< Back to Search

Dear Colleague Letter- Family Violence Awareness Month in October

Published: November 20, 2014
Assets for Independence (AFI)
Guidance, Policies, Procedures, Dear Colleague Notices

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


Re: Domestic Violence Awareness Month:  Opportunities for Prevention and Action                                                   

Date: October 23, 2014

Dear Colleagues:

The purpose of this is to provide Assets for Independence (AFI) grantees with information about domestic violence awareness resources because AFI grantees have an important role in helping families struggling with domestic violence. The attached letter 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 (www.acf.hhs.gov/fvpsa).

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 (ACF), 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.
  • 47% of homeless school-aged children and 29% of homeless children under five have witnessed domestic violence in their families.
  • 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.
  • 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

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 organization’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.

The AFI program can be a critical resource to build assets for domestic violence survivors. Savings and asset accumulation strategies have potential implications for survivors’ long-term economic stability and their safety. A study of the savings outcomes of 125 survivors participating in an Individual Development Account (IDA) program indicates that women impacted by intimate partner violence are capable of successfully saving in an IDA program when given the opportunity.6 Note that this IDA program offered both AFI-funded IDAs and privately-funded IDAs that could be used to purchase a vehicle. Approximately two-thirds of the women in the study reached their savings goal and 76% made at least one matched withdrawal purchase. Paying for education and purchasing a vehicle were the two most common asset purchases among study participants.

Back to top

There are steps that AFI grantees can take today to support families impacted by domestic violence.
The AFI program encourages AFI grantees to partner and collaborate with organizations that serve domestic violence survivors. In 2012, AFI released a toolkit entitled Assets for Independence (AFI) Serving Domestic Violence Survivors Toolkit, which provides resources for building such partnerships. It includes information such as the steps involved in developing successful partnerships and descriptions of different collaboration models. The toolkit and other resources are available on the AFI Resource Center website, at http://idaresources.acf.hhs.gov/page?pageid=a047000000Bmr7F.

As of September 2014, approximately 18 percent of AFI projects are providing services to domestic violence survivors. To those of you who are already engaged in this important work, thank you. We encourage the rest of you to review the toolkit and consider how you can support domestic violence survivors in your community. Be sensitive to how domestic violence might be impacting your clients; be sure that your staff knows how to respond appropriately to disclosures of domestic violence that do occur and that they have the knowledge and relationships to refer clients for help.

Connect Victims of Domestic Violence to Services
AFI grantees 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 by posting in public spaces that are frequented by staff and families. AFI grantees are encouraged to share this information with their project partners, networks, and affiliates. 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:

  • National Domestic Violence Hotline - 1-800-799-7233
  • National Dating Abuse Helpline - 1-866-331-9474
  • National Sexual Assault Hotline (RAINN) - 1-800-656-4673

Partner with Community Based Domestic Violence Programs
Domestic Violence Awareness Month provides a great time for AFI grantees to develop or reinvest in community partnerships with domestic violence providers that have expertise in helping victims of domestic violence. As referenced above, the Assets for Independence (AFI) Serving Domestic Violence Survivors Toolkit is a resource for AFI grantees interested in collaborating with organizations serving domestic violence survivors. Investing in meaningful training and technical assistance partnerships is critical to supporting the families that are accessing AFI projects. 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.

AFI 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 AFI projects.

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 Family Violence Prevention and Services Act (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: https://nnedv.org/get-involved/in-your-state-or-us-territory/.  Additional information about the Family Violence Prevention and Services Programs Domestic Violence Coalitions can be found at https://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/fysb/resource/dvcoalitions.

Back to top

Learn More About Domestic Violence Resources
We are asking AFI grantees to ensure that every staff person visits an online domestic violence resource center, and/or participates in domestic violence training or an awareness event this October.

Domestic Violence: Understanding the Basics, is an online learning tool developed by FVPSA grantee, the National Resource Center on Domestic Violence and VAWnet, 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 achieves 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.

Back to top

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 – 1:30-3:00 EST: 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: https://bwjp.ilinc.com/register/rkrsswf

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 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 that focus 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.

__________/s/_______________                  __________/s/_______________

Jeannie L. Chaffin                                           Lynda Perez
Director                                                           Acting Director
Office of Community Services                         Division of Community Discretionary Programs     
                                                                       Office of Community Services

Please direct any questions on this letter to your Program Specialist.

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

Back to top
Last Reviewed: November 22, 2017