Established by the Violence Against Women Act of 1994, the STOP Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) Program seeks to develop and implement law enforcement and prosecution strategies to effectively decrease violent crimes against women. These grants also help to develop and enhance services provided to the victims of violent crimes.
In Pennsylvania, the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency (PCCD) is responsible for coordinating VAWA funds with local agencies. Funds through VAWA provide systematic and sustained focus on permanent systems change within the Pennsylvania criminal justice system, while simultaneously developing a comprehensive network of domestic violence and sexual assault victim service advocates and programs throughout Pennsylvania communities.
In FY2018-2019, STOP Program objectives are focused on the preservation of core services and activities, including:
- Specialized units of law enforcement and prosecution - Specialized units under STOP create an atmosphere in which both the investigatory and prosecutorial disciplines develop an understanding of victim behavior within the context of sexual and domestic violence. They use that understanding to cultivate victims trust and safety and to further support victims participation in the criminal or juvenile justice systems. They also understand the reasons why a victim may not want to participate in the criminal or juvenile justice systems. In these situations, law enforcement and prosecution draw upon their training and experience to effectively collect and preserve evidence, document injuries, record witness statements, identify primary aggressors, and document prior violence and intimidation by the suspect so that evidence-based prosecution strategies can be used.
- Victim services - Victim Services are a fundamental part of the collaboration mandated by the STOP Program and a crucial channel to promote victims safety, autonomy and recovery. This includes, but is not limited to: (1) Crisis intervention; (2) Supportive Counseling (individual or group); (3) Advocacy on behalf of victims with the civil, criminal and juvenile justice systems, healthcare, immigration, financial or educational institutions, etc; (4) Legal advocacy including advising victims of their options, assistance with domestic violence- or sexual violence-related protection orders and accompaniment to legal proceedings connected to the abuse; (5) Legal assistance including civil legal services provided by an attorney and/or a paralegal; (6) Emergency housing; (7) Safety Planning; (8) Sexual Assault Response Teams (SART); (9) Implementation of the Maryland Model of the Domestic Violence Lethality Assessment Program (LAP); (10) Victims Compensation Assistance; (11) Linguistically and Culturally Appropriate Services to Underserved Populations; (12) Language services (provision of interpretation and/or translation); and (13) Transportation assistance.
- Training - The STOP Program exists to strengthen the criminal and juvenile justice systems response to violence against women, increase the prosecution of violence against women cases and augment the advocacy and services available to victims. STOP funds can be used to support (1) Professional Development and/or (2) Multidisciplinary training events.