Gov. Charlie Baker, Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito and Public Safety Secretary Dan Barrett announced that $2.8 million had been awarded to community-based organizations and local and college campus police to assist with resolving violent crimes against women, the governor’s office said in a press release Oct. 17 .
The grants were provided by the Violence Against Women Act’s Services Training Officers Prosecutors program, which is run by the Executive Office of Public Safety and the Security’s Office of Grants and Research.
“The Violence Against Women Act allows for collaborative approaches between community-based agencies, municipalities, and state agencies to address the crimes of domestic violence, sexual assault, dating violence and stalking,” Gov. Baker said. “These grants are critical to develop and strengthen law enforcement, prosecution, and victim services in cases of violent crimes against women,” he added.
Congress passed the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) in 1994. The act recognized the extent and seriousness of violence against women and represented a solid commitment by the government to address the problem through federal resources, the release read.
Over the past three years, about $8 million in funds from the VAWA have been given to support domestic and sexual assault victims and their families throughout the state.
“The VAWA grants are an opportunity to offer support for our community-based agencies, police departments and state agencies that provide critical services for victims of domestic and sexual violence across the Commonwealth,” Lt. Gov. Polito said, who is also the chair of the Governor’s Council to Address Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence. “Through the diligent efforts of those receiving grants today and many other community partners, we aim to make Massachusetts a safer state to live in for all women,” Polito said.
In April 2015, Gov. Baker signed an executive order into law, which relaunched the Governor’s Council to Address Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence. Since then, the Council’s priorities have included analyzing and reporting on the implementation of a law entitled An Act Relative to Domestic Violence. Last fall, a report was issued with updates on each of the 49 actionable provisions of the law, the release stated.
The Council also announced its priorities for the upcoming year and the future, which include the launch of five working groups in priority areas identified by the Council and the Baker-Polito administration. Each group has established a foundation of their first-year goals and will report back to the Council on their program next summer, the release read.
According to the release the work groups include:
Response and Assessment: to develop recommendations for improving the Commonwealth’s identification and response to domestic violence high risk cases;
Housing Stability and Self Sufficiency: to cultivate housing stability and homeless prevention strategies for victims of sexual assault and domestic violence;
Human Trafficking: Children: to design and initiate the development of a standard, best practice model for identifying and responding to child trafficked victims, with year one specifically focused on the sexual exploitation of children;
Prevention Education Early Ed through Campus: to provide recommendations to the Administration on how to build a program focused on promoting healthy relationships through education and the prevention of harassment, stalking, dating and sexual violence for Massachusetts youth starting in pre-kindergarten and continuing through college;
Veteran/Military Families: to develop collaborations amongst military, sexual assault and domestic violence resources to increase accessibility of appropriate supports for veterans and military families.
“We are pleased to provide these awards to agencies that have demonstrated expertise in their respective program areas of victim services, prosecution, law enforcement and the court system across the Commonwealth,” said Dan Bennett, secretary of public safety and security. “We look forward to continuing this strong partnership to advance the critical missions that these organizations fulfill,” Bennett said.
“VAWA funds are what fuels accessible services for survivors of crime in the community. Anyone impacted by a crime—survivors, significant others, service providers and the community in general—deserves access to comprehensive services, resources and information,” said Katia Santiago-Taylor of the Boston Area Rape Crisis Center (BARCC). “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. VAWA funds have made cross-disciplinary services like the AFI and many others possible,” Santiago-Taylor said.