DOJ Setting Aside $50 Million to Provide Legal Services for Female Assault Survivors

DOJ Setting Aside $50 Million to Provide Legal Services for Female Assault Survivors
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) speaks during a news conference about the renewal of the Violence Against Women Act in the Rayburn Room at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, on March 17, 2021. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Naveen Athrappully

The U.S. Department of Justice has announced $49.85 million in grants for the Office on Violence Against Women (OVW) aimed at offering legal services to survivors of “gender-based” violence.

The amount includes more than $35 million that the OVW awarded to 59 grantees under the Legal Assistance for Victims Program, as well as over $14 million awarded by OVW’s Justice for Families Program to 26 projects. These projects are aimed at boosting civil and criminal justice system response to families that have a history of domestic violence. In an Aug. 26 press release, Attorney General Merrick B. Garland called the grants “essential to bringing justice within reach” for victims.

The Legal Assistance for Victims Program seeks to address the legal needs of survivors of domestic violence, dating violence, stalking, and sexual assault. The Eight Northern Pueblos Council, Inc. from New Mexico will receive a grant of $599,361 under the Legal Assistance for Victims Program.

The Justice for Families Program funds court and court-related programs, offers legal assistance to survivors, and provides training for child protective services workers.

“Meaningful representation for survivors is vital, but can be difficult to attain in the aftermath of violence, or when someone is still trying to find safety,” OVW Acting Director Allison Randall said, according to the release.

“Grantees under OVW’s Legal Assistance for Victims and Justice for Families Programs help survivors navigate complicated processes and potentially dangerous points along the way, including supervised visitation, protection orders, and divorce.”

The new grant announcement comes days after the conclusion of the annual National Sexual Assault Conference (NSAC).

OVW, VAWA, and Gun Regulation Controversy

The OVW was created in 1995 and implements the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). The act was introduced by Joe Biden in 1990 when he was the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

In March this year, Biden signed into law the Violence Against Women Act Reauthorization Act of 2022, which reauthorized all current VAWA grant programs until 2027. The reauthorized act included a controversial provision that prohibits individuals previously convicted of misdemeanor stalking from owning firearms.

“[House] Speaker [Nancy] Pelosi and anti-gun lawmakers chose to insert gun control provisions into this bill in 2019 to pit pro-gun lawmakers against it so that they can falsely and maliciously claim these lawmakers don’t care about women,” Jason Ouimet, executive director of the NRA Institute for Legislative Action, said in a statement to media outlets.

“This is Washington at its filthiest. It’s proof that anti-gun lawmakers care more about smearing opponents than passing meaningful legislation,” he added.

In recent years, the annual appropriation for the multiple programs administered by OVW has come to around $500 million.