Saturday, Sept. 23

Gov. Blagojevich announces nearly $20 million secured to help victims of domestic violence and sexual assault

$1 million state grant to Chicago Foundation for Women          Send a link to a friend

[SEPT. 23, 2006]  CHICAGO -- Addressing dozens of community, not-for-profit and business leaders on Thursday at the 21st annual luncheon and symposium of the Chicago Foundation for Women, Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich announced more than $20 million in funding for grants to help provide services throughout Illinois to victims of domestic violence and sexual assault. The governor highlighted a $1 million grant to the Chicago Foundation for Women that will help launch a comprehensive Anti-Violence Initiative to fight against human trafficking, domestic violence, sexual assault, the sex trade, street harassment and other forms of gender-based violence.

"Domestic violence and sexual assault are two of the worst crimes we see. And sadly, thousands of women and children face this kind of violence each year," Blagojevich said. "That's why it's so important to invest in programs that help prevent violence against women and ensure that women and girls can find safety and help when they need to escape violent situations. The Chicago Foundation for Women's Anti-Violence Initiative is taking all the right steps to fight domestic violence and sexual assaults. And with these state and federal grants, the Chicago Foundation for Women and other organizations across the state will help us strive to be the safest state in the country for women and girls."

Over the next year the foundation will connect with stakeholders across Illinois to answer the question, "What will it take to make Illinois the safest state in the country for all women and girls?"

The Anti-Violence Initiative will help the Chicago Foundation for Women fund a public education drive, implement a grass-roots strategy and coordinate events to raise public awareness about the issue of violence against women and how to prevent it. Policymakers, opinion leaders, experts on anti-violence strategies, advocates, service providers and survivors of violence have joined together to create the Safe State Council to advise and support the initiative.

"This seems like such a simple question to ask," said Hannah Rosenthal, executive director of the foundation. "But we know from experience that simple questions often net the most complex and complete answers. And that is what we are looking for -- answers. We believe and we know that the governor believes that all women should be able to live in just, safe and healthy communities."

"We chose the Chicago Foundation for Women to lead this initiative because it has always been a leader in trying to help end violence against women," said state Sen. Carol Ronen. "And we also know that the foundation is a neutral organization able to bring together advocates, academics, politicians, community members and religious leaders. And willing to reach out to find those who haven't yet been part of the discussion."

The foundation plans to allocate $600,000 to create a statewide dialogue and education campaign and $400,000 in grants for nonprofit organizations focusing on violence against women and girls.

The governor also announced $15.4 million in federal funds to support the Victims of Crime Act in Illinois, created to assist victims of sexual abuse, domestic violence, child abuse and other groups identified by the state as underserved victims of crime. In addition, the state received a $4.4 million federal grant to support the Violence Against Women Act, which works to improve the criminal justice system's response to female victims of sexual assault and domestic violence. Service agencies receiving federal funding will provide victims with crisis intervention, counseling, emergency shelter, emergency transportation and advocacy services.

Between VOCA and VAWA, more than 350 Illinois violence prevention programs received funding in fiscal 2006, including the Illinois Coalition Against Domestic Violence, Illinois Coalition Against Sexual Assault and other service organizations supporting Illinois victims. Such programs will be included in the Chicago Foundation for Women's Anti-Violence Initiative as it reaches across the state to coordinate service organizations.

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Since 2003, the governor has made other significant contributions to promote and reform programs fighting domestic violence and improving women's safety:

  • Signed domestic violence legislation into law: In July of 2004, the governor signed several pieces of legislation to fight the brutal cycle of domestic violence. The new laws increase the minimum sentence for repeat domestic batterers, increase the fines imposed on those found guilty of domestic violence or sexual assault offenses, and protect victims of domestic violence by closing gaps in existing law. The next month, Blagojevich signed legislation giving victims of spousal criminal sexual assault and abuse an extended period of time to report the crime. In addition, the governor signed the Victim's Economic Security and Safety Act into law. This act enables victims to maintain the financial independence necessary to leave abusive situations and achieve safety, and it reduces the devastating economic consequences of domestic or sexual violence to employers and employees.

  • Facilitated task force to reform DCFS programs in child abuse: First lady Patricia Blagojevich served on the Department of Children and Family Services' task force to create a blueprint to reform the agency. Among other reforms, the task force developed a child endangerment risk assessment protocol, which has contributed to a 48 percent reduction in children being abused again after contact with the department; implemented the nation's first Web-based Statewide Automated Child Welfare Information System; expanded Child Advocacy Centers, which coordinate investigations of child sexual abuse and serious physical injury; and increased department staff in areas where the volume of reports is higher than average.

  • Coordinated fight against human trafficking: Blagojevich signed House Bill 1469 in June 2005, creating the Trafficking of Persons and Involuntary Servitude Act. Since then, the governor has instructed several state agencies to join with the federal government, the Chicago Police Department, and over 80 other statewide and local organizations in Illinois to form a coalition to combat the growing problem of human trafficking. Illinois' new Trafficking of Persons and Involuntary Servitude Act defines and establishes penalties for the offenses of involuntary servitude, sexual servitude of a minor and human trafficking for forced labor and services.

To learn more about domestic violence services programs, call the Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233). To learn more about Illinois Department of Human Services programs, including domestic violence help, call 1-800-843-6154.

[News release from the governor's office]

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