WASHINGTON — Today is the first day of Domestic Violence Awareness Month (DVAM). First observed in 1987, DVAM is an opportunity to raise public awareness regarding issues relating to domestic violence. The United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia is deeply involved in addressing domestic violence in our community, as our office handles the prosecution of all domestic violence cases involving adult offenders that occur in the District of Columbia. This year, we again take this opportunity to reaffirm our commitment to seeking justice for those individuals harmed by domestic violence.
As part of that commitment, earlier this year, our office launched a new Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) Prevention Initiative. This initiative is focused on collaborating with community partners to address IPV, as well as further developing our Office’s expertise in prosecuting domestic violence cases. Assistant United States Attorney Ryan Creighton, a senior prosecutor in the Sex Offense and Domestic Violence Section of our Office, was selected to lead this important Initiative. Nationally, about 1 in 4 women and 1 in 9 men experience sexual violence, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner. According to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, as many as 10 million children and adolescents witness violence between their parents or caregivers each year,  and children who witness domestic violence are also significantly more likely to be victims-survivors of child abuse themselves.
IPV is just as much of a challenge here in Washington, D.C., and its effects can be devastating and, regrettably, sometimes fatal.
We must also acknowledge that the global COVID-19 pandemic has created even more challenges for those in our community most vulnerable to abuse, and to domestic violence in particular. Numerous reports over the last few months have documented an increase in domestic violence in communities nationally and across the globe. Our city has similarly seen the impact of this insidious form of violence. And at a time when many victims-survivors may feel trapped at home with their abuser, it is important that they know they are not alone, and that help is available.
Despite the ongoing health emergency, our Office has worked tirelessly to bring safety and justice to victims-survivors of domestic violence. For example:
- As part of the Intimate Partner Violence Prevention Initiative, our Office developed flyers, in English and Spanish, with key information about what services are available to victims-survivors of abuse during the pandemic, and how to report abuse safely. Officers with the Metropolitan Police Department have distributed hundreds of the flyers throughout our community and continue to do so;
- Prosecutors in our Sex Offense and Domestic Violence Section have responded to hundreds of motions seeking early release for those convicted of domestic violence, arguing against release where it is necessary to keep our community safe, with almost uniform success;
- Our Office worked with community partners to establish procedures for conducting remote interviews of children suspected to be victims-survivors of abuse; and
- Our Office is planning several remote events during the month of October to educate the public about domestic violence and to help victims-survivors learn how to break free from the powerful cycle of violence, including a WebEx presentation with the Washington Humane Society on October 29 from 3:00 – 4:15 p.m. on the link between animal cruelty and domestic violence. Other events focusing on domestic violence include the following:
- October 7, 14, 21, and 28 – Domestic Violence/Bullying Hispanic Youth Presentation (available to students only);
- October 14 and 21 – Women’s Roundtable Series focused on domestic violence (6:00 p.m. on the 14th) and protecting children from abuse and neglect (also at 6;00 p.m. on the 21st);
- October 27 – Hate Bias Task Force Meeting focused on helping victims-survivors of domestic violence during COVID-19 (6:00 p.m.); and
- October 28 – Clergy Ambassador Program event focused on domestic violence (6:00 p.m.).
While this Domestic Violence Awareness Month comes during a uniquely challenging time, it is nevertheless an important reminder of the fact that now, more than ever, we must fight to bring justice to those who have been victimized by domestic violence.