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President's Message (Grace Furukawa)
On Hydra-Headed Monsters (Astrid Monson)
League Interviews State Attorney General Margery Bronster (Suzanne Meisenzahl)
Cybercorner (Judith Stitley)
LWV-Hawaii Convention '97

League Interviews State Attorney General Margery Bronster

The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) of 1994 provides grants, known as STOP (Services, Training. Officers. Prosecutors) grants to help local government develop and improve law enforcement and prosecution strategies and improve victim services for cases involving violent crimes against women. The goal is to make life safe so women can lead their lives without fear of sexual assault or battering and that offenders are held accountable for their actions. The STOP grants are to cover a six year period. In Hawaii, Attorney General Margery Bronster was appointed State administrator for this program. Ms. Bronster was happy to meet with us and discuss this program stating that she appreciated our interest in the subject and hopes that domestic violence will become part of the public and private dialogue so that people aren't afraid to report it. The following are some excerpts from that meeting.

How much money was received in Hawaii under this program?

In our first year we had about $420, 000. The second and third years will each be another $900,000. One quarter of the funds must go to service providers, one quarter to police and one quarter to prosecutors and the final quarter is discretionary. The focus on the first two years was really educating prosecutors and within the police to make sure that people from the chief all the way down to the beat cops are aware of what the issues are and aware that this is a real problem. This isn't just a fight within a fàmily, but a law enforcement problem and a community violence problem. On the service provider side we have long had a problem getting a handle on how large the problem is in the community and getting a sense of who the victims are, where the victims are, and what kind of problems we have in making sure that victims actually become part of the criminal justice system. Many of the victims are not reporting and not getting the services that they need. One of the projects we are working on with our first two years funding is a data base to find out where the problems are and to take the information that is garnered and focus our third year funds on making sure that we get out to the victims in direct service and not only gathering information but making sure that everyone is tuned to what is going on, and that we actually have direct service to those who need it both on the sexual assault side and domestic violence side.

Is there a strategic plan for the six year period?

We have been thinking about this issue for more than a year. We have been looking at where our concerns and issues are. I have tried particularly in this last year to take the criminal justice and law enforcement people, personnel and resources in my office and try to merge them. We did a study on who are the victims of sexual assault and what we found was that there is a tremendous number of people who are assaulted by family members, by neighbors, or people they know so it ends up with a real interplay between victims of sexual assault and domestic violence. We are working to try to identify those kinds of issues. I think that we are making some progress.

What kind of planning process was used?

We put together a committee of representatives from law enforcement which includes both the police, prosecutors, and service providers - both sexual assault and domestic violence - and other groups including legislators, and representatives from the coalition on the status of women groups.

Is the planning committee ongoing?

We keep meeting. It is useful for determining where grant money should go and giving us a check on how well we are doing.

Were federal guidelines allocating 25% to police, prosecutor, and service providers followed?

We did that but for the first year's grant, the 25% for the service providers and the 25% discretionary went toward the data base. I think the data base is something that can be used by all groups.

How are the plans periodically assessed to make sure that they fit the circumstances and the vision?

We do that directly through the VA WA committee. We meet at least quarterly. We are constantly reassessing. When we find people who are now involved or want to get involved, we invite them to join us. We have tried very hard to make everyone welcome.

What was the subgrant award process and who are the subgrantees?

Basically we had various groups come together on the planning committee. We came up with priorities and a plan for funding the various requests Our• subgrantees are the police and prosecutors. For the /first year service providers are putting together the data hase and for subsequent years it is specific people. For example, one of the things the are doing is training more people far nurse's training. SANE - Sexual Assault Nurse Examinations basically make sure that victims that come in, particularly on the neighbor islands where they don't have doctors available to do the complete forensic screening that is necessary, they have nurses who are trained to do that, so that when the prosecutor gets the case, it doesn't fall apart because there was not adequate forensic examination.

How do people in the community find out about the second years discretionary available funds?

There is a lot of time, money and energy spent on education and training but I want to do as much as we can to get money to direct services. One of my goals is to know what is out there. What works and what doesn't so that we can help support some of' the existing programs. We can't say we should have this or we should have that without getting a sense of what the people who are on the front lines are facing. Communication is the key. We are communicating with a limited group and the more information that is out there the better off we are The more applications the better and we will he able to pick amongst the best of the best The League is wonderful and could help us get the word out that we tire looking for more grant applicants. That we are looking for areas that people feel tire either underserved as communities or specific problems that are being left unaddressed. To me that level of communication in both directions, both from us and back to us is crucial and anything League can do along those lines is greatly appreciated.

We appreciate the time the attorney general took to meet with us and we support her efforts in identifying issues such as the relationships between sexual assault and domestic violence. We know that a vast majority of domestic violence victims are also victims of sexual assault but don't report it as a crime because the perpetrators are their husbands or boyfriends. In order to protect women we need to address the issue of all violence against women.

Although the planning process for using the STOP funds includes discussions among the various domestic violence groups in the community, we need more formal strategic planning and evaluation for the six year period of this grant. We would like to see a list of established priorities and a mechanism in place to evaluate resuIts. Many people currently involved in domestic violence prevention efforts have a vested interest in saying that everything is going well, but how are their programs and results actually being measured'

Ms. Bronster mentioned that she would like to find out which programs have lost funding and perhaps help to fund some of them again. How do we know these programs are worthy of funding? Given the number of women who have died in our community as a result of domestic violence, women are not safe. Based on our work in monitoring the courts, we do not see that batterers are being held accountable. Do we want to continue to fund existing programs or should we be looking at systemic changes?

Suzanne Meisenzahl
Violence Prevention Committee, Chair

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