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Remarks as Prepared for Delivery by OVC Director Jessica E. Hart for the Domestic Violence Service Provider Roundtable

Welcome everyone. Thanks so much for being here today. This is such an important discussion to be having, especially right now in light of the pandemic.

Before we begin, I’d like to extend a special thank you to the Houston Astros for welcoming this exceptional group of domestic violence service providers to your facilities. And to the Astros Foundation for your commitment to raising awareness about domestic violence.

I’d also like to recognize all of the organizations that are here with us today as important allies in the fight to end domestic violence, including—

  • The Houston Area Women's Center,
  • Fort Bend Women’s Center,
  • The Bridge Over Troubled Waters, Inc.,
  • Texas Council on Family Violence, and
  • the Texas Association Against Sexual Assault.

I also want to give a warm welcome to U.S. Attorney Ryan Patrick.

The fact that we are both here today highlights the importance the Department places on combatting domestic violence and the Department’s dedication to serving victims of crime and fighting for justice for victims of domestic violence.

As the Director of the Office for Victims of Crime, I’m honored to join such an amazing group of victim service professionals.

The work you do to shelter adults and children, and provide them with important services like medical care, counseling, and legal assistance, is vital. You restore hope to victims who may have had every reason to lose it.

Our meeting today is fitting as we spend October commemorating National Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

According to 2015 data, approximately, 1 in 3 women experience sexual violence, physical violence, or stalking by an intimate partner during their lifetime.

And now the pandemic has caused economic devastation and has isolated many people from family, friends, and support systems.

In June, the National Domestic Violence Hotline reported that calls were up 9 percent compared to the same period in 2019. And law enforcement officials in Houston have reported the same rise in incidents of domestic violence and sexual assault that is taking place nationally.

It’s clear that domestic violence has increased significantly and become a crisis of its own within the pandemic. 

In response to this crisis, I announced yesterday that I have awarded $1.5 million dollars to the National Domestic Violence Hotline to expand their digital services and technology-based tools to assist victims.

Through our Advancing the Use of Technology to Assist Victims of Crime program, the Hotline will enhance their current provider database by adding an online function to track the availability of shelter beds.

As we’ve learned, technology-based resources are critical for victims who have increasingly rely on digital services during the pandemic. One tangible result of our funding was DocuSAFE, a mobile app that allows survivors to log individual incidents of abuse to use as documentation and evidence collection in prosecutions.

These awards are just part of a truly comprehensive and administration-wide effort to address domestic violence.

This year I’m announcing awards totaling more than $1.8 billion dollars to states to provide victim assistance and compensation.

And, yesterday, I announced that Texas is receiving over $163 million dollars in awards.

This funding will go to support local responses to domestic abuse, including funding shelters, coalitions, positions within law enforcement agencies, therapy, civil legal services, Family Justice Centers, court advocates, domestic violence forensic interviewers, and relocation, housing, and transportation expenses.

We can’t do that though without exceptional partners like all of you.

That is why I am grateful for this opportunity to speak with you today.

Thank you all again for being here and thank you in advance for sharing your expertise.

Date Published: October 15, 2020