Evaluation of the STOP Block Grants to Combat Violence Against Women Act of 1994: The Violence Against Women Act of 1994 (1996 Report)

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Document date: March 01, 1996
Released online: March 01, 1996

This project was supported by Grant No. 95-WT-NX-0005 awarded by the National Institute of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice. Points of view in this document are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the official position of policies of the U.S. Department of Justice.

Conclusions are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the staff members, officers, trustees, advisory groups, or the funders of the Urban Institute.

The entire report is available in PDF format.

Highlights from the Report

The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), Title IV of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 (P.L. 103-322), provides for Law Enforcement and Prosecution Grants to states under Chapter 2 of the Safe Streets Act. The grants are "to assist States, Indian tribal governments, and units of local government to develop and strengthen effective law enforcement and prosecution strategies to combat violent crimes against women, and to develop and strengthen victim services in cases involving violent crimes against women." This report documents the federal and state activities and accomplishments in the initial year of implementing the resulting "STOP Violence Against Women" grants program. It was developed under a competitively awarded grant from the National Institute of Justice to provide a basis for reporting on the progress and impact of the program.

At the federal level, the Justice Department moved quickly to translate the legislative concept to a functional reality. The Violence Against Women Grants Office (VAWGO) was established in the Office of Justice Programs (OJP) and program rules and application procedures were promptly assembled. Grants were awarded within weeks of application to VAWGO; implementation plans were approved in a timely manner.

One key to timely implementation was the technical assistance that OJP provided to grantees to help them prepare state plans which would qualify for funding. A conference, "Collaborating to STOP Violence Against Women," was held in July 1995; teams from all 56 states and territories attended. Most state teams included six representatives such as state administrators, police officers, prosecutors, domestic violence advocates and service providers, sexual assault advocates and service providers, and court managers or judges. Representatives from approximately 25 national groups attended, including the National District Attorneys Association, the American Prosecutors Research Institute, the National Resource Center on Domestic Violence, the National Coalition Against Sexual Assault, and the International Association of Chiefs of Police. Approximately 450 people participated in the conference. Following the conference, opportunities were provided for grantees to visit promising programs and to interact frequently with OJP staff and personnel from the STOP Violence Against Women Technical Assistance Project.

In fiscal year 1995, STOP grant awards totaled $23.5 million to states through formula grants and approximately $1 million to Indian tribal governments. Other program expenditures included approximately $1 million for evaluation activities, $250,000 for technical assistance to states and territories, and $260,000 for federal management and administration of the STOP program. The second-year evaluation activities will begin to address the impact of the VAWA programs. In addition, other evaluation activities are addressing prosecution strategies, stalking, community coordination in response to partner violence, sexual victimization of college women, and coordinated response to domestic violence.

Progress Towards Compliance with the Legislative Requirement That States and Territories Minimize the Financial Burden on Victims

A review of the approved plans submitted by grantees indicates the following progress and accomplishments. Grant recipients were required to ensure that victims bear no personal expense for forensic medical examinations related to filing a charge of sexual assault. Thirty-seven states already were in compliance with this requirement. Eight states or territories moved rapidly to make the necessary changes in their legislation during 1995 to come into compliance with the VAWA mandates, and four additional states made necessary regulatory changes. Although specific actions taken by the remaining seven states and territories were not described in the plans, all states and territories certified in writing that they were in compliance with this requirement when they applied for their STOP grant.

A second requirement for minimizing victim financial burden is that states and territories must ensure that victims incur no out-of-pocket expenses for court costs for filing either civil or criminal complaints of domestic violence, by either waiving these fees or paying for them. OJP has not canvassed states to learn their status on the filing fees mandate, since states have until September 1996 to comply. However, it is known that three states (Arkansas, Tennessee, and Utah) passed legislation in 1995 that brought them into compliance with this VAWA requirement.

Most States and Territories Plan To Distribute STOP Funds to Law Enforcement, Prosecution, and Victim Services, as Mandated

The legislation requires that grantees distribute at least 25 percent of their STOP funds to each of the following areas: law enforcement, prosecution, and victim services. Grantees have two years to comply with this requirement and have not completed the distribution of the funds received this year. However, our review of the plans indicates that most grantees are aware of, and moving toward, this objective. Fifty states and territories provided information on plans for allocating funds across these service areas. The planned allocations in each area were distributed as follows:

  • Law enforcement. Approximately half the plans (27) planned to distribute exactly 25 percent of their funds to law enforcement, and 13 plans, over 25 percent. Ten plans indicated that less than 25 percent of the funds received this year were allocated for law enforcement.
  • Prosecution. Twenty-seven plans also indicated an intention to distribute exactly 25 percent of their funds to prosecution and 14 planned to spend over 25 percent in this area. Nine grantees planned to spend less than 25 percent on prosecution this year.
  • Victim services. The large majority of the plans with information on fund allocation indicated an intention to spend 25 percent or more of the STOP funds for victim services: 21 grantees planned to spend exactly 25 percent in this area, while 25 grantees plan to spend over 25 percent. Only four grantees planned to spend less than 25 percent of their funds this year on victim services.

Review of the Specific Activities Listed in the Approved Plans Indicates a Wide Range of Activities, but Close Adherence to the Legislative Intent

The legislation permits grants to be used for training of law enforcement personnel and prosecutors. Specific training activities described in the plans include: 1) expanding training requirements to be effective statewide; 2) creating special seminars, in-service courses, and "roll-call" training packages; 3) developing multi-disciplinary training for law enforcement, prosecution, judges, and victim services; 4) developing training for prosecutors for date rape cases; 5) developing or updating training curricula; and 6) training process-servers on issues related to domestic violence cases.

Specific plans to develop innovative policies and procedures include: 1) developing model law enforcement protocols; 2) developing a domestic violence manual for police and/or prosecutors; 3) supporting attendance at conferences where innovative policies, procedures, and protocols might be shared; 4) establishing an oversight committee to identify criminal justice system problems and supervise efforts to alleviate them; 5) expanding the availability of free legal services for the preparation of protection orders; 6) creating procedures to honor the protection orders issued by other jurisdictions (full faith and credit); 7) developing bench books for judges and court personnel; 8) developing protocols for inter-jurisdictional issues among city, county, state, tribal, and federal jurisdictions; 9) promoting collaboration among the criminal, civil, and juvenile courts; and 10) establishing statewide councils and coalitions.

Most plans stated that victim services will be expanded, often through hiring new staff. Some plans also detailed their intent to recruit and train more volunteers. Other activities related to victim services include: 1) creating a statewide emergency response 800 telephone number; 2) developing a network of translators for various languages; 3) exploring the feasibility of developing safe homes in counties without shelters; 4) expanding sexual assault services in rural areas; 5) creating multi-disciplinary teams to respond to domestic violence and sexual assault; 6) exploring the feasibility of mobile teams to serve remote areas of the state; 7) creating a videotape describing the procedures for filing a domestic violence complaint; 8) developing questionnaires to collect service evaluation data from domestic violence and sexual assault service users; 8) providing a variety of specific technical assistance; and 8) training medical personnel and victim service professionals.

Planned improvements to establish statewide data systems for tracking sexual assault and/or domestic violence cases were mentioned in many plans. Other specific activities include: 1) developing a jail release notification system; 2) conducting a statewide victimization survey; 3) providing investigative and communications equipment for domestic violence and sexual assault units within law enforcement; 4) providing fax machines to victim service agencies to improve communications; 5) developing a computerized system linking law enforcement, prosecution, and the courts to track domestic violence arrests, protection orders, violations, and convictions; 6) developing a computer-indexed repository for statewide domestic violence and sexual assault data, statistics, and reports; 7) developing standardized data collection instruments for both sexual assault and domestic violence services; and 8) data collection and evaluation activities, such as statewide needs assessments or victim impact surveys.

The Information in the Plans Often Did Not Include a Description of When and to Whom STOP Funds Would Be Distributed Within the State or Territory

Seven states expected to distribute STOP funds to subgrantees before the end of 1995, 8 states intended to have their subgrants awarded by January 1996, another 7 expected to make awards by March 1996, and 8 more expected to award subgrants by July 1996. The remaining state plans to make its award by October 1996. The remaining 25 states did not specify a timetable. Thirty-nine states and territories did not specify how many subgrants they planned to make; 11 states planned to make 10 or fewer subgrants; and 6 states planned to make between 11 and 33 subgrants.

Chapter 1: Introduction, Background, Legislative Intent


In 1994, Congress passed the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) as Title IV of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act (P.L. 103-322). This event marked a turning point in federal recognition of the extent and seriousness of violence against women, and a commitment to address the problem from the federal vantage point. One part of the Violence Against Women Act, the Law Enforcement and Prosecution Grants (Chapter 2 of the Safe Streets Act, a subpart of VAWA), provides grants "to assist States, Indian tribal governments, and units of local government to develop and strengthen effective law enforcement and prosecution strategies to combat violent crimes against women, and to develop and strengthen victim services in cases involving violent crimes against women." The Office of Justice Programs (OJP) within the Department of Justice administers these grants as the "STOP Violence Against Women" grants program (the acronym stands for "Services, Training, Officers, Prosecutors").

This report has been prepared to assess the progress and accomplishments of the STOP program as of the end of December 1995, covering the first year of STOP program authorization. It is an annual requirement under VAWA. The remainder of this first chapter addresses the background of VAWA and factors that led to passage of the legislation. It briefly describes current statistics on violence against women, the legislative and policy precursors to VAWA in the areas of domestic violence and sexual assault, the legislative mandate for the STOP grants program, the detailed purposes of this report, the important place given to accountability and evaluation in the VAWA and by the Department of Justice, and the role of the Urban Institute as independent STOP grant evaluator.

The report's second chapter describes the accomplishments of the program during its first year at the federal level, and the anticipated timing of federal actions during the second year. The third chapter describes how states have implemented the STOP program, focusing on state-level planning and application processes. The fourth chapter examines the development of state implementation plans, and looks at the planned distribution of resources across the seven legislatively mandated purposes; the three priority areas (law enforcement, prosecution, and victim services); and the three major types of violence against women specified in the Act (domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking). The final chapter describes the more extensive and detailed information that is likely to be available for the 1997 report after states have had more than a full year to implement their programs and conduct an initial assessment of their effects.

Facts about Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence

There is a tremendous need for comprehensive, high-quality information about women's experiences of sexual assault and domestic violence. Every data source available suffers from some major deficiencies with respect to who is included, what actions are included, the time periods covered, and how questions are asked. Here we present some of the best available statistics indicating the need for action to prevent violence against women, while noting that we must do a better job in the future of gathering this critical information:

  • In 1992 and 1993, about 75 percent of all lone-offender violence against women and 45 percent of violence involving multiple offenders was perpetrated by offenders whom the victim knew (Bureau of Justice Statistics, 1995).
  • Among all female murder victims in 1994, 28 percent were slain by husbands or boyfriends (Federal Bureau of Investigation, 1995).
  • Each year, approximately 2 million women are severely assaulted by male partners (Council on Scientific Affairs, AMA, 1992).
  • More than 25 percent of American married couples experience one or more incidents of domestic violence. Repeated severe violence occurs in 1 of every 14 marriages (Feld and Strauss, 1989).
  • During 1992 and again in 1993, women reported about 500,000 rapes and sexual assaults through the National Crime Victimization Survey. Friends or acquaintances of the victims committed over half of these rapes or sexual assaults. Strangers were responsible for only one in five (Bureau of Justice Statistics, 1995).
  • Approximately 1 in 5 adult women has experienced a completed rape (Koss and Harvey, 1991).

Further, violent victimization has important negative consequences for women, often extending over years, as the following statistics demonstrate:

  • Battering accounts for one-fifth of all medical visits by women and one-third of all emergency room visits by women in the U.S. each year (Stark and Flitcraft, 1985a; Randal, 1990).
  • Seriously assaulted women are four times as likely to report a suicide attempt and spend 68 percent more days in bed than other women (Gelles and Strauss, 1990).
  • Among women reporting rape in a large community sample, who were, on average, 17 years post-rape, 17 percent currently met the criteria of post-traumatic stress disorder (Koss and Harvey, 1991).
  • Rape victims, regardless of the length of time since the rape, report poorer health and greater use of physician services. Intensive use extended for several years post-rape. Health problems are elevated for every bodily system, but are highest for gynecologic complaints and sexual dysfunction (Koss and Harvey, 1991).

Legislative, Policy, and Practice Changes During the 1970s and 1980s

As violent crimes against women, both sexual assault and domestic violence share some similar history in the past two decades. Despite the legal treatment of one as a felony and the other largely as a misdemeanor or as a civil matter, both have been subject to failures of the criminal justice system (law enforcement, prosecution, and the courts) to treat these offenses as serious crimes. In part, these failures have stemmed from public attitudes that did not demand a strong response. Within the justice system, tolerance for these crimes was compounded by lack of knowledge about effective strategies for establishing the probable cause or proof required for official intervention and the difficulties in realizing behavioral and attitudinal changes despite significant gains in legislative action. Grassroots advocacy played a pivotal role in bringing these crimes to public attention, creating demand for expanded legal protections, and offering services to victims. We look first at the history for sexual assault, then at the history for domestic violence.

Sexual Assault—Recent History

Rape has long been legally defined as a heinous crime, but victims often find that seeking help from the justice system increases the pain and trauma they experience and fails to punish offenders or provide protection. Analysis of the experience of victims shows failures attributable to shortcomings in the law, failures of the criminal justice system to respond aggressively in the spirit of the law, and deeply ingrained attitudes that view rape victims as less deserving than other crime victims.

Analyses of rape myths by Burt (1980; 1991) and Burt and Albin (1981) grouped common myths into four main types, each of which contributes to a failure to respond (similar myths prevail about women victims of domestic violence). Despite more than two decades of public education, these myths persist:

  1. It did not happen the way she said it did. These myths undermine the victim's credibility by suggesting that accounts are completely fabricated or are self-serving accounts of consensual sexual contact.
  2. No harm was done. These myths maintain that the victim suffered minimal demonstrable physical injuries, exaggerated the extent of her trauma, that what happened was "just sex" and therefore "no big deal," or that the victim was someone whose reputation was so disreputable already that no further harm could be done to her.
  3. Her behavior caused the attack. Victims are often accused of behaving in a provocative way or failing to take adequate safety precautions.
  4. She deserved it. These myths support attacker assertions that the attack was justified by victim responsibility for some transgression (real or imagined, large or small).

Legal barriers include: 1) statutory requirements that victims present evidence to corroborate their accounts and evidence of earnest resistance to attack; 2) rules of evidence that allow consideration of a victim's entire sexual history; and 3) exemptions of husbands from charges of raping their wives. These legal barriers are often accompanied by institutional policies that compound the obstacles, such as failure to compensate victims for the costs of collecting medical evidence, lack of privacy during police interviews, and investigations into the victim's private affairs.

Major changes began in the 1970s, stimulated by a growing advocacy movement. The first rape crisis centers opened their doors in 1972; many others soon followed. In addition to offering victims services, these centers used community education campaigns and victim advocacy as vehicles to change the criminal justice system's response to sexual assault. Their efforts resulted in changes in the rape and criminal sexual conduct laws in many states, including:

  1. Redefining the crime into one of degrees (e.g., criminal sexual conduct in the first/second/third/fourth degree), that could be perpetrated by a person of either sex, on a person of either sex, involving any bodily orifice(not just the vagina), by any part of the assailant or any object used by the assailant (not just a penis). The mere existence of an exacerbating factor (e.g., two assailants, a weapon, an unconscious victim, a mentally incompetent victim) automatically made the crime "aggravated."
  2. Eliminating evidentiary corroboration requirements.
  3. Shifting the burden of proof, especially about lack of consent, away from the victim having to prove that she resisted.
  4. Excluding prior sexual history and other victim character traits, which were almost always nongermane but had a prejudicial effect on jurors, from the courtroom unless proven relevant before the judge in chambers (rape shield laws).
  5. Compensating victims for the costs of evidentiary exams.
  6. Amending sexual assault laws to define spousal rape as a felony.

In addition to lobbying state legislatures to change relevant state laws, members of the anti-rape movement worked to influence the behavior of police and prosecutors in rape cases. Many activists have worked with police departments to conduct police training and education to affect attitudes about and responses to rape and other types of sexual assault. Activists also mounted, and still maintain, accompaniment programs (i.e., going with victims to hospitals, police departments and prosecutors' offices, offering comfort and the assurance that proper procedures will be followed).

In an assessment of the first 10 years of rape crisis center development, Burt and colleagues (Gornick, Burt, and Pittman, 1985) concluded that services had become quite widespread, and in many instances had become part of established public (e.g., community mental health centers) and private (e.g., YWCAs, Family Services) agencies. In this transition, many service providers and advocates had decreased their initial isolation and developed integrated networks and alliances with police, prosecutors, and medical personnel, working in a balance of everyday cooperation and continued advocacy where necessary. The many rape crisis services available throughout the country now are organized into coalitions nationally and in many states.

Domestic Violence—Recent History

Like rape victims, domestic violence victims often are blamed for provoking or deserving the abuse, and face disbelief that the battering occurred. Repeatedly they are asked why they don't just leave—a question that denies the reality of continuing physical violence or threats of violence from the abuser and further isolates victims. Barriers to getting legal help have been daunting—including reluctance on the part of police officers, prosecutors, and judges to intervene in "family matters," fees for filing charges, requirements for legal representation in some cases, and threats of loss of child custody should a battering victim's case be unconvincing. There is often little understanding of the trauma induced by violent acts by intimates and the dearth of legal, economic, and social resources available for escaping domestic violence.

Although some shelters for battered women opened in the mid-1970s, public attention to the plight of domestic violence victims did not increase dramatically until the 1980s. Reforms in many states:

  1. Codified domestic violence as criminal conduct.
  2. Authorized or mandated arrest of the offender in domestic violence incidents, given probable cause.
  3. Created new offense categories to cover domestic violence incidents and increased penalties under existing statutes.
  4. Expanded coverage of domestic violence statutes to include couples living together or having a child in common, and, in some jurisdictions, couples of the same sex.
  5. Created civil protection orders specifically for domestic violence, expanded the allowable remedies, and, in some jurisdictions, criminalized behavior violating these orders.
  6. Mandated training about domestic violence for police and highway patrol officers and sheriffs.

In 1992, model state codes on domestic violence were published by the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges (National Council, 1994).

More comprehensive and aggressive law enforcement responses to domestic violence accompanied these statutory changes. Research findings supporting the efficacy of arrest in domestic violence cases (Sherman and Berk, 1984), although currently under challenge, led to pro-arrest or mandatory arrest policies in many jurisdictions. Police departments stepped up training and revised policies following lawsuits holding law enforcement agencies liable for failure to enforce in domestic violence cases (e.g., Bruno v. Codd, 1978; Sorichetti v. City of New York, 1985; Thurman v. City of Torrington, 1984). Police departments also began to adopt affirmative intervention policies to help victims and their families, such as assisting women to reach a place of safety, removing weapons from the home, establishing victim assistance units, and providing crisis intervention services in collaboration with victim advocates.

At the Federal level, the 1984 report of the Attorney General's Task Force on Family Violence recommended coordinated community responses to domestic violence and specific reforms in laws and operations of the justice system (Department of Justice, 1984), and the Bureau of Justice Assistance funded Family Violence Demonstration programs in 11 jurisdictions to establish interagency coordinating committees (Harrell, Roehl, and Kapsak, 1988; Bureau of Justice Assistance, 1993). The Family Violence Prevention and Services Act of 1984 supported grants for domestic violence prevention programs, shelters, and victim assistance services as well as training and technical assistance for law enforcement officers and others in twenty states (Newmark, Harrell, and Adams, 1995). The State Justice Institute supported training for judges on the phenomenon of domestic violence, a national conference that encouraged a coordinated criminal justice and community response to domestic violence at the state and local levels, and a clearinghouse to disseminate the growing body of information on domestic violence (National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges, 1992).

Advocates for battered women, service providers, and formerly battered women played a central role in advancing domestic violence reforms, as was also the case with rape reforms. Grassroots coalitions devoted to serving battered women and often at odds with the justice system response have led training efforts, worked on coordinating committees, and developed solid working relationships with the police and courts in many areas. They monitor the treatment of victims by criminal justice agencies and at the same time help those agencies by providing services to support victims through the criminal justice process. State coalitions of domestic violence advocates have been established to continue monitoring the system and advocating for victims.

The VAWA Legislation

Passage of the Violence Against Women Act in 1994 as part (Title IV) of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act brought to fruition years of untiring efforts by advocates for women's rights and concerned members of Congress, supported by growing public awareness of strong evidence of the harm done to women through the violence directed at them. The move towards federal legislation gained momentum in the late 1980s following a meeting in Washington of representatives from state coalitions against domestic violence, sexual assault advocates, and others from the growing grassroots efforts to aid women victims of violence. The meeting focused on the need for federal action in the areas of ensuring full faith and credit for the interstate enforcement of protection orders, the dearth of funding for shelters, crisis centers, and other services needed by victims, the need for the development of model programs in special areas such dating violence, and recognition that federal action would provide moral leadership on behalf of women. A survey of shelters and victim service providers in 28 states, conducted by the National Network to End Domestic Violence in the late 1980s, documented the enormity of the unmet needs. Aided by support from the National Organization of Women's Legal Defense Fund, the advocates received strong bipartisan support from Congress and the process of drafting legislation began.

The resulting Violence Against Women Act for the first time recognizes the common barriers to legal protection faced by women victims of violent crimes. The four subtitles within the Act—the Safe Streets Act, Safe Homes for Women, Civil Rights for Women and Equal Justice for Women in the Courts, and Protections for Battered Immigrant Women and Children—target domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking, and protection against gender-motivated violence. The Act undertakes reform in legislation, rules of evidence, and the policies and procedures of law enforcement agencies and the courts. It creates new offenses and tougher penalties, mandates victim restitution, and begins system reforms that will, for example, shield victims during prosecution and increase consistency in sentencing. Recognizing that attitudinal change and knowledge are essential to practical implementation of legal reforms, VAWA authorizes support for prevention, education, and training and the development of systems for maintaining records on violent incidents and perpetrators and improving communication within the justice system.

VAWA's broad understanding of the range of strategies needed for change in the response to violence against women is clearly reflected in the objectives of the Law Enforcement and Prosecution Grants, Chapter 2 of the Safe Streets Act, which OJP has designated as the STOP grants program. This program provides for grants "to assist States, Indian tribal governments, and units of local government to develop and strengthen effective law enforcement and prosecution strategies to combat violent crimes against women, and to develop and strengthen victim services in cases involving violent crimes against women...to provide personnel, training, technical assistance, data collection and other equipment for the more widespread apprehension, prosecution, and adjudication of persons committing violent crimes against women."

Activities for which grant funds may be used include: training law enforcement officers and prosecutors; developing, training, or expanding specialized units of law enforcement officers and prosecutors; developing and implementing more effective police and prosecution policies, protocols, orders, and services; developing, installing, or expanding data collection and communication systems; developing, enlarging, or strengthening victim services programs; developing, enlarging, or strengthening programs to address stalking; and developing, enlarging, or strengthening programs to help Indian tribes. Domestic violence and sexual assault are the primary types of violence targeted by the legislation, with support for the underserved victim populations specified by the Act. For example, grants may be used for "addressing the needs and circumstances of American Indian and Alaska Native tribal governments in dealing with violent crimes against women, including the crimes of sexual assault and domestic violence" and "victim services to racial, cultural, ethnic, and language minorities," (Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, Title IV, Subtitle A, Chapter 2), as well as for rural and non-urban populations. This report begins the process of assessing the impact of the STOP grants program and documenting what the STOP grants have accomplished.

Purpose of This Report

This report responds to the VAWA mandate for the Attorney General to provide Congress with information about the first-year accomplishments of the STOP grants program. It covers the time period from passage of the VAWA through December 31, 1995. In addition, it begins to fulfill the Attorney General's commitment to evaluate programs within the Department of Justice so that the best programs can be retained and programs can be brought closer to their intended purpose. This evaluation will provide feedback on the programs funded through the STOP grants. This feedback will, in turn, help OJP and state and local jurisdictions receiving the STOP dollars to improve the programs and increase their potential to make meaningful changes in the way the justice system handles crimes involving violence against women so that these crimes are treated as serious violations of criminal law, perpetrators are held accountable for their actions, and victims of sexual assault and domestic violence are not revictimized by the system.

The foregoing review of the past two decades of reform in the areas of sexual assault and domestic violence, and the focus of the VAWA legislation, provide guidance for the Department of Justice and STOP grantees in designing the activities that will occur under STOP and measuring their success. Research and experience in improving responses to women victims of violence have taught us that:

  1. Legal reform alone is not enough. Even when the laws change, if attitudes at every point do not change, little will have been accomplished for victims. The most comprehensive analysis to date concludes that "removing legal barriers alone will be ineffective unless the discretion that allows informal norms to guide decisionmaking is constrained or meaningful incentives to change norms are created" (Horney and Spohn, 1991). This is certainly consistent with the observed dual arrest backlash that followed introduction of mandatory domestic violence arrest policies without sufficient prior training of officers. Even when legal reform succeeds in making a small difference, as was found when arrests and convictions increased following rape law reform in Michigan (Marsh, Geist, and Caplan, 1982), the law would have had even greater effect if attitudes of police, prosecutors, judges, and juries had also changed.
  2. Coordination is essential. Good intentions and sound policies of any one agency will come to naught unless all elements of the system work together. Recognized as key to success since the Attorney General's Task Force report in 1984, a guide for coordination in domestic violence cases appeared as early as 1986 (Goolkasian, 1986). Yet difficulties in coordination abound for cases of both sexual assault and domestic violence. For example, police do not want to arrest if prosecutors do not aggressively seek convictions. Prosecutors are hamstrung if police do not file complete reports and gather supporting evidence. Judges can undermine prosecutors by failing to impose meaningful sentences. Studies of civil protection orders repeatedly report that failure to enforce the orders undermines their effectiveness (Finn, 1989; Finn and Colson, 1990; Hart, 1992; Lerman, Livingston, and Jackson, 1983; Harrell, Smith, and Newmark, 1993). The criminal justice system response alone is inadequate without shelters and services to assist victims in their efforts to end the violence.
  3. Changes in attitudes and public opinion are critical. Recognition of the harm of violence and the need of victims for protection and redress is necessary to effective reform. Studies of justice system responses to domestic violence and rape have repeatedly found that efforts to extend legal protections to women have been hampered by the reluctance of judges, police, and prosecutors to recognize the magnitude of the harm inflicted on female victims and the legitimacy of legal intervention (Report on the New York Task Force on Women in the Courts, 1986-87; Estrich, 1987; Adler 1987; Newmark, Harrell, and Adams, 1995). Because the resistance of the justice system is directly linked to public opinion, public education is now a topic priority of foundations and the Family Violence Prevention Fund, among others.
  4. The system must take into account that women victims of violence differ from other crime victims in important ways. The most important difference is the degree to which safety from further victimization is a continuing issue. To adequately address the injury done to victims of violent crimes against women, the system must redefine its mission to include protection and prevention of future harm, not just accountability in the form of arresting a perpetrator.
  5. Victims must have a voice in system planning and monitoring. Justice systems must take a fresh look at how their policies and practices affect the victim, even when such an examination is difficult, and actively seek victim input as part of their policy assessments. Domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking cases are extremely complicated. These crimes are motivated by dynamics of power and control, which standard criminal justice operating procedures are incapable of addressing. Victims can greatly assist the justice system in understanding and developing protocols to respond to these crimes.

The statutorily required allocation of STOP funds to law enforcement, prosecution, and victim services reflects these lessons, as does the range of program efforts for which the STOP grant funds can be used. As part of this and subsequent reports to the National Institute of Justice, it is and will remain important to assess the extent to which grantees apply the lessons by implementing changes in policies and practices within the justice system, increasing coordination among agencies, including victim service providers; involving victims in planning and monitoring, and contributing to reductions in the informal resistance and reluctance of justice system practitioners to respond to victims of sexual assault, domestic violence, and stalking.

Role of the Urban Institute

The Urban Institute, a private, nonprofit policy and research organization in Washington, D.C., received a grant from the National Institute of Justice to evaluate the law enforcement and prosecution grants authorized through the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). The VAWA explicitly requires evaluation of the effectiveness of activities funded under the STOP grants; OJP has repeatedly stressed with grantees the importance of accountability and assessment of program impact throughout the life of the STOP grants. The high priority accorded evaluation is evidenced by the NIJ grant to the Urban Institute for continuing evaluation of the STOP grant program. The evaluation design calls for a number of specific activities, including:

  • A review of federal actions throughout the first year of VAWA funding, in developing the program rule and grant announcement, and reviewing and approving state implementation plans.
  • A review of grantee implementation plans for the purpose of: 1) assessing existing conditions in states as they begin the STOP grant process; 2) examining the process through which states developed their implementation plans; 3) assessing plan compliance with legislative intent with respect to the three priority areas (law enforcement, prosecution, and victim services), seven legislatively allowable purposes, and attention to underserved populations.
  • Site visits to selected states to explore in depth the process and implementation issues arising as grantees attempt to meet the legislative purposes and serve the relevant populations.
  • A review of grantee reports to OJP on their first year STOP activities and the grantees' second-year implementation plans, including an assessment of numbers and characteristics of victims served during the first year as required by the VAWA.
  • Development of three to five designs for evaluations of specific activities under the STOP grants, such as law enforcement training, development of new prosecution protocols, or the impact of service development for underserved populations such as rural women, women with disabilities, or women from minority ethnic, cultural, or racial communities.

The Urban Institute and staff from NIJ, OJP, and the Bureau of Justice Assistance have worked collaboratively to ensure that the evaluation design is followed and that the evaluation effort is devoted to activities that will produce the greatest benefit for the STOP programs and for women who may be affected by the changes these programs can make in the justice system. This report was prepared by the Urban Institute project staff, and covers the first two activities under the Institute's evaluation grant. It has benefitted from feedback received from our project advisory committee and NIJ and OJP staff.1

Note, chapter 1

1. A list of advisory group members is included in the Appendix.

End of excerpt. The entire report is available in PDF format.

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