ongoing federal action and interagency collaboration, and for informing new research, policy development, program planning, service delivery, and other efforts across each of these core issue areas. It is guided by the lessons learned and progress made as the result of tireless and courageous leadership from GBV survivors, advocates, researchers, and policymakers, as well as other dedicated professionals and community members who lead prevention and response efforts.
And while the Plan is focused specifically on federal action, it is designed to be accessible and useful to public and private stakeholders across the United States for adaptation and expansion—because all communities are vital to ending GBV.
The priorities in this National Plan to End GBV, as well as those included in the 2022 update to the U.S. Strategy to Prevent and Respond to Gender-Based Violence Globally, reflect our nation’s ongoing commitment to advancing efforts to prevent and address gender-based violence both at home and abroad. As stated in the National Plan, “Ending gender-based violence is, quite simply, a matter of human rights and justice.”
While the National Plan provides a roadmap to guide future efforts, addressing GBV has been a core priority since the start of the Biden-Harris Administration, as reflected in the highlights below of recent and longer-term actions undertaken to prevent and address GBV.
Recent Federal Initiatives to Prevent and Address GBV in the United States Include:
- Elevating the Office of Family Violence Prevention and Services: The Assistant Secretary of the Administration of Children and Families (ACF) at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) established the Family Violence Prevention and Services Act (FVPSA) Program as its own office under the ACF Immediate Office of the Assistant Secretary in March 2023, now known as the Office of Family Violence Prevention and Services (OFVPS). The establishment of OFVPS reflects the importance of work to prevent and address intimate partner violence, domestic violence, dating violence, and sexual assault; to coordinate trauma informed services and support across ACF, HHS, and the federal government; and to strengthen attention to policy and practice issues relating to addressing the needs of survivors.
- Establishing New FVPSA Discretionary Grant Programs: Funding for FVPSA programs increased by 20% in the FY 2023 federal budget. In addition to allocating increased funding for existing FVPSA programs, the OFVPS is publishing four new competitive discretionary notice of funding opportunities in May 2023. This includes $7.5 million to fund thirty cooperative agreements to support Culturally Specific Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault grants for community-based organizations to build and sustain organizational capacity in delivering trauma-informed, developmentally sensitive, culturally relevant services for children, individuals, and families affected by sexual assault and domestic violence. It also includes for the first time cooperative agreements in the amount of $500,000 each to fund two Sexual Assault Capacity Building Centers to provide national technical assistance to states, territories, and tribal governments in supporting comprehensive services for rape crisis centers, sexual assault programs, culturally specific programs, and other nonprofit, nongovernmental organizations or tribal programs that provide direct intervention and related assistance to victims of sexual assault, without regard to age.
- Announcing Grant Awards for the Domestic Violence Prevention Enhancement and Leadership through Alliances Initiative: On May 3,the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) announced funding awards for thirteen state domestic violence coalitions under the Domestic Violence Prevention Enhancement and Leadership Through Alliances (DELTA): Achieving Health Equity through Addressing Disparities (AHEAD) initiative. DELTA AHEAD recipients will work to decrease risk factors and increase protective factors related to intimate partner violence by addressing social determinants of health and health equity.
- Launching the HRSA Strategy to Address Intimate Partner Violence: On May 16, the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) of the Department of Health and Human Services launched the 2023-2025 HRSA Strategy to Address Intimate Partner Violence. The agency-wide Strategy identifies strategic objectives and activities for HRSA Bureaus and Offices to undertake that will contribute to these aims to enhance HRSA coordination of efforts to strengthen infrastructure and workforce capacity to address intimate partner violence and promote prevention through evidence-based programs.
- Expanding Support for the Administration of Grants to Tribes: OFVPS recently expanded staffing to support the implementation of FVPSA and American Rescue Plan grant programs. This includes hiring for the first time a Tribal Program Manager, and five Tribal Program Specialists who will lead OFVPS training, technical assistance, support, and engagement of the 252 tribes that receive FVPSA and ARP funding to meet the needs of American Indians/Native Americans and Alaska Natives surviving violence, trauma, and abuse.
- Allocating Increased Funding for Department of Justice VAWA Programs: Since the start of the Biden-Harris Administration, the Justice Department’s Office on Violence Against Women (OVW) has administered close to a billion dollars (approximately $480 million and 750 awards in both FY 2021 and FY 2022) to implement the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) across states and territories to reduce and address domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking by strengthening services to victims and holding offenders accountable. In FY 2023, OVW received $700 million through the bipartisan omnibus appropriations (a 20% increase over the FY’ 22 appropriations), and the President’s budget for FY 2024 calls for $1 billion to implement VAWA programs.
- Providing HUD Funding for DV Projects and Establishing New VAWA Technical Assistance Grants: In March 2023, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced $2.76 billion in FY 2022 awards to help people experiencing homelessness. These awards included over $54 million in new grants to support domestic violence (DV) projects. This spring, there will be another round of $52 million available for DV projects in the FY 2023 Continuums of Care (CoC) Program Competition. Additionally, this summer, HUD will announce the recipient(s) of $5 million in new VAWA technical assistance funding through the agency’s Community Compass Technical Assistance and Capacity Building program. The VAWA Technical Assistance Providers will provide comprehensive training, technical assistance, and other support to HUD’s grantees, housing providers, and other stakeholders on VAWA implementation issues.
- Announcing the Fostering Access, Rights and Equity (FARE) Grant Program: The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) Women’s Bureau announced the 2023 Fostering Access, Rights and Equity (FARE) Grant opportunity in April, which assists underserved and marginalized low-income women workers who have been impacted by gender-based violence and harassment in the world of work (including activities that occur in the course of, are linked with, or arise out of work), and helps them understand and access their employment rights, services, and benefits. These grants provide crucial outreach, education, and improved benefits access.
- Advancing Promising Practices to Prevent Harassment in the Federal Sector: The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) issued a new technical assistance document in April 2023 entitled Promising Practices for Preventing Harassment in the Federal Sector. The document builds upon existing EEOC guidance and is intended to serve as a resource to help federal agencies prevent and remedy harassment, including sexual harassment, and to assist agencies as they work to update or revise their anti-harassment policies and programs. Most of the practices identified, such as those related to conducting investigations and addressing online harassment, may also be helpful to practitioners outside of the federal government.
- Issuing a Presidential Memorandum Establishing Safe Leave for Federal Workers: President Biden issued a Presidential Memorandum in February 2023 directing the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) to provide recommendations regarding federal employees’ access to paid leave for purposes related to seeking safety and recovering from domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, or stalking—including to obtain medical treatment, seek assistance from service organizations, seek relocation, and take legal action.
- Establishing the Humanitarian, Adjustment, Removing Conditions and Travel Documents (HART) Service Center: The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) of the Department of Homeland Security opened the Humanitarian, Adjustment, Removing Conditions and Travel Documents (HART) Service Center in February 2023, which focuses on the adjudication of humanitarian-based immigration relief, including VAWA self-petitions and U-visas for victims of eligible crimes. HART will significantly increase the number of adjudicators for these cases in order to positively impact the timeliness and scale of USCIS’ humanitarian processing abilities.
- Expanding the OSHA U/T Visa Certification Program: The Department of Labor expanded its T and U visa certification program in March 2023, to include the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). For the first time, OSHA will be able to issue these visa certifications – during its workplace safety investigations – when the agency identifies qualifying criminal activities, including sexual assault and human trafficking. The authority will provide the agency with a critical tool for protecting immigrant and migrant worker communities regardless of their lack of immigration status or temporary employment authorization. While OSHA and the Wage and Hour Division have the authority to issue U and T visa certifications, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services determines whether an applicant qualifies for the visa.
- Addressing Sexual Assault in the Military Service Academies. The Secretary of Defense announced in March 2023 a series of significant actions to address sexual violence in the Military Service Academies (MSAs), including requiring On-Site Installation Evaluations at each of the Academies, adapting and applying recommendations from the Independent Review Commission on Sexual Assault in the Military to the MSA context, enhancing prevention efforts, and informing cadets and midshipmen of the significant changes to the military justice process scheduled to take effect in December 2023.
- Implementing VAWA Changes to Grants: Solicitations for FY 2023 OVW grant programs include numerous improvements to legal tools and expansions of grant programs addressing domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking, as a result of the Violence Against Women Act Reauthorization Act of 2022 (VAWA 2022), which was enacted in March of 2022.
- Developing the White House Task Force to Address Online Harassment and Abuse Initial Blueprint: The White House Task Force to Address Online Harassment and Abuse released a summary of the Initial Blueprint for Action in March 2023, which includes a broad range of new and expanded commitments from Federal agencies to address technology-facilitated gender-based violence across four main lines of effort: Prevention, Survivor Support, Accountability, and Research. The FY 2023 omnibus law allocates $7 million for DOJ to fund two new programs authorized in VAWA 2022, including the establishment of a National Resource Center on Cybercrimes Against Individuals, and grants to provide training and support to State, Tribal, and local law enforcement, prosecutors, and judicial personnel to assist victims of cybercrimes. Additionally, as part of the federal government’s efforts to increase accountability, DOJ’s OVW will launch an initiative, with the funding allocated in the FY 2023 bipartisan omnibus, focused on the prosecution and investigation of online abuse.
- Announcing a Call for Concept Papers for Restorative Practices Training and Technical Assistance: DOJ’s OVW recently released a new solicitation to offer training and technical support to implement restorative practices. Projects will protect survivor safety and autonomy, working to offer survivors options to seek justice and healing, in alignment with the requirements outlined in Section 109 of VAWA 2022 and the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2022.
- Issuing Regulations Governing the Special Tribal Criminal Jurisdiction (STCJ) Reimbursement Program: OVW issued an interim final rule to implement a new program authorized under VAWA 2022 to reimburse Tribal governments for expenses incurred in exercising STCJ over non-Native individuals who commit certain covered crimes on Tribal lands. This rule implements the new Tribal Reimbursement Program by providing details on how it will be administered, including eligibility, frequency of reimbursement, costs that can be reimbursed, the annual maximum allowable reimbursement per Tribe, and conditions for waiver of the annual maximum.
- Developing the Integrated Primary Prevention Workforce (IPPW): DoD developed a model for a dedicated and capable workforce focused on preventing sexual assault, harassment, suicide, domestic abuse, child abuse, and retaliation. In January 2022, the Department launched a phased approach to hiring a primary prevention workforce. The Department has begun hiring the Integrated Primary Prevention Workforce (IPPW) at installations across the world and released DoDI 6400.11 (“DoD Integrated Primary Prevention Policy for Prevention Workforce and Leaders”) in December 2022 to outline guidance. While both prevention and response are necessary to decrease the impact of harm and violence in our military community, the Department sees prevention as the best way to ensure future harm and violence never occur. Efforts are underway to staff the new IPPW, which will be staffed with 2,000 skilled professionals who promote the health of their military community and work with leaders to change policies and implement prevention activities.
- Announcing National Institute of Justice FY23 Research and Evaluation on Violence Against Women: DOJ’s National Institute of Justice (NIJ) strives to support the development of objective and independent knowledge and validated tools to reduce violence against women, promote justice for victims of crime, and enhance criminal justice responses. NIJ’s new solicitation for FY 2023 will provide grant funding to conduct research and evaluation projects examining a broad range of topics, including the crimes of domestic and family violence, intimate partner violence, rape, sex trafficking, sexual assault, stalking, and teen dating violence, also known as adolescent relationship abuse, along with the associated criminal justice system response, procedures, and policies.
These recent actions build on the Biden-Harris Administration’s longstanding commitment to addressing GBV, including by:
- Reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act: President Biden signed into law the Violence Against Women Act Reauthorization Act of 2022 (VAWA 2022) in March 2022, critical legislation that expands access to safety and support for survivors and increases prevention efforts. The Administration is swiftly implementing the new and strengthened VAWA, including targeted actions to support Native survivors through the expansion of special criminal jurisdiction of Tribal courts, updating HUD’s guidance on expanded VAWA housing protections, improving access to sexual assault medical forensic examinations, and enhancing grant programs to support LGBTQI+ survivors, survivors of technology-facilitated abuse, and those in marginalized or underserved communities, including rural communities
- Enacting the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act: President Biden signed into law the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act in 2022, the most significant legislation to reduce gun violence in 30 years. The law will save lives by strengthening the background check system; narrowing the “boyfriend loophole” to keep guns out of the hands of convicted dating partners; investing $250 million for community-based violence intervention programs; providing $750 million for states to implement crisis interventions, such as extreme risk protection orders (also known as “red flag laws”); and expanding mental health services and safety initiatives in schools and communities.
- Improving Protections for Survivors of Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment in the Workplace: In 2022, President Biden signed into law the Ending Forced Arbitration of Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment Act,which amended the Federal Arbitration Act for disputes involving sexual assault and sexual harassment in order to stop employers and businesses from forcing employees and customers out of the court system and into arbitration. The President also signed into law the Speak Out Act, which enables survivors to speak out about workplace sexual assault and harassment by prohibiting the enforcement of pre-dispute nondisclosure and non-disparagement clauses regarding allegations of sexual harassment or assault
- Increasing Resources for Survivors of Crime, Including Gender-Based Violence. President Biden signed into law the VOCA Fix to Sustain the Crime Victims Fund Act of 2021 which passed Congress with bipartisan support and expanded the allocation of resources for the Crime Victims Fund. This has already resulted in an increase of hundreds of millions of dollars of non-taxpayer funding for essential and lifesaving services to crime victims around the country, including survivors of gender-based violence.
- Allocating $1 Billion in Supplemental Funding for DV/SA Services Through the American Rescue Plan: The Office on Family Violence Prevention and Services (OFVPS) has been administering the nearly $1 billion in supplemental funding for domestic violence and sexual assault services and support allocated through the American Rescue Plan (ARP).
- Addressing GBV in the Military: At the direction of President Biden, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin ordered a 90-Day Independent Review Commission (IRC) on Sexual Assault in the Military to take bold action to address sexual assault and harassment in the armed forces. Since the creation of the IRC, President Biden has signed into law the National Defense Authorization Act of 2022 and 2023, both of which included important reforms to the military justice system and adopted core recommendations of the IRC, as called for by President Biden. These historic, bipartisan reforms fundamentally shift how the military prosecutes and investigates sexual assault, domestic violence, sexual harassment, and other serious crimes, and will increase prevention initiatives and support for survivors. Additionally, in January 2022, President Biden signed an Executive Order to establish sexual harassment as a specific offense under the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ), and fully implement changes to the UCMJ to criminalize the wrongful broadcast or distribution of intimate images.
- Proposing Amendments to Title IX Regulations: The Department of Education proposed amendments to its Title IX regulations to advance Title IX’s goal of ensuring that no person experiences sex discrimination in education, that all students receive appropriate support as needed to access equal educational opportunities, and that school procedures for investigating and resolving complaints of sex discrimination, including sex-based harassment and sexual violence, are fair to all involved.
- Launching a Task Force on Sexual Violence in Education: The Department of Education, in collaboration with DOJ and HHS, launched the VAWA-mandated Task Force on Sexual Violence in Education in September 2022, submitted a report to Congress, and has initiated a process to develop recommendations on many aspects of sexual violence prevention and response.
- Improving Law Enforcement Response to Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence by Identifying and Preventing Gender Bias: The Department of Justice released updated guidance in 2022 on Improving Law Enforcement Response to Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence by Identifying and Preventing Gender Bias. This guidance is designed to help law enforcement agencies recognize, mitigate, and prevent gender bias and other bias from compromising the response to, and investigation of, sexual assault, domestic violence, and other forms of gender-based violence. The guidance provides a set of eight basic principles that – if integrated into LEAs’ policies, trainings and practices – help ensure that gender bias, either intentionally or unintentionally, does not undermine efforts to keep survivors safe and hold offenders accountable.
- Addressing GBV in American Indian and Alaska Native Communities: In November 2021, President Biden issued an Executive Order that tasked federal agencies with addressing the crisis of missing and murdered Indigenous peoples, which most often impacts women, girls, LGBTQI+ people in the community, and Two-Spirit Native Americans. The Biden-Harris Administration has also worked to implement the Not Invisible Act of 2019, which established the Not Invisible Act Commission, a cross jurisdictional advisory committee led by the Secretary of the Interior and Attorney General and composed of law enforcement, Tribal leaders, federal partners, service providers, family members of missing and murdered individuals, and most importantly — survivors. Additionally, in 2021, the United States relaunched the North American Trilateral Working Group on Violence Against Indigenous Women and Girls (Trilateral Working Group), in collaboration with the governments of Canada and Mexico, and with the participation of Indigenous women leaders from all three countries. The White House issued a report following the Fourth Convening of the Trilateral Working Group, which highlights many key regional and federal agency activities intended to prevent and address all forms of GBV, including trafficking in persons and Missing and Murdered Indigenous People (MMIP), with a focus on the disproportionate impact on Indigenous women and girls, as well as other LGBTQI+ persons.
- Establishing Culturally Specific Sexual Assault Capacity Building Centers and a Native Hawaiian Resource Center: HHS, through the Family Violence Prevention and Services Program, awarded grant funding in 2022 to support three new cooperative agreements for Culturally Specific Sexual Assault Capacity Building Centers (CSSACs) to provide capacity building resources, training, and technical assistance for culturally specific sexual assault programs serving survivors from culturally specific populations, underserved communities, and historically marginalized communities. The new CSSACs are funded to provide training and technical assistance to states, territories, Tribes, coalitions, and culturally specific organizations to help meet the needs of sexual assault survivors. In September 2022, OFVPS also awarded a $1 million cooperative agreement to establish for the first time a Native Hawaiian Resource Center on Domestic Violence for the Native Hawaiian Communities. Pouhana O Na Wahine is specifically designed to provide capacity building resources, training, and technical assistance for culturally specific family violence, domestic violence, and dating violence programs serving survivors from the Native Hawaiian populations.
- Addressing Online Harassment and Abuse: The Biden-Harris Administration has led efforts to prevent and address online harassment and abuse in the U.S. and globally. To tackle this scourge, President Biden established the White House Task Force to Address Online Harassment and Abuse in 2022, with a mandate to identify concrete actions in a Blueprint for Action to prevent and address online harassment and abuse, provide support for survivors, increase accountability, and expand research. In 2022, the Administration also launched the Global Partnership for Action on Gender-Based Online Harassment and Abuse, which was announced at the first Summit for Democracy and formally launched at the Commission on the Status of Women at the United Nations. Since its start in March 2022, the Global Partnership has grown to 12 countries, and has brought together international organizations, civil society, and the private sector to better prioritize, understand, prevent, and address the growing scourge of technology-facilitated gender-based violence.
- Issuing a Presidential Memorandum on Promoting Accountability for Conflict-Related Sexual Violence: In November 2022, President Biden signed a Presidential Memorandum to strengthen the U.S. government’s efforts to combat rape as a weapon of war. This Presidential Memorandum directs the State Department, Treasury Department, and other federal agencies to leverage sanctions authorities, assistance restrictions, and other tools to promote accountability for perpetrators of conflict-related sexual violence (CRSV). With this executive action, U.S. departments and agencies are, for the first time, being directed to ensure equal consideration of acts of CRSV when identifying appropriate targets and preparing designations under applicable sanctions authorities.
- Expanding the Safe from the Start Initiative: Safe from the Start ReVisioned, an expansion of the flagship initiative that began in 2013, aims to ensure that GBV prevention, mitigation, and response is prioritized, integrated, and coordinated across humanitarian responses globally, and to shift funding, influence, and decision-making power to women and girls within humanitarian response systems. Safe from the Start ReVisioned aligns with the priorities outlined in the Presidential Memorandum on Promoting Accountability for Sexual Violence in Conflict, which calls for programming and assistance that prioritizes the immediate needs of survivors.
Read the U.S. National Plan to End Gender-Based Violence: Strategies for Action here: https://www.whitehouse.gov/wp-content/uploads/2023/05/National-Plan-to-End-GBV.pdf