(STL.News) – The Department of Justice is joining advocates, public safety and public health professionals, and communities across the country in commemorating April as National Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month. President Trump has called on all Americans “to support survivors of sexual assault and work together to prevent these crimes in their communities.”
“Sexual violence turns victims’ lives upside down, exacting a heavy toll on their emotional, mental and physical health,” said Katharine T. Sullivan, Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General of the Office of Justice Programs (OJP). “Recovery requires significant time and effort, and we are committed to helping them move successfully from victims to survivors.”
“Sexual violence is multifaceted and is often hidden from public view,” said Laura L. Rogers, Acting Director of the Office on Violence Against Women (OVW). “While there is much to be done still, I believe the positive shift in the way we approach the topic of sexual violence is, in part, due to the impact of the work of so many in the field.”
Research from the Bureau of Justice Statistics’ 2018 National Crime Victimization Survey found 37 percent of the total violent victimizations in 2018 were identified as rape or sexual assault. The survey estimates that in 2018, some 734,630 people in the U.S. were victims of rape or sexual assault.
The Justice Department is working on many fronts to prevent sexual assault and to bring justice and healing to sexual assault survivors. OJP, OVW, and the department’s Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) have dedicated substantial resources to helping victims and have made considerable investments in technology, research, and data aimed at addressing the problem. Through OJP’s Office for Victims of Crime (OVC) victim assistance formula funding, administered by the states and territories, hundreds of thousands of victims of sexual assault receive services every year. Since its inception, OVW has funded over $8.1 billion to support programs that are targeting domestic violence, sexual assault, dating violence and stalking.
The Justice Department works throughout the year to protect and serve victims of sexual assault. Some of our programs include the following:
- Last year, OJP’s OVC awarded $15 million to improve access to forensic examinations by Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners through telehealth technology
- OVC is making more than $3 million available to address female genital mutilation and cutting, one of the gravest forms of gender-based violence, estimated to affect hundreds of thousands of girls and women in the U.S.
- OVC and the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention have awarded $30 million to local organizations and state agencies to serve young victims of sex trafficking
- OVW awarded over 500 grants last year, totaling more than $400 million, to help communities respond to sexual violence
- OVW partnered with OVC to fund the $7 million Sexual Assault Forensic-Medical and Advocacy Services for Tribes (FAST)
- Initiative, which is designed to increase the availability of Sexual Assault Forensic Examiners (SAFEs) and victim advocates in tribal communities
- OVW supports rural and tribal communities by prioritizing discretionary grant program solicitations that emphasize justice solutions and victim services
- Through the National Sexual Assault Kit Initiative, the Bureau of Justice Assistance has provided almost $200 million since its inception in 2015, to agencies in 40 states to test tens of thousands of rape kits and help investigators solve crimes revealed by the evidence
- A best practices document published by the National Institute of Justice provides 35 practical recommendations for investigators, crime labs and communities on improving the handling of sexual assault kits
- The Office of Sex Offender Sentencing, Monitoring, Apprehending, Registering, and Tracking awarded nearly $16 million last year to nearly 50 states, U.S. territories, and tribal communities to bolster registration and tracking of sex offenders and continues to manage and operate the Dru Sjodin National Sex Offender Public Website
- The COPS Office manages the Collaborative Reform Initiative Technical Assistance Center, which is working with several law enforcement agencies on issues related to sexual assault
- The COPS Office has developed a variety of publications and other resource materials for law enforcement agencies, including the publication Identifying and Preventing Gender Bias in Law Enforcement Response to Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence and articles such as “Child Sexual Abuse and Girls – A First Response” and “What We Can Do About Street Harassment.”
- The COPS Office supports law enforcement through a number of anti-human trafficking efforts, including child sex trafficking training
Department of Justice resources are helping service providers reach sexual assault victims during the COVID-19 pandemic. Department funding supports the National Sexual Assault Hotline (800-656-4673), which is now available in Spanish and English, and the Department of Defense Safe Helpline (877-995-5247), designed specifically for members of the DoD community.
With the pandemic necessarily curtailing the majority of April’s Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month events, the message of this month remains: we reaffirm our commitment to supporting survivors of sexual assault, encouraging strong criminal justice responses to these crimes and ending the scourge of sexual violence in our homes and communities.
The Office of Justice Programs, directed by Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Katharine T. Sullivan, provides federal leadership, grants, training, technical assistance and other resources to improve the nation’s capacity to prevent and reduce crime, assist victims and enhance the rule of law by strengthening the criminal and juvenile justice systems. More information about OJP and its components can be found at www.ojp.gov.