U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs; National Institute of Justice The Research, Development, and Evaluation Agency of the U.S. Department of Justice U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice ProgramsNational Institute of JusticeThe Research, Development, and Evaluation Agency of the U.S. Department of Justice

Plenary Panel: VAWA — Celebrating 15 Years and Moving Forward Together

  • Karen D. Carroll, Associate Director, Bronx Sexual Assault Response Team
  • Bernard K. Melekian, Director, Office of Community Oriented Policing Services, U.S. Department of Justice
  • Michael Paymar, Representative, Minnesota House of Representatives
  • Catherine Pierce, Deputy Director, Office on Violence Against Women, U.S. Department of Justice
  • Lynn Rosenthal, White House Advisor on Violence Against Women, Office of the Vice President of the United States
  • Kristina Rose, Acting Director, National Institute of Justice

NIJ Conference 2010
June 14-16

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Plenary Panel: VAWA — Celebrating 15 Years and Moving Forward Together

  • Karen D. Carroll, Associate Director, Bronx Sexual Assault Response Team
  • Bernard K. Melekian, Director, Office of Community Oriented Policing Services, U.S. Department of Justice
  • Michael Paymar, Representative, Minnesota House of Representatives
  • Catherine Pierce, Deputy Director, Office on Violence Against Women, U.S. Department of Justice
  • Lynn Rosenthal, White House Advisor on Violence Against Women, Office of the Vice President of the United States
  • Kristina Rose, Acting Director, National Institute of Justice

NIJ Conference 2010
June 14-16

Kristina Rose

Kristina Rose: Thank you so much, Paula. That was a wonderful presentation, and I like the way that you put names and faces behind some of the statistic and the research that we so often cite and use, and I'm thrilled that you're able to stay here for the rest of this plenary panel today. Thank you so much.

So now it is my pleasure to begin our plenary panel on the 15th anniversary of the Violence Against Women Act. VAWA's passage in 1994 created a paradigm shift in how we view the criminal justice response to violence against women. VAWA made it clear that violence against women in any form would no longer be tolerated, and offenders of these crimes would be held accountable for their criminal actions. The passage of VAWA created a breakthrough through which we would forever change our approach to domestic violence, to sexual assault and stalking.

Now, the heart of VAWA, as many of you know, is the coordinated community response, and what this means is that we cannot approach this crime in isolation. It takes a multidisciplinary approach. We need the cops, we need the prosecutors, we need the victim advocates, the judges, the health officials, and everyone in the community. All of them must be at the table to make this work.

Now, to implement the coordinated community response and administer the many grant programs created by the Violence Against Women Act, or VAWA, the act created the Office on Violence Against Women, and right now OVW, as we call it, is headed by Judge Susan Carbon, a recent appointee to that post.

OVW has awarded more than $4 billion in grants to support issues such as transitional housing for domestic violence victims, legal services for victims, elder abuse, children exposed to violence, violence against tribal women, violence against women with disabilities.

Now, I worked in this office for almost six years, and I saw firsthand how the grants, the training, the technical assistance made a profound difference in communities around the country.

And now for NIJ, VAWA has been a gift from heaven. It created a steady annual stream of funding that has enabled us to build a strong body of research in the area of violence against women that never would have happened without this legislation.

Since 1995, NIJ has funded more than 270 studies on violence against women, totaling nearly $80 million. The annual amount has fluctuated from year to year, but I'm happy to say that for FY2011, we are on course to receive another $3 million to devote to violence against women research.

Now, for obvious reasons, I can't go into all the findings, but I can tell you that because of VAWA, we know that protection orders can reduce recidivism if they are tailored to a victim's needs and used with vigorous prosecution and tough punishment for abusers. We know that sexual assault occurs in nearly half of the battering relationships in this country, and we know that 3.4 million people are stalked in the course of just one year.

So, through the research funding afforded by VAWA, we are constantly learning. As a matter of fact, NIJ is holding a stalking workshop tomorrow where we're bringing together researchers and practitioners to examine the critical research questions around stalking and where those gaps continue to exist, and we'll be sure to let you know what we learn.

Now, today, we've invited a group of dynamic individuals to share with you their thoughts on VAWA, including how VAWA has changed the lives of victims and their families; how it's impacted criminal justice, policy and practice; how the research has informed our approaches; and how we should proceed in looking at violence against women over the next 15 years.

So I'm going to introduce to you our panelists, and I'm going to ask each one of them, after I say your name, if you could come up to the stage and have a seat here.

Now, one woman is expected to show up any minute. Her name — she e mailed me right before the session started and said, “I'm on my way. Get started. I'll join you when I get there,” and when I tell you who she is, you'll realize why she's so busy. Her name is Lynn Rosenthal, and Lynn is the White House Advisor on Violence Against Women in the Office of the Vice President, the first time that this position has existed.

Lynn is a long time advocate for victims of sexual assault and domestic violence and has been the director of a women's shelter, the director of the Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence, and, most recently, she was the executive director of the National Network to End Domestic Violence. So we will welcome Lynn as soon as she walks through those doors.

The next person I'd like to introduce is Catherine Pierce. Catherine is currently the senior advisor to the Administrator of the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention at the Office of Justice Programs. Now, up until just a week ago, Catherine had been with the Office on Violence Against Women, and she had been there since the office was created back in 1995. She served as deputy director there, and she served two stints as acting director of the office. And there are few people who have a better understanding of the impact of VAWA than Catherine Pierce.

I'd like to ask Michael Paymar to come up to the stage. Michael is an early leader in the battered women's movement, and he was first elected in 1996 to serve in the Minnesota House of Representatives. He's the chair there of the Public Safety Finance Committee where he has fiscal oversight over the courts, over the Department of Corrections, the Department of Public Safety, Department of Human Rights and all the crime victim programs. And in his day job, he is the resource specialist for the Battered Women's Justice Project.

Karen, why don't you come on up?

Karen Carroll is a sexual assault nurse examiner, or a SANE, and she is the associate director of the Bronx Sexual Assault Response Team. She trains police and prosecutors and other professionals on sexual assault and the role of the SANE in the criminal justice system. She is a survivor of rape and has used her experience to improve the treatment of rape victims all across our country.

Barney, why don't you come on up?

Barney Melekian is the director of the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services or, as we call it, the COPS Office. His mission there is to advance the practice of community policing around the country. Prior to his appointment at COPS, he was the police chief in Pasadena, California for 13 years, and he was with the Santa Monica Police Department for 23 years, where he was awarded the Medal of Valor in 1978 and the Medal of Courage in 1980.

Now, each panelist is going to present for five minutes, and afterwards, I will pose a few questions to the panelists, and then I'm going to open it up to all of you, so that you'll have a chance to ask some questions.

Lynn, welcome. You have perfect, perfect timing. I already introduced you.


Lynn Rosenthal: Am I first?

Rose: You are. So, Lynn, why don't you come on up?

Lynn Rosenthal

Lynn Rosenthal: Thank you all very much. It's wonderful to be here with all of you, and I wish I had some interesting and exciting reason why I was late getting here, but it's just something not interesting and not exciting that happens sometimes in the government, but I'm very sorry I missed Paula's remarks. I'm a great admirer of your work and your commitment to this issue, so thank you so much for being here.

And thank you, Kris, so much. In the year's time that I've been in the White House, one of the greatest pleasures I've had is working closely with NIJ. You all are really working to build evidence based practices that will inform our work moving forward, and so I want to really give Kris and her whole team a big round of applause.


Rosenthal: And I also want to acknowledge the Office on Violence Against Women. Are you all here? No? Well, I want to say wonderful things about them.

The Office on Violence Against Women has an immense task. They administer more than 20 grant programs. They analyze emerging issues. They work on policy. And I visited with the office there, and just like at NIJ, for every person there, it's not simply a job. It's also a mission and a passion, so a big round of applause for the Office on Violence Against Women.


Rosenthal: And I bring you greetings from Vice President Biden. As you know, he just returned from an extensive foreign trip, so he was not able to be here with you today, but he greatly admires all of you, all of your work — researchers, practitioners, advocates — all the great work you're doing, and he thinks about this every day.

And he often tells the story that he found his true partners in working on the Violence Against Women Act when he met all the folks working on the front lines in battered women's shelters and rape crisis centers, and so you all and the work that you do is very much in his mind.

As I said, I've been at the White House for more than a — just about a year, and it's a tremendous honor to be working closely with our VAWA champion, Vice President Biden. And, you know, I was a shelter director in rural north Florida when I first read then Senator Biden's 1991 report, “A Week in the Life of American Women,” and this report described unspeakable acts of abuse that women had experienced in big cities and small towns all across this country, and it significantly influenced my own understanding of how violence affects women, our families and our communities. Over the next few years, then Senator Biden held hearings on domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking, and, finally, on September 13, 1994, the Violence Against Women Act was signed into law.

Those of us working on the front lines couldn't have imagined the changes that were about to occur. I think about the rural sheriff in Florida that started out by saying, “We just have no domestic violence here in our county,” to ended up really being a leader in the fight to stop it. I think about those first tables where we sat down together with law enforcement, prosecutors and victim advocates to draft model policies for responding to domestic violence and sexual assault calls, and I think about the judge sending a victim down the hall to meet with an advocate to learn more about her legal options. All of this happened and more.

I think particularly about the VAWA state planning process, and the real gift of VAWA, even more than the funding, although the funding has been critically important — VAWA sent more than $4 billion to communities all across the country to respond to domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking, but even more than the funding, VAWA brought people together.

And I remember when I was working in Florida, our very first VAWA planning process led by our governor's office, and they identified the critical need for rural services and responses in rural communities. And this process really brought out the best in all of us. The governor's office then gave that task to the state domestic violence coalition and we put up a big map of the state, and we looked and we identified more than 20 counties that had no services and no response, places that could be served with this brand new VAWA funding.

And our rural caucus looked at this map, and rather than everyone saying, “What's my piece of this pie? How can I get funding?” everybody said, “How can we bring life saving services in a coordinated response to women and families in these communities?” So the state VAWA planning process really brought out the best in people.

And VAWA brought about systemic changes as well. States changed their laws and policies, so that victims didn't shoulder the financial burden of filing for protective orders or getting forensic exams. Local jurisdictions changed the dangerous practice of requiring offenders and their victims to sit down at the table together, a mediation or couples counseling. States created mechanisms to enforce protective orders across state lines and across tribal lines, so that victims fleeing for safety could be protected. And as we learn more about how women and families were experiencing violence, VAWA was strengthened, and when the definition of dating violence was added into VAWA in 2000, 39 states then followed suit and now include dating violence in their civil protective orders.

In response to our understanding that housing needed to extend beyond emergency shelter, VAWA was amended to include funding for transitional housing and in 2005 to include protections for victims living in Section 8 and public housing. And in 2005, VAWA was also strengthened to train health care providers, raise awareness and make sure that responses to domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking are culturally relevant to communities being served.

But, in spite of all this incredible progress, still today our shelters are full, our hotlines are ringing, and for every victim who has come forward, we know that there are thousands more who still need help.

In response to where we are today, President Obama's 2011 proposed budget includes an unprecedented $730 million to address violence against women in communities all across the country. This is a $130 million increase over 2010 levels, and these funds are designed to assure core services, help victims find housing, improve legal assistance to victims, and make sure that every call for help is answered.

As we dialogue back and forth today, we are going to talk some more about what are our next steps as an administration, as a nation, and local communities moving forward, but I want to leave you with the words that the Vice President said when we celebrated the 15th anniversary at his house last September, and he said this, “Let us herald a new beginning. Let us keep the promise that we made to our daughters and our granddaughters 15 years ago today, not to reduce domestic violence and sexual assault, but to end it.”

Thank you, and I'm looking forward to your questions.


Catherine Pierce

Catherine Pierce: Well, Lynn has said so much of what I would have said, and as has Kris, but I will say this for a start. I'm sitting here looking at Barbara Hart, and I can say that 15 years ago when we went to conferences, a few of us who were concerned about violence against women — and Bernie was with us and Angela and some others — and we would try to stir up a lot of interest in the research community about violence against women; and we weren't looking out at rooms this large, and I am so grateful to all of you who've come and who've paid attention over the years and who've committed yourselves and your passion to doing this work side by side — the advocates and the practitioners in the field. It has made such a difference, and that has been one of the true impacts of the Violence Against Women Act, so thank you.

As Kris said, and as Lynn said, I think the coordinated community response is really more about, I think, the incredible success that advocates in this country have had in raising our awareness and our understanding about the dynamics of sexual and domestic violence and its impact on our culture.

When we talk about bringing people to the table, that was not an easy thing, and I was there at those beginning conversations. What made the difference was that you had police, prosecutors, judges and other criminal justice officials in large numbers sitting at a table with perhaps one or, maybe at the most, two advocates; but their voices were heard loud and they were heard strong and they were tenacious and they kept at it.

And sooner rather than later, what really, really made a difference and what made — created an impact was that law enforcement officers, prosecutors, judges and others in the system, probation officers, joined ranks with the advocates, and they started to place themselves in the skin of women like the women Paula described in her remarks. They started to understand what it was like to live in fear, and they started to understand why victims didn't always present so well in court. And they changed, and that shift continues.

We learned that judicial response matters. We learned that arrest matters, but we also learned that race matters, and one of the unintended consequences of the VAWA, unfortunately, that I also came to understand quite directly, is that just like in every other part of the work we do in criminal justice, we were arresting men of color disproportionately, and that is something that I think has been, as I said, an unintended consequence of the VAWA and something that we need to take very much care of in the future.

Women of color and men of color who do this work also challenged us to understand that the impact of the VAWA wasn't the same for everybody, that access to justice and access to services is different if you are a woman of color, and arrests and the way you are treated is different if you are a man of color.

So we have started in recent years, I think, to begin to engage in an honest conversation that access to justice and services is different and must come through community defined solutions that are not cookie cutters for every community.

The immigration provisions of the VAWA in 2000 provided access to services, especially legal advocacy to women who ordinarily would never have received it and may have found themselves back home in another country only to be perceived, by their family, as having left their children unintentionally and continue to go — they went back to more violent situations than they came from.

The other thing that the VAWA did in recent years, and it's been touched on, is the enormous amount of work that's been done in tribal and native communities, and that cannot be — the way that VAWA has addressed sexual violence has been extraordinary.

I want to touch on one other unintended consequence, and that is that I believe that since the VAWA has — since we've worked and lived with the VAWA all these years, women are losing custody of their children. Women of color are losing custody in the child protection system, and white women are losing custody through the courts to their abusers. And that's something that we also need, as we will talk further, to begin to address, but I think that has been an unintended consequence.

Finally, I think as we become more sophisticated about the impact of sexual and domestic violence in this country, we really do understand that trauma is at the root of so much of our work, and before she died, Susan Schechter did some terrific work in this field, and I wanted to name her and acknowledge that today and say that I think that that is something that is being moved forward. Particularly, as we look at the Attorney General's initiative on children exposed to violence, we will really be paying close attention to the impact of trauma and what successful interventions help to make life for children and their non abusing parent whole again.

And then, finally, I also do want to add that I think we were very successful in the early days in addressing domestic violence, but I think that we had a lot of catching up to do, and still do to address sexual violence. Thank heaven for the Sexual Assault Services Act and the Sexual Assault Services Program, and part of that $730 million that Lynn mentioned includes $30 million for direct services, for sexual assault services, and we can't ever forget that rape victims are also part of this equation.

So those are my few contributions.


Michael Paymar

Michael Paymar: Well, thank you very much. It's really an honor to be here on the 15th anniversary of the signing of the Violence Against Women Act, and I was pleased to have been here five years ago when we celebrated the 10th anniversary.

And, as Kris said, I chair the Public Safety Finance Division in the Minnesota House of Representatives, and I can tell you firsthand from my years as a legislator how important the federal laws and VAWA are to our state, the statutory compliance with those federal laws, the resources that have gone to research for training, for demonstration projects in Minnesota and across the country that have helped us look at some of the promising practices around the state and said, “Is this what we want to do in Minnesota?”

And I just want to take the few minutes that I have here to acknowledge two Minnesota women, and the first woman that I'd like to acknowledge is a woman that many of you know, and that's my friend and colleague and mentor over 30 years, Ellen Pence. And Ellen just recently received an award from the Advocates for Human Rights in Minneapolis a few weeks ago, and I know that if she was here that she would remind us of the importance of the words in the Violence Against Women Act. She'd want us to remember what those words mean, and she'd want us to remember the gendered nature of domestic violence and sexual violence, and not surrender to those who are repackaging a lot of old ideas that we debated 30 years ago and trying to redefine the issue. I think she would be very clear that we have to understand the history of violence against women.

And the second woman from Minnesota that I'd like to acknowledge — and some of you remember her — she was a great friend to our movement, and that was Sheila Wellstone. And she was a friend of mine, as was her husband, and she was passionate about ending domestic violence. She worked tirelessly to pass the reauthorization in 2000 and just had such a passion for this work, and, unfortunately, she and her husband, Senator Paul Wellstone, died in a plane crash in Minnesota in 2002. But, about a month before she died, we were talking together, and she was saying, you know, she knew of the work that she had done with men who batter, and she said, “You know, what are we doing about the men?” And she was absolutely determined that the next thing we should start focusing on is this whole other piece of the puzzle, and that is men.

And I want to just leave you with three things that I think about when we think about men who are usually the perpetrators of violence against women, and I'd want to offer my hope for a few new directions. And that is, number one, that I think that we need to do more in the future to contain the most dangerous offenders.

Ed Gondolf, a researcher that many of you know, has said that there's about 25 percent of offenders in our communities who come in contact with the criminal justice system who are the most dangerous, who have the most potential to commit horrible violence against a woman or to kill a woman, and we can do more to monitor, track and contain this group of people.

And the second thing is that I don't know about around the country, but I know in Minnesota, we've had a rash of murder suicides, and I think that we need to do more than providing risk assessments for victims of domestic violence, which is certainly important. But I think we need to do more to identify those men who are not involved in the criminal justice system as being at risk for killing their partner — and that is getting to and training people in the mental health community, chemical dependency community, clergy, employee assistance, et cetera, et cetera.

And then the final thing — and I know I was in your workshop on the research on domestic violence and the research on sexual violence, and both of those panels yesterday said something about prevention, and I think when we talk about men, this is an important thing that we need to be working on in the future. We can have all the laws and all the training that we want, but until we start changing the hearts and minds of boys and young men and men in our culture, the violence will continue.

And so, in my view, as long as that there is — that boys and men are bombarded with cultural messages about what it means to be a man and what it means to be a woman in our society, as long as we have — that boys and men have a sense of entitlement, there'll continue to be domestic violence; and as long as women are objectified, there will continue to be sexual violence and growing trafficking in our country, and violent pornography that's a click away on a computer, Internet, that boys are using in increasing numbers.

So we have a lot to do, but I'd like to congratulate you on your work. Maybe someday we'll have an anniversary where this was all just looking back and history, and we've moved forward violence free.

Thank you so much.


Karen D. Carroll

Karen D. Carroll: Good afternoon. Kris asked me to come and talk to you about how the Violence Against Women Act has changed my life, and so I thought I'd make this really personal because it really has changed my life.

On July 9, 1994, I woke up, walked to my doorway, opened my bedroom door, and there was a man standing there. He was naked, except for a pair of green plaid boxer shorts. In one hand was two ropes; in another hand was a knife. That man was my husband. He had been removed from my home three weeks earlier because I got an order of protection when he pulled that same knife on me when we were having an argument about a relationship that he was having with another woman.

He subsequently was able to subdue me. I was tied to the bed. A scarf was stuffed in my mouth. The knife was put to my throat, and I was raped in the bedroom of my own home. Now, I did get away, and as bad as that nightmare was, my nightmare did not end there. It continued when I went to a local hospital.

Now, at the time of my assault, I was a nurse manager of an emergency room five minutes from my home. I chose not to go there because I'm thinking how do you ask the staff to do the — what we used to call “rape kit” on the boss, so I chose to go to a different hospital. When I got to that facility, the first nurse I met was a triage nurse. She knew me; I knew her. She was crying; I was crying. We were both useless. They stick me in a room, and I wait and I wait and I wait.

Then in comes the doctor. He doesn't look at me. He doesn't talk to me. He walks past me, goes over to a cabinet, takes a box off the shelf, opens the box, and begins to read the directions, at which point I said to myself, “He doesn't have a clue, he doesn't know what he's doing.”

Now, it's a nightmare. I mean, who wants to go in an emergency room for sutures and have the doctor read the package on how to suture or cut. Not good, right? Unfortunately, that's what was happening to me, but, fortunately for me, I was a nurse. So his not knowing what he was doing was probably the best thing that happened to me that day because it now put me in control.

I said to him, “Doc, if you let me, I'll show you how to do this,” and I showed him how to collect my evidence from my body and how to use that box to get evidence that I knew I was going to need because I knew I was going to go forward, and I knew I was going to take my husband to court. So that worked for me.

But what if I wasn't a nurse? What if I was just an average Jane Doe who had the courage to show up at that emergency room? And what if I didn't know what to do? What if I didn't know what to expect? What then?

So how did VAWA help me? Well lucky enough, VAWA passed about two months after my horrible experience in that hospital, and in 1995, the county that I lived in got some money that was funneled through our state, and they began thinking about how can we better improve services to sexual assault survivors. And the clinic wrote an article in The New York Times. Some legislators read the article, they secured a grant, and they decided they were going to set up a program in Westchester County.

By accident, I read the newspaper, and I said, “Whoa! They're going to train nurses to do exams on rape victims?” I said, “Well, if I can show the doc how to do my own, I'll bet I can do someone else's.” So I found out where they were meeting, and I just kind of showed up. They didn't kick me out. I joined the task force and became the coordinator for the Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner program in the County of Westchester where we train registered nurses, and there were exactly four of us, but we provided 24 hour a day, 7 day a week coverage of forensic examiners to 9 of the 10 hospitals in my county.

I then, thank goodness, was able to go on, and now I'm working in the Sexual Assault Response Team in the Bronx. As a result of monies, programs have flourished. There are hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner and Sexual Assault Forensic Examiner programs around the country so that thousands of women will not have to go through what I went through in the hospital.

Unfortunately, I can't say that every woman or every man or every child that's assaulted won't have to go through what I had to go through, but we're getting there. The arm has reached out. I've been able to travel around the country training, like Kris said, doctors, nurses, law enforcement officers. I had the pleasure of training police officers from Italy about what goes on in that exam room; just three days ago, JAG officers from the United States Army about what goes on in that exam room, and then last September through the Department of Justice, I was lucky enough to travel to Nairobi, Kenya, to train doctors and nurses there for two weeks about what goes on in that exam room.

So what happened to me in 1994 was probably the worst nightmare of my life; however, I've come to realize that 1994 did not happen to me because of what I did but because of everything that I will do. And thanks to VAWA, I'm allowed to do that.

So thank you all so much for being here, and we look forward to your questions.


Bernard K. Melekian

Bernard K. Melekian: First of all, I'd like to thank Kris and the National Institute of Justice for the opportunity to be here, and I'd certainly like to thank the other members of the panel. Your courage and commitment to this issue humbles me, quite frankly.

I come here really to tell you a story about what it was like to be a cop over 30 years ago when VAWA didn't exist and when the levels of awareness that everybody in this room now sort of accepts didn't exist.

In the early days of being a young police officer, the call that you did not want to get was — in California, it was referred to as a “415 family.” Four -fifteen was a section, penal code section, for disturbing the peace. It wasn't referred to as domestic violence. It was simply a disturbance of the peace that involved family members, and there were implications to that terminology. First of all, that it was a family matter, that it was a private matter, that the intrusion of the police into this event was really undesirable, and your goal was to leave as quickly as possible.

In those cases where abuse had occurred, whether it was physical or sexual, your action depended solely on the willingness of the victim — almost always the woman — the willingness of the victim to press charges, to stand in front of her husband or this guy, whoever was there, and say, “I want him arrested,” knowing that sending him to jail carried with it a very uncertain future, both in terms of what was likely to happen to him, in terms of what was likely to happen to your livelihood, in terms of your ability to continue to feed your children, and all those things had consequences.

It also was a reality that police officers, then and now, reflect the culture from which they come, and there was, I think, a belief that this was a private matter, that it was going to be a very extensive and involved reporting apparatus that might or might not matter, and you, quite frankly, a number of people — it was very common to try to be “certain,” quote/unquote, that the woman actually wanted to follow through with this. And what you ended up doing very often was talking her out of doing anything.

And those cases where violence had occurred and you wanted to do something and then you could tell that the woman was not going to do anything about it, in California at least, we used to hope that the husband, which had often occurred actually, had ripped the phone out of the wall. The reason, just to show you how the law has changed and VAWA has helped things, is because in California at that time, unless you inflicted what was known as “great bodily harm,” assaulting your spouse was a misdemeanor, but ripping the telephone out of the wall was a felony. And you could arrest somebody for ripping the phone out of the wall, and very often, if the phone had been ripped out of the wall, you could ask them, “Did you do that?” And, usually, they weren't thinking anything about it and they'd say, “Yeah. Big deal,” and that was your solution.

As you bring — as this comes forward, as the law changed — and California's law predated VAWA to some extent in the sense of bringing awareness to this issue — much has been talked about, about rape and sexual assault is not about sex, it is about power. Domestic violence is not about anything except power and about one human being intimidating another. What VAWA did and what the laws did and the cultural change did was to bring about a recognition that this situation was not private, it was not about the family, it was not about a man's inherent right to control his household, but it was, in fact, abuse; it was, in fact, a crime.

And, over the course of time, over the course of my over-30-year career in this business, what has changed is two profound things. One is the attitude of the police officers. Young police officers today are far more aware and far more sensitive about this issue, which is not to say that, you know, we're where we need to be, but there is a recognition that this is a real problem that must be addressed.

And, secondly and perhaps most importantly — and I think at the end of the day, this may be one of VAWA's most important contributions — it is the attitude of the victims. The victims no longer — well, I shouldn't say no longer, but less — view this issue as their fault.

One of the speakers mentioned the number of times that women think that somehow they brought this on themselves. That attitude was incredibly common, especially later on in my career when I was a detective and I was interviewing these victims in more depth. The number of excuses that they would come up with about why they had somehow caused this, that has changed profoundly over time.

So I leave you with a couple of thoughts, and I want to echo the representative from Minnesota. I do think that as a society, we have these meetings, and we have training, and we have awareness, and we talk about the fact that domestic violence and sexual assault and all these things are not acceptable, but the messages that we send out through our media and through our music and through all those things are absolutely incongruent with that. They absolutely reflect the exact opposite of that, and they appeal to the absolute worst in people. And we ought not to be surprised that this issue continues and will continue until that is addressed.

And, secondly, as we need to — and I know that both the President's funding and the efforts of the Vice President who has been a tireless champion about this issue — is to remember that at the end of the day, as our last speaker so eloquently pointed out, victimization is an attitude. Victimization is a decision. You may not have any control over what happens to you, but you sure as heck have control over what you do with it.

So thank you very much.


Discussion Part I

Kristina Rose: Thank you to all our panelists for those remarks. I do a lot of domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking panels, and I think Barney used the word “humbled.” I'm always humbled by the voices of the people that do this work.

But I'd like to start a little bit of a conversation here, and I'd like to touch on something that — actually that Michael talked about, and that is the role of men in our work to reduce and eventually eliminate violence against women. And I was wondering if the panelists could think about how we can get men more involved and if there are any programs that you're aware of that may be having an impact now, any work that is being done.

And would — Michael, are you comfortable starting that conversation off?

Michael Paymar: Is this on?

Rose: Yes.

Paymar: Well, I think that there's a — you know, as was mentioned in one of the panels yesterday, the CDC is starting to take the issue of primary prevention much more seriously. So there are a number of organizations throughout the country, but it's just beginning where men are actually getting involved and challenging these beliefs and attitudes.

And, you know, it's sort of like this thing that happened out in California a couple of years ago where this young woman was raped at a high school, gang raped, and all of these other kids are standing around cheering and taking pictures of it. Well, how does that happen? I mean, those kinds of beliefs and attitudes, I mean, it's going to take a fundamental change in how men relate to boys and some of the things you were talking about, just the messages that our culture gives.

So I would like to — I know in Minnesota, there's talk about how comprehensive sex ed. has been held back from a lot of school districts, but we can do that, we can also have comprehensive healthy relationship programs for schools. There's lots of things that we can do, but it's an area that we just haven't had much of a dialogue about.

Rose: Catherine, I know at the Office on Violence Against Women, you all had been involved in a couple of newer initiatives, is that correct, with some of the sports franchises in the United States?

Pierce: Right. And I think particularly in connection with college campuses, I was really — I wouldn't say pleased, but I was glad Paula raised the issue about the University of Virginia episode which, in my mind and in the minds of so many of us, I think, could have been prevented.

Going along the lines of what Michael was talking about, I think that if we begin to — whether it's with college and high school athletes, boys and girls, men and women, begin to talk about this early, early, early, I do think the future of the VAWA is about prevention, and it is about, not just raising awareness, but raising our consciousness, so that we can act in the same way that we would have in the 1960s if we saw something happening that was racist.

I think it's upon — behooves all of us to teach our children to intervene and to take a stand, but when you see something that really worries you, like I'm sure the students at University of Virginia did, that they have the courage and they have a place to go and talk about it and figure out what to do about it. And I think that has to be the future of the VAWA, and, in part, I'm really thrilled that I'll be working in the coming years with the Office of Juvenile Justice because I think prevention is where this is.

When you talk about girls who are being initiated into gangs and raped into gangs, we can do something about that in high schools and in colleges and, frankly, in elementary and middle schools.

Rose: Yep, I hear you.

Lynn Rosenthal: You know, Kris, I wanted to mention that part of our work with men is about their experiences growing up and witnessing violence and the kind of trauma that men have experienced, and the few resources that were available as young men grew up, for them to disclose trauma, I particularly think about the intersection between domestic violence and child sexual abuse. And I'm sure some of you are looking at that, but part of our work with men, I think, is about that piece, where do they go with those experiences that they had in violent homes.

But the second piece I wanted to mention is that the Vice President has talked about this whole issue of cultural change and the voices of men from the very beginning, and I'm not sure that I even really remembered that until recently. He was going to visit the Center for Abuse Prevention in Peoria, Illinois, so we sat down to think about what he wanted to say to the group, and he remembered the 1998 — 1988 Rhode Island study of 1,700 youth and their attitudes toward sexual violence. And that was so appalling to him that it played a major role in shaping his thinking about the Violence Against Women Act. The study was replicated about 10 years later with similar findings.

And so he's always thought about it, and so we have an opportunity now to think about it again and move forward into the future with these prevention messages.

Rose: Karen, I'm thinking about all of the sexual assault victims that you've worked with over the many years that you've been doing your work, and I'm wondering if there are any areas of sexual assault that are emerging, different trends that you're seeing in the types of victims that you are treating.

Karen D. Carroll: Well, unfortunately, I think we need to enhance the training that is given to service providers like myself.

I mean, just at lunch, we were having conversations about trafficking, and I've done over 600 exams, and I'm sure I've examined women who were victims of trafficking, but I didn't screen for that. The conversations never came up. I mean, these things are going on right next door to where we live, and we're not recognizing this.

So I think when we start to look at programs, we need some sort of standardization about curricula that we're using to train health care providers because a lot of people won't disclose victimization in general, but they are more likely to at least talk about some of these things with their doctor or their gynecologist or the nurse that does their physical exam or whoever runs health services on the college campus. So we need to better train health care providers for screening and not being afraid to ask questions.

As health care providers, we're always so — we want to be able to fix things. We want to be able to diagnose it and then make it go away, and so, when we know there's something we can't fix, we don't ask the questions, and we have to be able to look at things differently. So I think a lot of it has to do with training.

And as far as providing services, the funding that was earmarked by VAWA, it's wonderful, but in my experiences there are programs that started back in the '90s when my program started; they're no longer in existence because these were start up funds. But we need to look at sustainability, so what does it take to keep really good programs up and running? What do we need to do to get brand new programs off the ground? We all hear things like multidisciplinary teams, sexual assault response teams, family justice centers. How can we really get those good concepts, those programs that have been proven to work? How can we get them to everyone? Because, you know, access to services shouldn't be the luck of the draw of where you live. It should be something that everybody has access to. I know I went past your question, but I couldn't help it.


Rose: I mean, I'll always let you talk as much as you want to, Karen.

Barney — and before we take a few questions from the audience — I just wanted to ask you a question. I think one of the most important impacts that VAWA has had — and you touched on this, a couple of you did — is the training of law enforcement officers who are often the first responders to victims of sexual assault and stalking and domestic violence.

And I was wondering if you could say something about how can we best engage police chiefs, because I know that a lot of — there's culture shifts that need to happen. They need to happen at the top, and do you have any advice for how we can go forward and continue to bring police chiefs into the fold and get them to buy into these issues?

Bernard K. Melekian: I think — is this on?

Rose: Poor Barney, I didn't prepare him for that question.


Melekian: Is this working? I don't know if it's —

Rose: I think so. Can you hear him?

Audience Member: No.

Melekian: I think there is a need. I suspect that if you had a room full of police chiefs and you talked about this issue intellectually, you would find very little disagreement about its importance or about its significance. Everybody would agree that this is a priority.

But if you drill into the operations of the individual police departments and the amount of training that's devoted to it or the pressure or lack of pressure to clear radio calls, to clear investigations, is that intellectual commitment being matched by operational protocols, that, I think, is the challenge.

I think we've moved past for the most part — I think we've moved past the debate about is this an important issue, is this a valid issue. Somebody pointed out a couple of different things. I think we're beyond that, but there is still — from a line officer's perspective, there is still the frustration.

I can remember arresting men for domestic violence and taking them to the station and still be filling out the report when the victim was standing at the front counter to bail out her husband. He was going to leave. The suspect was going to leave before I did. So there had to be, you know — that operational protocol needed to change, and I think that's what the focus should be with the police chiefs. It's not commitment to the idea, but what are their officers actually being asked to do?

Discussion Part II

Kristina Rose: Yeah, that's a very good point.

I'd like to take — I think we're running a little bit over, but I would like to offer the opportunity if anyone would like a chance to ask one of our panelists a question. I realize some of you have planes to catch, and this has been, you know, three days of listening and talking, but is there anyone? We have a couple of microphones set up around the room. Would anyone like to ask a question?

Oh, yes, ma'am, please.

Diane Kupelian: What are other countries doing or what are their rates like, and what can we learn from them?

Rose: I'm sorry. I didn't quite hear that. Did you ask about —

Kupelian: Are there other countries that have better outcomes or less, fewer, lower rates, and what can we learn from them, if so?

Rose: Panelists, is anyone familiar with what's going on in other countries?

Catherine Pierce: I think, without question, we can always learn from what other countries are doing. I'm very hopeful that the International Violence Against Women Act will be passed in the near future, and that that will provide us with opportunities to exchange ideas and to exchange what we've learned through the years.

I will say that when I was at the Office on Violence Against Women, I was always so heartened by the visits that we received from delegations of men and women from around the world who came to us to learn from us, and they were always in awe of how much we were getting done and how much money we had, and they wanted to learn about our legislation and how to pass it.

But what struck me always in listening to their stories was that each community, as I said in my remarks, has its own way of approaching this problem, and I have no doubt that if we were to spend time in villages and small communities around this world, we would learn so much more than we know now. I have no doubt.

Lynn Rosenthal: I mean, this is a global problem. One in three women will be victims of violence around the world. And what I have seen in working and meeting with some of those same groups is that grassroots groups of women around the world figure out very creative ways, sometimes with very few resources, and that we have a lot to learn from what other countries are doing as well.

Michael Paymar: Can I just say one quick thing? Because I've had the opportunity to travel internationally doing this work over the years, and one thing, just an aside to this but I was struck by, is when you hear about the explanations or the — that batterers give or the rationalizations that they give for why they assault their partners, they are exactly the same as the ones that I have heard in my batterers groups for the last 20 years. They say the same thing. So it really is sort of an attitudinal shift that has to be made, not just in this country, but globally, and it's clearly a gender issue wherever you go.

Pierce: I remember I was with the police chief in Singapore, and I asked him about the issue of domestic violence, and he told me they didn't have any.


I think it's — I don't even know what to say about that.

Karen D. Carroll: I've had the pleasure, like I said, to meet police officers from Italy, and I was quite surprised. And these were detectives, and they didn't have a very organized way of even investigating sexual assault and domestic violence cases.

We had three visitors to the Bronx just this summer from Japan, and they were lawyers who were taking it upon themselves to begin to look at laws and to make changes because they had one person trained to do forensic interviews of children in all of Japan, one person for a population of that size.

Kenya just recently, recently wrote and passed a Sexual Offense Act, and that was in 2009. They didn't have any laws that spoke to it before that. Before we went over there to train, nurses and doctors who actually provided the care to victims, weren't allowed to testify in court. As a matter of fact, nurses couldn't testify at all. So a patient was seen in the hospital. The police surgeon would read the record, and then the police surgeon would make the determination as to whether or not this person was raped or sexually assaulted.

And the person that jumped to my mind is you're asking a medical person to draw a legal conclusion. As bad as we are, other countries are looking to us, and I think with the resources and the knowledge that we have, we should be the leaders in this effort throughout the world. And so we have a lot of work to do.

Rosenthal: I will say the Department of State has really showed a very strong leadership role in working with the UN last fall. When the United States chaired the Security Council, the UN passed Resolution 1888, putting teeth into coordination of responses to sexual violence in areas of armed conflict. We've seen the State Department make a major commitment to this issue. So I really believe we are making our voice heard around the world, and we still have quite a lot of work to do.

Rose: We are running over. I know we have two people that are going to ask questions. Can we do it real quick? We'll give you both the opportunity. Sir?

Solomon Liao: Sure. Hi. I'm a geriatrician from the University of California.

I've not yet heard in this panel discussion much about violence against older women. Given the aging of America, would the panel like to comment about the challenges of addressing violence against older women?

Pierce: Well, I'll say right now — and I'm so glad you raised that — that I believe just today, the Associate Attorney General, Tom Perrelli, is with the director of the Office on Violence Against Women, Judge Sue Carbon, and they're meeting with a group of women in California to talk about this very issue, women whose lives have been devastated by abuse over many years' time and who are older women. And without question, work like the National Coalition Against Abuse in Later Life and many of the other coalitions around the country, the work that they're doing to raise awareness about this issue is extraordinary, and we cannot, cannot ever leave that population out. And I'm so glad you raised that because it's absolutely so significant and very much a part of the VAWA.

Bernard K. Melekian: One of the investigative points and one of the other speakers had touched on it, this whole issue of abuse and sexual assault is really — has very little to do with age, race or anything else, but there is, I think, a tendency to make an assumption that is a false one, that there is some sort of magic age at which this stops being an issue. And from both statistical studies and just from operational experience, it's not true, and so I very much appreciate that the question was raised because it is an important one.

Rose: Good point. Yes, ma'am. You'll be our last question.

Janice Fride: Thank you very much. I want to thank all of you for the work you've been doing on this topic. It's tremendous.

I'm a clinical psychologist from Maryland, and I just thought it was extremely interesting that the two men on the panel are the ones who talked about the information that is coming in, in terms of video games and music and what have you, forming the opinions of boys as they are growing into young men and all of the — just the whole media is such a big problem in this area in terms of really objectifying women.

And I don't know exactly where we start on this, but there's just no question at all that that has an effect. Persuasion works. That's why we have commercials, and there are meta analyses that have been done in the American Psychological Association Journal, of years and years and years of research on this. If you see something, you learn from it, and over and over, you learn even more.

I don't know exactly where to start with this in the criminal justice field, but, if you have any ideas of where you would like to see all of us work on it, I'd love to hear what you have to say.

Melekian: I think it would — and I don't know where it would land legally, but, at some point, some definitive work that sort of academically establishes that connection is critical because, to me, the whole free speech argument, which is what clouds all of this and sort of prevents us from dealing with Internet pornography and dealing with just the whole messaging that goes on. I think people always raise it as, “Well, there's no linkage, there's no causal linkage that you can show.” And I think for the academic researchers in the audience, that's an important place to go. We need to have something besides somebody's personal opinion to point to.

Rose: It does exist. I think Barney makes a good point, and it's one that we've been trying to make throughout this entire conference is the purpose of the research is to confirm what we feel in our gut, right? To be able to go to the judge, to be able to go to the mayor with the evidence to show that what is happening is real, that there's scientific evidence to support what we know is happening out there.

So I think that's a perfect way to end this panel. I want to thank the troopers in this room who have stayed with us all of this time. Thank you so much. Thank you to our panelists. You were magnificent. Thank you, Paula Zahn, for your remarks.


Rose: And I will officially adjourn the NIJ conference for 2010. Thank you.


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NIJ Conference
Plenary Panel
June 2010

Moderator: Kristina Rose, Acting Director, National Institute of Justice Panelists:

  • Lynn Rosenthal, White House Advisor on Violence Against Women, Office of the Vice President of the United States
  • Catherine Pierce, Deputy Director, Office on Violence Against Women, U.S. Department of Justice
  • Michael Paymar, Representative, Minnesota House of Representatives
  • Bernard Melekian, Office of Community Oriented Policing Services, U.S. Department of Justice
  • Karen Carroll, Associate Director, Bronx Sexual Assault Response Team
  • Question and Answer Session

NIJ Conference 2010 Highlights

Date created: July 13, 2010