LIHEAP DCL Family Violence Awareness Month in October

Publication Date: October 22, 2014

Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program

Dear Colleague Letter

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
Administration for Children and Families
Office of Community Services
Division of Energy Assistance
370 L'Enfant Promenade, S.W.
Washington, D.C. 20447

Re: Family Violence Awareness Month in October

Date: October 22, 2014


SUBJECT:  Family Violence Awareness Month in October

INFORMATION:  Opportunities for Prevention and Action

The purpose of this Dear Colleague Letter (DCL) is to provide Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) grantees with information about domestic violence resources because every LIHEAP grantee has an important role in helping families struggling with domestic violence.  This DCL is released in partnership with the Family and Youth Services Bureau, Division of Family Violence Prevention and Services, celebrating 30 years as the primary federal funding stream for domestic violence shelters, supportive services, and the national domestic violence hotline (

Statistics show that 1 in 4 women have been the victim of severe physical violence by an intimate partner, while 1 in 7 men have experienced the same (e.g., hit with a fist or something hard, beaten, slammed against something) at some point in their lifetime.1  Federal programs, supported by the Administration for Children and Families, help provide life-saving services and supports to victims of domestic violence and their children.  Efforts to eliminate poverty, increase self-sufficiency of individuals and families, and revitalize communities are directly related to the prevention and reduction of domestic violence.  Here are some key facts:

  • Domestic violence is the third leading cause of homelessness among families in the U.S.2
  • 47% of homeless school-aged children and 29% of homeless children under five have witnessed domestic violence in their families.3
  • Many adults first experience violence as children. Millions of children and adolescents are exposed to violence in their homes, schools, and communities, as both victims and witnesses, each year in the United States.4
  • Women and men who experienced food and housing insecurity in the past 12 months reported a significantly higher 12-month prevalence of rape, physical violence, or stalking by an intimate partner compared to women and men who did not experience food and housing insecurity.5

October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month which is recognized by advocates, service providers, and communities all across the United States.  This October, we invite you to stand with concerned citizens, service providers, and domestic violence survivors to inform your agency’s employees and partners about what they can do to end domestic violence, to prevent violence, and to celebrate the advancement of community responses.  This October represents an opportunity to ensure that health and human service providers supported by ACF have the capacity to:

  • Recognize the impact of domestic violence;
  • Respond effectively with trauma-informed strategies; and
  • Safely link families to domestic violence services.

Many LIHEAP grantees and subgrantees offer in-person intake appointments which are a prime opportunity to recognize if the applicant household has a domestic violence survivor.  This is also an ideal time to provide referrals to domestic violence resources such as the ones listed near then end of this letter, including the national hotline. Intake meetings are one way LIHEAP helps view the household’s needs holistically and serve as a key referral hub to other resources relevant to low income individuals.

Opportunities for Prevention and Action

There are steps that agencies administering LIHEAP can take today to support families impacted by domestic violence.

Home heating and cooling are necessary for all individuals, but ensuring utilities are set up and kept current can be particularly difficult for domestic violence survivors. For example, the utility company may try to hold a survivor responsible for delinquent utility bills on an account managed by the abuser. In addition, a survivor who has any preexisting utility debt may find it hard to get new service.  Several options exist to try and overcome these barriers as well as get assistance with future payments:

  • Crisis Assistance — LIHEAP grantees have great flexibility in how they define ’crisis’ for purposes of LIHEAP assistance.  This can include varying benefits to provide a higher benefit or certain in-kind benefits to households with a domestic violence survivor, particularly if there is a vulnerable member such as a young child in the household.
  • Payment Plans - A customer can ask a utility to allow her/him to pay off old bills in installments. It is important to make sure that the person does not agree to pay more than s/he can actually afford.  Most regulated utility companies for electric and natural gas service also offer budget payment plans which allow a household to make one flat payment each month which reduces the uncertainty of the monthly bill.
  • Security Deposits - A company may request a security deposit before restoring service to a customer with unpaid bills. However, many states have laws limiting the amount a company can ask for in security.
  • Avoiding Restrictions on Utility Service - A customer who cannot pursue these other options may wish to look for housing with utility service included in the rent. A customer might also be able to use a guarantor, someone who takes co-responsibility for the account. However, remember that the guarantor becomes legally responsible for the utility bills, so great care should be taken with this approach.
  • Bankruptcy - A bankruptcy filing usually discharges all utility debts. Bankruptcy makes sense if the debtor owes a lot of other debt in addition to the utility bills, but should be done in consultation with a lawyer or free legal clinic to understand fully the impact of a bankruptcy filing.

Connect Victims of Domestic Violence to Services

LIHEAP grantees and subgrantees should make every effort to assist families and children who are experiencing domestic violence by sharing national, state and local hotline numbers for local domestic violence intervention programs, either directly or posting in public spaces that are frequented by staff and families.  LIHEAP grantees are encouraged to share this information with their providers, for example, by distributing the domestic violence resources listed below with agencies so they may share with their provider networks.  Knowing who to call when a safety plan is needed is important to reducing the fear and isolation for families impacted by domestic violence.

National Hotlines

Free and confidential help is available for victims of domestic violence 24 hours a day. These hotlines can help victims of domestic violence and sexual violence find support and assistance in their communities:

Partner with Community-Based Domestic Violence Programs

Domestic Violence Awareness Month provides a great time for LIHEAP grantees to develop or reinvest in community partnerships with domestic violence providers who have expertise in helping victims of domestic violence.  Investing in meaningful training and technical assistance partnerships is critical to supporting the families that are accessing LIHEAP services or programs. Domestic violence coalitions, local domestic violence shelter programs, tribal domestic violence programs, and culturally specific community based organizations are an integral part of any coordinated health care and social service response to domestic violence.


To meet the needs of adults and children experiencing domestic violence, LIHEAP grantees can partner with organizations such as state domestic violence coalitions, local domestic violence and sexual assault service programs, shelter programs, transitional and long-term housing assistance providers, and/or batterers’ intervention programs. These providers may offer direct services to families and children or important in-service trainings that could be developed specifically to address how domestic violence impacts the families accessing LIHEAP services.

Each State, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands and American Samoa, has a FVPSA funded Domestic Violence Coalition. These coalitions are connected to more than 2,000 local domestic violence programs receiving FVPSA funding across this country.  Every Coalition provides comprehensive training and technical assistance on a multitude of social, legal, and economic issues that affect victims’ safety and well-being.  Coalitions partner with government, private industry, non-profit and faith-based communities, and other stakeholders to effectively coordinate and improve the safety-net of services available to victims and their dependents.

We encourage you to establish meaningful partnerships with domestic violence coalitions for training, problem solving service barriers, domestic violence assessment implementation, establishing referral protocols with local domestic violence programs, and featuring domestic violence discussions at upcoming conferences.

The domestic violence coalition working with programs in your community can be found at the following link: Visit disclaimer page .  Additional information about the Family Violence Prevention and Services Programs Domestic Violence Coalitions can be found at /fysb/programs/family-violence-prevention-serv....

Learn More About Domestic Violence Resources

We are asking LIHEAP grantees to ensure that every staff person visits an online domestic violence resource center, and/or participate in domestic violence training, or an awareness event this October.

Domestic Violence: Understanding the Basics Visit disclaimer page , is an online learning tool developed by FVPSA grantee, the National Resource Center on Domestic Violence Visit disclaimer page  and VAWnet Visit disclaimer page , the National Online Resource Center on Violence Against Women. This 1-hour interactive eLearning module describes the dynamics and common tactics that characterize domestic violence, provides an overview of the scope and impact on individuals and society, explores the underlying factors that allow domestic violence to exist, offers insight into the various risks and choices that survivors face, and shares how to be part of the solution.  Divided into 10 sections that address common questions related to domestic violence, this self-guided online course will help new advocates, allied professionals, students, volunteers and the general public achieve a basic understanding of the complexities of this issue.

Additional Online Domestic Violence Resources

Culturally Specific Resources

There is a national network of organizations that address the impact of domestic violence and implement culturally relevant trauma-informed services for ethnic and racially specific communities. These organizations work to increase access to services through training and technical assistance (such as statewide service implementation and language access planning); produce culturally relevant tools for advocates and practitioners; conduct culturally relevant research; and strengthen partnerships between culturally specific organizations and mainstream service providers.

National and Special Issue Domestic Violence Resources

There is a national network of organizations that address the impact of domestic violence and dating violence within specific issue areas such as health, mental health, substance abuse, child protection, and legal services.   These organizations work to increase access to services through training and technical assistance; produce tools for advocates and practitioners; conduct research; and partner with agencies to increase their overall capacity to support individuals and families impacted by domestic violence.

October 28, 2014 — 1:30-3:00EST:Webinar on Addressing the Intersection of Domestic Violence & Poverty

The Office of Community Services and the Family Violence Prevention and Services Program will host a webinar to share information on the intersection of poverty, domestic violence and economic security. Important considerations will be highlighted that can be enormously helpful to domestic violence survivors, including strategies to strengthen the safety net for survivors in need. Resources will be shared about financial literacy curriculum for survivors, an asset building toolkit, credit repair, and economic empowerment. Register for this webinar at the following link: Visit disclaimer page

We all know that collective action is needed to ensure appropriate responses and support for all families struggling with domestic violence. It is important for all ACF programs to partner with individuals, families, and communities to end domestic violence.  This October is brings opportunities to not only build on the Department of Health and Human Services’ 30-year legacy of partnering with communities to address domestic violence through the implementation of the Family Violence Prevention and Services Act, but also to forge stronger partnerships focused on building futures without violence for the thousands of families we serve every day.

Thank you for your dedication and commitment to supporting all children and families.

Lauren Christopher, Director                                   Jeannie L. Chaffin
Division of Energy Assistance                                 Director
Office of Community Services                                 Office of Community Services

Marylouise Kelley, PhD., Director
Family Violence Prevention & Services Program
Family & Youth Services Bureau
Administration for Children and Families
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services


1 Status Report on Hunger and Homelessness, U.S. Conference of Mayors (2012).

2 Status Report on Hunger and Homelessness, U.S. Conference of Mayors (2012).

3 Homeless in America: A Children’s Story, Part One Homes for the Homeless & Institute for Children and Poverty, 23 (1999).

4 Finkelhor, D., Turner, H., Ormrod, R., Hamby, S., & Kracke, K. (October 2009). Children’s exposure to violence: A comprehensive national survey. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

5 Breiding, M. J., Chen, J., & Black, M. C. (2014). Intimate partner violence in the United States — 2010. Atlanta, GA: National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.


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