RD8 - Domestic and Sexual Violence in Virginia - 2017 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. In 2016, there were more than 62,000 calls to domestic and sexual violence hotlines across the state.(*1) A total of 3,150 adults and 2,582 children received 191,759 nights of emergency or temporary shelter due to domestic violence; however, 1,987 families requesting shelter services were turned away due to lack of shelter space.(*2) A total of 55,911 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.(*3)

During the 2017 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 expanding access to the Address Confidentiality Program (HB 2217) for victims of sexual assault and human trafficking and creating an Application Assistant program to provide access to ACP via local domestic and sexual violence programs and victim witness assistance programs. Victims’ rights in sexual assault cases were also addressed legislatively, with the requirement that investigating law enforcement agencies advise victims of their rights regarding the status of physical evidence recovery kits (PERKs) (HB 2127). The law requires victim notification at least sixty days in advance of kit destruction, a kit must be stored an additional ten years following the victim’s written objection to its destruction, and victims should not be charged for kit collection or storage.

In 2017, 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 Address Confidentiality Program (ACP) expanded eligibility criteria to include victims of human trafficking and sexual violence in addition to victims of domestic violence and stalking. ACP also changed the length of certification to three years and created an Application Assistant Program to allow community and systems-based advocates to receive specialized ACP training and provide initial application screening to streamline application processing and provide an additional resource to victims in the Commonwealth. In 2017, Virginia hosted the 2nd annual National Association of Confidential Address Programs (NACAP) conference.

• The OAG partnered with Samaritan House in Virginia Beach and Homeland Security to create the Hampton Roads Human Trafficking Task force, a regional work group which encompasses five localities (Newport News, Hampton, Norfolk, Virginia Beach, and Chesapeake) as well as the Virginia State Police and the US Attorney’s Office.

• The first regional training for the Sexual Assault Kit Testing Initiative (SAKI) was held October 11-12, 2017, at the Virginia State Police Academy in Chesterfield with 80 attendees from Alexandria, Chesterfield, Fairfax, Henrico, Richmond and Virginia Beach. National trainers Patricia Powers and Jim Markey from the Sexual Assault Kit Testing Initiative presented on cold case investigation and prosecution.

• The Department of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS) administers Violence Against Women Act funding known as VSTOP funds in Virginia. With VSTOP funding the following was able to happen in Virginia:

o In 2016, a solicitation for new initiatives was released and seven new projects were awarded funds to begin January 1, 2017. Of these projects, two focused on legal assistance and advocacy for immigrant victims of sexual and domestic violence. Two additional projects were awarded funds to assist in the management and coordination of lethality assessment programs.

o 627 training events were funded through VSTOP in 2016, training a total of 12,916 allied professionals and volunteers in Virginia. Common training topics included: Domestic Violence Overview, Prosecuting Crimes Against Women, Dynamics and Services, Advocate Response, Safety Planning for Victims/Survivors, Law Enforcement Response, and Confidentiality.

o Victim services sub-grantees provided services to 2,025 victims of sexual violence, 10,366 victims of domestic violence, and 1,087 victims of stalking in 2016. Grant-funded staff provided 2,720 services to secondary victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking. This includes counseling services to 4,150 victims and criminal justice support to 6,232 victims.

o Finally, VSTOP-funded law enforcement officers investigated 1,512 cases related to domestic, sexual, and/or dating violence and stalking and VSTOP-funded prosecutors handled 1,345 cases of sexual violence, 1,830 cases of domestic violence, and 12 cases of stalking.

• The VCU Virginia Center on Aging (VCoA) was awarded VSTOP funding for calendar years 2017 and 2018 for a statewide project to enhance the law enforcement response to violence against older women in a comprehensive manner by providing trainings at the executive, supervisor, and detective/officer levels. Underlying all trainings is consideration of the significant and growing impact of abuse in later life on our communities, the dynamics of abuse, the unique and specific needs of older women who are victims of violence, unconscious ageist biases which can affect response, and the importance of multidisciplinary collaboration.

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) Virginia Sexual and Domestic Violence Action Alliance, Domestic Violence Services in Virginia – VAdata Report 2016 (2017).
(*2) Id.
(*3) Information provided by the Office of the Executive Secretary, Supreme Court of Virginia