RD606 - Domestic and Sexual Violence in Virginia - 2016 Annual Report

Executive Summary:
Domestic and sexual violence affect our families, homes, communities, schools, and workplaces on a daily basis. Domestic and sexual violence impact all socio-economic levels, cultures, and religions. Whether the impact is open and obvious, such as a tragic homicide that receives media attention and spurs a community to action, or hidden and subtle, such as the emotional and psychological effect on children who silently live with the violence, domestic and sexual violence can penetrate even the deepest levels of our society.

The available data highlights the impact of these crimes in Virginia. It is estimated that, based upon the most recent data available in 2015, there were 97 family and intimate partner homicides, representing a 13% decrease from 2014.(*1) Also in 2015, there were more than 74,000 calls to domestic and sexual violence hotlines across the state.(*2) A total of 3,214 adults and 2,622 children received 191,382 nights of emergency or temporary shelter due to domestic violence; however, 3,249 families requesting shelter services were turned away due to lack of shelter space.(*3) A total of 55,732 emergency protective orders were issued by magistrates and judges across the Commonwealth to protect the immediate health and safety of victims and their family members.(*4)

During the 2016 Session, the General Assembly passed legislation to continue to improve and strengthen laws surrounding domestic and sexual violence. The General Assembly passed bills this past session addressing protective orders including HB 1391/SB 49 which says it is a class 6 felony for anyone subject to a permanent protective order (i.e., a protective order with a maximum duration of two years) for family abuse to possess a firearm while the order is in effect. The law also provides that such person may continue to possess and transport a firearm for 24 hours after being served with the order for the purposes of selling or transferring the firearm to another person. House Bill 703/Senate Bill 415. Legal age for marriage; 18 years of age, provides that both parties to a marriage must be 18 years of age or older or emancipated at the time of solemnization by removing exceptions that allow marriage at a minimum age of 16 with the consent of the parent or guardian or younger than 16 in the case of pregnancy and with the consent of the parent or guardian and provides that marriages entered into in violation of this law are voidable.

In 2016, Virginia’s state and local agencies and organizations provided tools and resources to prosecutors, law enforcement officers, victim advocates, health care providers, social service providers, and allied professionals. State, local, and private partners also promoted public awareness and prevention initiatives and supported collaborative efforts among agencies and organizations to enhance the overall response to domestic and sexual violence, stalking, and human trafficking. For example:

• The OAG received a joint grant with Samaritan House in Virginia Beach for a combined $1.4 million federal grant to establish and operate a Human Trafficking Task Force in Hampton Roads in conjunction with state, local, and federal law enforcement partners and victim support service providers. The grant will support the creation and operation of a multidisciplinary task force to fight human trafficking in Hampton Roads by identifying, rescuing, and restoring victims, building awareness about the realities of human trafficking, and by investigating and prosecuting trafficking crimes.

• On July 1, 2016 the Statewide Hotline transitioned to being fully operated by Action Alliance staff. The Statewide Hotline is now answered 24 hours a day, 365 days a year in the Richmond offices of the Action Alliance. Starting July 1, Hotline coverage is available free of charge to Action Alliance member Sexual and Domestic Violence Agencies and the Statewide Hotline is currently offering coverage to 30 SDVAs. The Action Alliance’s growing staff consists of 16 part-time staff, 4 full-time staff including five hotline staff who are bilingual Spanish/English and three who are bi-lingual/bi-cultural.

• In 2016, the Department of Criminal Justice Services awarded an additional $34 million in Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) funding for total of $50.1 million, to programs throughout the Commonwealth. This funding contributed to three additional Victim Witness programs being funded, 196 full time Victim Witness positions and 245 local Domestic and Sexual Violence positions being created. In addition, 60 new initiatives were funded by the VOCA funds and these new initiatives are projected to reach over 100,000 victims. The funding breaks down as follows:

- Grant funded Victim/Witness Programs is increased from 109 to 112. Total award FY17: $17,815,345

- The number of full-time equivalent positions supported with VOCA funds in Victim/Witness Programs is increased from 96 in FY16 to 292 in FY17.

- The number of crime victims served by VOCA supported projects is projected to increase from 20,488 victims in FY15 to 72,413 in FY17.

- Grant funded local Sexual Assault/Domestic Violence Response programs increased from 85 to 88. Total award FY17: 21,518,403.

- The number of full-time equivalent positions supported in these projects s increased from 122 in FY16 to 367 in FY17.

- Direct service delivery is projected to increase from 26,580 victims in FY15 to 65,047 in FY17.

- VOCA funds are also allocated to the expand CASA program services. Total allocation $1.5 million.

- VOCA also provides $3.3 million to support child abuse treatment projects and Child Advocacy Centers through a grant to the Department of Social Services.

- On September 15, 2016 the Criminal Justice Services Board approved an award of more than $13 million to support 60 VOCA New Initiative projects statewide.

In addition, these agencies and organizations identified and collected data on family and intimate partner violence-related fatalities, domestic and sexual violence-related crimes, protective orders, and services to victims and children in order to assist with providing a broader picture of these issues that confront our communities. Much of that information is included in this Report.

As we enter 2017, we must continue to support the efforts of agencies and programs across the Commonwealth that work tirelessly to promote victim safety and offender accountability, while learning new ways to provide services both efficiently and effectively.
(*1) Information from the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, Virginia Department of Health. The number for domestic violence homicides in 2015 is current as of November 2015. This number may change, however, as some cases from 2014 remain under investigation.
(*2) Virginia Sexual and Domestic Violence Action Alliance, Domestic Violence Services in Virginia – VAdata Report 2015 (2016).
(*3) Id.
(*4) Information provided by the Office of the Executive Secretary, Supreme Court of Virginia.