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U.S. Department of Health and Human Services,
Administration for Children and Families
Domestic violence encompasses all acts of violence against women within the context of family or intimate relationships. It is an issue of increasing concern because it has a negative effect on all family members, especially children. Domestic violence is not confined to any one socioeconomic, ethnic, religious, racial, or age group. It is the leading cause of injury to women in the United States, where they are more likely to be assaulted, injured, raped or killed by a male partner than by any other type of assailant. Statistics show that 29 percent of all violence against women by a single offender is committed by an intimate -- a husband, ex-husband, boyfriend, or ex-boyfriend. Accurate information on the extent of domestic violence is difficult to obtain because of extensive under- reporting. However, it is estimated that as many as four million instances of domestic abuse against women occur annually in the U.S.
This violence takes a devastating toll on children who are exposed to its cruelty. Approximately 826,000 children are abused by their parents each year. Children whose mothers are victims of wife battery are twice as likely to be abused themselves as those children whose mothers are not victims of abuse. When children witness violence in the home, they have been found to suffer many of the symptoms that are experienced by children who are directly abused.
Through the Family Violence Prevention and Services Act, the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) is responsible for several activities which address domestic violence. The Family Violence Prevention and Services Act was enacted as Title III of the Child Abuse Amendments of 1984, and was reauthorized and amended for FY 1995 through FY 2000 by the Violent Crime Control and Law Empowerment Act of 1994 (the Crime Bill).
The Administration for Children and Families awards grants to State agencies, Territories, and Indian Tribes for the provision of shelter services to victims of family violence and their dependents and for related services, such as alcohol and substance abuse prevention and family violence prevention counseling. These Federal funds supplement many already established community-based family violence prevention and services activities. They also allow States and Tribes to expand current service programs and to establish additional new centers in rural and underserved areas, on Native American reservations, and in Alaskan Native Villages and Regional Corporation areas. In most areas, there is private sector as well as State and local funding for these emergency shelters.
ACF funds five national resource centers which provide information, technical assistance, and research findings via toll-free telephone numbers.
In 1995, ACF awarded a grant to the Texas Council on Family Violence to establish a national, multi-lingual, toll-free telephone hotline for victims of domestic violence. Available 24 hours every day, the hotline provides information and referral services, counseling, and assistance to victims of domestic violence, their children, other family members, and the general public. Hotline counselors are also available for non-English speakers and for people who are hearing impaired. The hotline operates in all 50 States, the District of Columbia, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands.
HHS' Administration for Children and Families, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration contribute funding for the hotline.
ACF's Family Preservation and Family Support Program also provides funds to States to work with families at risk and in crisis. The first step to keeping children safe is to provide safety for parents. To strengthen families, parents learn to raise healthy children non-violently in caring environments. Children at risk from abuse and neglect receive the benefits of early supportive services that promote positive parenting and stable home environments. In FY 2001, $305 million is available to support Family Preservation and Family Support Services.
The Crime Bill passed in September 1994 strengthened ongoing efforts by the Department of Health and Human Services to prevent violence and crime. DHHS social and public health programs in the Crime Bill offer positive alternatives to youth, protect women and children from violence, help alleviate conditions that may lead to crime and violence, and promote a better understanding of violence.
Family Violence/Battered Women's Shelters help provide critical services to women who are, or are at risk of becoming, victims of violence in their homes. Women who are victims of domestic violence have safe places to go. A national hotline for victims has been established to help women protect themselves and their children. Funds also support the establishment of community- and school-based programs. These activities reflect HHS' ongoing focus on the connections among child abuse, child welfare, and domestic violence. In FY 2001, $134 million is available for Domestic Violence/Battered Women's Shelters.
The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), passed as part of the Crime Bill, is landmark bipartisan legislation combining tough new penalties with programs to prosecute offenders and help women victims of violence.
VAWA was authorized to provide $1.6 billion over five years to hire more prosecutors and improve domestic violence training among prosecutors, police officers, and health and social services professionals. It provides for more shelters, counseling services, and research into causes and effective public education campaigns. In addition, VAWA establishes new laws that enable victims to sue in federal court and allow law enforcement officers to pursue perpetrators across state lines.
This document is not necessarily endorsed by the Almanac of Policy Issues. It is being preserved in the Policy Archive for historic reasons.