The state granted $2.8 million in funding to 39 community-based organizations and local and college police departments to enhance victim services and prosecution strategies in cases involving violence against women, Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker, Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito and Public Safety Secretary Dan Bennett announced on Monday.
Baker said in a Monday press release that the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), which oversaw the grants through its Services Training Officers Prosecutors Program, would bring community-based agencies and local governments closer in combating domestic violence, sexual assault, dating violence and stalking.
“The grants are critical to develop and strengthen law enforcement, prosecution and victim services in cases of violent crimes against women,” Baker said in the release.
Katia Santiago-Taylor, the manager of systems advocacy at the Boston Area Rape Crisis Center (BARCC), which received this year’s VAWA funds, said in the release that the funds are essential to improving services for those affected by domestic and sexual crimes.
“At BARCC, the VAWA funds have helped us form a multidisciplinary approach to provide accurate information to sexual assault survivors and their families statewide called Access to Forensic Information,” Santiago-Taylor said in the release. “VAWA funds have made cross-disciplinary services like the AFI and many others possible.”
On the same day, the Governor’s Council to Address Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence established five working groups to deal with prevent and respond to assault cases, the release stated.
The groups, according to the release, will deal with the council’s priorities, which are assessing domestic violence cases, providing safe housing for victims, identifying and responding to human trafficking, educating students on sexual violence prevention and enhancing domestic violence and sexual assault resources to veterans and military families.
The council, chaired by Polito, was relaunched in April 2015 and reported the implementation of Chapter 260: An Act Relative to Domestic Violence, the release stated.
“Through diligent efforts of those receiving grants today and many other community partners,” Polito said in the release, “we aim to make Massachusetts a safer state to live for all women.”
In 2015, according to statistics released by the support network Jane Doe Inc., there were 18 domestic violence homicide victims in Massachusetts, 13 of which were female.
Meanwhile, 4,418 adolescents and adults, on average, are sexually assaulted every year in Massachusetts, according to statistics provided by the Boston Area Rape Crisis Center.
Laura Van Zandt, the executive director of the REACH Beyond Domestic Violence support organization, said there is much need for the state to invest in the amelioration of domestic violence and sexual assault.
“It is something that impacts people’s homes; it’s a homelessness issue,” Van Zandt said. “It is something that results in tremendous violence and impacting family and impacting law enforcement in the court system.”
Van Zandt also said she applauds the lieutenant governor and Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey’s efforts in dealing with home abuse and sexual assault cases.