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July 19, 2007: 

Congressional Committees: 

Subject: Services Provided to Victims of Domestic Violence, Sexual 
Assault, Dating Violence, and Stalking: 

Historically, domestic violence, sexual assaults, and stalking 
incidents have often been ignored by society and treated as private 
family matters. However, in 1984, Congress passed and the President 
signed the Family Violence Prevention and Services Act (FVPSA) to, 
among other things, help prevent domestic violence and provide shelter 
and related assistance for victims.[Footnote 1] Grants funded under the 
act are administered by the Department of Health and Human Services' 
(HHS) Administration for Children and Families and are available to 
states, Indian tribal governments and organizations, state domestic 
violence coalitions, and public and private nonprofit entities. In 
response to continued concerns about domestic violence as well as 
sexual assault and stalking incidents, Congress passed and the 
President signed the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) in 
1994.[Footnote 2] VAWA created new federal criminal laws and 
established additional grant programs within HHS and the Department of 
Justice (DOJ) for state, local, and Indian tribal governments and 
nonprofit organizations. These grant programs have various purposes, 
such as providing funding for direct services including emergency 
shelter, counseling, and legal services for victims of domestic 
violence, sexual assaults, and stalking across all segments of the 
population. Recipients of funds from these grant programs include, 
among others, state agencies, tribes, shelters, rape crisis centers, 
organizations that provide legal services, and hotlines. In 2000, 
during the reauthorization of VAWA, language was added to the law to 
provide greater emphasis on dating violence. The 2006 reauthorization 
of VAWA expanded existing grant programs and added new programs 
addressing, among other things, young victims, the housing and economic 
needs of victims, and the health care system's response to domestic 
violence, sexual assault, dating violence, and stalking.[Footnote 3] In 
addition to being eligible to receive an array of services through VAWA-
funded grant programs, victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, 
dating violence, and stalking are also eligible to receive services 
through grants awarded in accordance with the Victims of Crime Act, 
which are administered by DOJ's Office for Victims of Crime.[Footnote 
4] In fiscal year 2007, Congress appropriated $382.5 million for 
violence against women programs administered by DOJ and an additional 
$125 million was available for programs administered by HHS.[Footnote 
5] 

The Violence Against Women and DOJ Reauthorization Act of 2005, enacted 
January 5, 2006, requires us to conduct a study and report on data 
indicating the prevalence of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual 
assault, and stalking among men, women, youth, and children;[Footnote 
6] to survey DOJ, as well as any recipients of federal funding, to 
identify what services are provided to victims of these 
crimes;[Footnote 7] and to report on whether the services are made 
available to men, women, youth, and children, as well as the number, 
age, and gender of victims receiving each available service.[Footnote 
8] Congress requested this information, in part, to assist in its 
program oversight and appropriations decisions. On November 13, 2006, 
we reported on the prevalence of these four categories of 
crime.[Footnote 9] In that report, we stated that current national data 
collection efforts address only certain subsets of these four 
categories of crime among some segments of the population, and that the 
results of these efforts cannot be combined and leveraged to determine 
nationwide prevalence estimates because they use different definitions 
and vary in scope. We recommended that DOJ and HHS take several actions 
to identify and address information gaps, such as determining the 
prevalence of dating violence among victims age 12 and older, and to 
the extent possible, require the use of common definitions of domestic 
violence, sexual assault, dating violence, and stalking when conducting 
or providing grants for federal research. HHS and DOJ generally 
concurred with these recommendations. Implementation of these 
recommendations will help provide Congress and agency decision makers 
with more comprehensive information on the prevalence of domestic 
violence, sexual assault, dating violence, and stalking to assist them 
in making policy decisions on grants and other issues associated with 
these four categories of crime. 

This report responds to the segment of the mandate related to victim 
services. In addressing this segment of the mandate, we determined that 
conducting our own survey of grant recipients to identify services 
provided to victims and the demographic characteristics of victims 
receiving each available service was not practical and feasible for 
three primary reasons. First, although we reviewed electronic files 
provided by HHS and DOJ that contained data on hundreds of grant 
recipients that receive funds under each of these grant programs, we 
had difficulty identifying the complete population of grant recipients 
from these files, which was a necessary step to complete in selecting a 
survey sample. We had difficulty because, for example, recipients could 
receive grants from more than one program and could also receive grants 
from the same program over multiple years. Thus, eliminating duplicate 
counts of grant recipients was challenging and required significant 
resources. Second, because some of these grants are provided to states 
and tribes, which in turn distribute funding to other organizations 
that provide services, we would have had to expend considerable effort 
and expense to contact and obtain lists from all states and tribes to 
identify these additional recipients. Third, as a result of discussions 
with grant recipients, we could not be assured that any survey data we 
obtained would be consistent and reliable enough for analysis of the 
specific information required, i.e., the number, age, and gender of 
victims receiving each available service. 

As an alternative, and as agreed with your offices, we focused this 
report on the reasons uniform and reliable demographic data by type of 
service might not be available for services provided to victims by 
federal grant recipients under VAWA, the Victims of Crime Act, and 
FVPSA. Thus, this report presents the results of our efforts to address 
the following questions: 

1. What types of data have grant recipients collected and reported to 
HHS and DOJ related to services provided under these grant programs to 
victims, specifically data by type of service on the extent to which 
men, women, youth, and children receive each service? 

2. What challenges, if any, do federal departments report that they and 
their grant recipients would face in collecting and reporting 
information on the demographic characteristics of victims receiving 
services by type of service, if they currently do not do so? 

To answer the first question, we obtained information from and 
interviewed officials at HHS's Administration for Children and Families 
(ACF) as well as DOJ's Office for Victims of Crime (OVC) and Office on 
Violence Against Women (OVW). This information included reports the 
agencies' grant recipients are required to complete on a routine basis 
as well as reports the agencies provide to Congress on victim services 
data. We also met with state officials in Georgia, Maryland, and Texas 
who are responsible for administering grants under VAWA, the Victims of 
Crime Act, and FVPSA. We selected these states because they were 
geographically dispersed. We also met with 20 grant recipients that 
provide services, such as emergency shelter, legal advocacy, and rape 
crisis counseling, to victims within their communities. During these 
visits, we interviewed grant recipients about the types and extent of 
services provided to victims using federally provided funds as well as 
the recipients' data collection and reporting practices and reviewed 
available documentation related to these efforts. In addition, we 
visited three other grant recipients that provide services to victims 
throughout the United States, including the Rape Abuse and Incest 
National Network, the National Center for Victims of Crime and its 
Stalking Resource Center, and the National Domestic Violence Hotline. 
We selected all of these grant recipients because they represented the 
different types of recipients that provide victim services--police 
departments, Indian tribes, legal entities, domestic violence shelters, 
rape crisis centers, hotlines, county governments, and college 
campuses. We also interviewed officials from various advocacy groups, 
such as Respecting Accuracy in Domestic Abuse Reporting and Men's 
Health Network, as well as state coalitions against domestic violence 
in Georgia, Maryland, and Texas and state coalitions against sexual 
assault in Georgia and Texas. In addition, to obtain examples of how 
FVPSA grant recipients were reporting victim services data to HHS, we 
reviewed a small sample of eight grant recipient files maintained by 
HHS, containing reports on the services provided to victims. At our 
request, ACF program staff selected grant recipients that characterized 
the types of grant reports received. Because we selected 
nongeneralizable samples of state officials, grant recipients, grant 
recipient files, advocacy groups, and state coalitions, the results 
from these interviews and file reviews cannot be used to make 
inferences about all members of these populations. However, we 
determined that the information obtained was sufficient to provide us 
with an understanding of the types of data being collected by grant 
recipients and reported to HHS and DOJ. 

We also reviewed VAWA, the Victims of Crime Act, and FVPSA to determine 
what services were authorized to be made available to men, women, 
youth, and children. We focused on 11 federal grant programs that are 
authorized under these three statutes. We selected these grant programs 
following discussions with HHS and DOJ officials because the funds 
under these programs could be used to provide direct services to 
victims during fiscal year 2005. Table 1 provides a listing of these 
grant programs, and additional details are provided in enclosure II. 

Table 1: Grant Programs Included in GAO Review: 

Agency: Administration for Children and Families; 
Grant program: 
* Family Violence Prevention and Services Act Grants. 

Agency: Office on Violence Against Women; 
Grant program: 
* STOP Violence Against Women Formula Grants Program; 
* Legal Assistance for Victims Grant Program; 
* STOP Violence Against Indian Women Discretionary Grants Program; 
* Grants to Encourage Arrest Policies and Enforcement of Protection 
Orders; 
* Rural Domestic Violence and Child Victimization Enforcement Grants; 
* Grants to Reduce Violent Crimes Against Women on Campus; 
* Transitional Housing Assistance Grants Program; 
* Safe Havens: Supervised Visitation and Safe Exchange Grant Program. 

Agency: Office for Victims of Crime; 
Grant program: 
* Victim Assistance Formula Grants; 
* Discretionary Grants. 

Source: GAO review of federal grant programs authorized under VAWA, the 
Victims of Crime Act, and the Family Violence Prevention and Services 
Act. 

[End of table] 

To obtain information on the challenges HHS and DOJ report that they 
and their grant recipients would face in collecting and reporting 
information on the demographic characteristics of victims receiving 
services by type of service, we met with agency officials responsible 
for administering the 11 grant programs we reviewed to obtain their 
perspectives on this issue. 

We conducted our work from May 2006 through June 2007 in accordance 
with generally accepted government auditing standards. 

Results in Brief: 

Recipients of the 11 grant programs we reviewed currently collect and 
report data to the respective agencies on the types of services they 
provide, such as counseling, the total number of victims served, and in 
some cases, demographic information, such as the age of victims; 
however, data are not available on the extent to which men, women, 
youth, and children receive each type of service for all services. This 
situation occurs primarily because the statutes governing these 
programs do not require the collection of such data. However, VAWA, the 
Victims of Crime Act, and FVPSA authorize that a range of services can 
be provided to victims, and we determined that services were generally 
provided to men, women, youth, and children. The agencies administering 
these 11 grant programs collect some demographic data for certain 
services, such as emergency shelter under FVPSA and supervised 
visitation and exchange under VAWA. However, even if demographic data 
were available by type of service for all services, such data might not 
be uniform and reliable because (1) the authorizing statutes and 
resulting reporting requirements for the 11 grant programs differ; (2) 
ACF has not developed a standard form for its grant recipients to use 
in collecting and reporting data, and its grant recipients have not 
always collected and reported data for consistent time 
periods;[Footnote 10] (3) grant recipient officials assigned to manage 
FVPSA programs have experienced high turnover resulting in a loss of 
program knowledge; and (4) recipients of grants administered by all 
three agencies use varying data collection practices--for example, some 
recipients request victims to self-report data on the victim's race, 
whereas other recipients rely on visual observation of the victim to 
obtain these data. HHS has efforts under way to improve the uniformity 
and reliability of data collection efforts, but does not anticipate 
full implementation of these efforts until fiscal year 2010. However, 
these efforts are not intended to collect information on the extent to 
which men, women, youth, and children receive each type of service or 
on other demographic characteristics of victims receiving services by 
type of service. Thus, even when these efforts are fully implemented, 
such data will still not exist. 

HHS and DOJ reported that they would face significant challenges in 
collecting and reporting data on the demographic characteristics of 
victims receiving services by type of service for all services funded 
by the 11 grant programs included in our review because of concerns 
about victims' confidentiality and safety, resource constraints, 
overburdening recipients, and technological issues. For example, 
according to ACF, OVC, and OVW officials, requiring grant recipients to 
collect this level of detail may inadvertently disclose a victim's 
identity, thus jeopardizing the victim's safety. ACF officials also 
said that some of their grant recipients do not have the resources to 
devote to these data collection efforts, since their primary focus is 
on service delivery. In addition, ACF officials said that being too 
prescriptive in requiring demographic data could overburden some grant 
recipients that may report data to multiple funding entities, such as 
federal, state, and local entities and private foundations. 
Furthermore, all three agencies reported that some grant recipients do 
not have sophisticated data collection systems in place to allow them 
to collect additional information. 

We are not recommending that federal departments require their grant 
recipients to collect and report additional data on the demographic 
characteristics of victims receiving services by type of service 
because of the potential costs and difficulties associated with 
addressing the challenges HHS and DOJ officials identified, relative to 
the benefits that would be derived. 

In commenting on a draft of this report, HHS generally concurred with 
the information presented in this report, as reflected in enclosure 
III. DOJ's OVW made three overall comments regarding the presentation 
of this report. First, OVW expressed concern that the report did not 
give the agency credit for the victim services data it collects. This 
report acknowledges the extensive data collected by OVW, but we 
nevertheless clarified the report to emphasize that our focus is on 
whether grant recipients collect and report victim services data 
specifically by type of service provided to men, women, youth, and 
children. Second, OVW stated that this report did not include a 
comprehensive description of the systems it has instituted to improve 
the quality of its grant recipient data. We added information regarding 
the systems and measures OVW told us that it has in place on pages 9, 
11, and 12, which we believe is sufficient to meet the objectives of 
this report. Third, OVW was concerned that the report does not permit 
the reader to associate the information presented in the report with 
the agency responsible for the actions being discussed. Where 
appropriate, we modified the report to more clearly link the data 
issues we identified to the specific agencies that were involved. OVW's 
comments are presented in enclosure IV. 

Demographic Data on Victims Served by Type of Service Are Not Available 
for All Services: 

Recipients of the 11 grant programs we reviewed routinely collect and 
report data to the respective agencies on the types of services they 
provide, such as counseling, the total number of victims served, and in 
some cases, demographic information, such as the age and sex, of these 
victims. Although the data these recipients collect demonstrate that 
they generally make services available to men, women, youth, and 
children,[Footnote 11] data are not available to determine the extent 
to which each of these demographic groups receive each specific 
service. This is primarily because none of the statutes governing the 
11 grant programs require the agencies to collect demographic data by 
type of service from grant recipients. Nevertheless, to help fulfill 
its statutory requirement to measure the effectiveness of its grant 
programs, OVW collects demographic data by program for victims served 
under the 8 VAWA grant programs included in our review, and each of 
these programs generally provides a number of services. Demographic 
data may be available for certain services. For example, program 
requirements for FVPSA grants state that recipients should report 
information on men, women, youth, and children who receive emergency 
shelter services. Furthermore, because some of the VAWA grant programs 
are narrowly focused on a specific type of service, such as supervised 
visitation and exchange or transitional housing, demographic data are 
collected on the victims who receive these specific services. The 
quantity of information collected and reported varies greatly for the 
11 programs and is extensive for some, such as those administered by 
OVW under VAWA. The federal agencies use this information to help 
inform Congress about the known results and effectiveness of the grant 
programs.[Footnote 12] However, even if demographic data were available 
by type of service for all services and all programs, such data might 
not be uniform and reliable for the following four reasons. 

First, the authorizing statutes for these 11 grant programs have 
different purposes, and therefore reporting requirements must vary 
across the programs to be consistent with these statutes. For example, 
the statutes do not always authorize that services be provided to 
victims of all four categories of crime--domestic violence, sexual 
assault, dating violence, and stalking. As a result, grant recipients 
do not always collect and report information on the services they 
provide by all four categories of crime. In 2005, for instance, 
recipients of the Rural Domestic Violence and Child Victimization 
Enforcement Grant program were not authorized to provide services to 
sexual assault and stalking victims and therefore were not required to 
collect data on services provided to victims of these two categories of 
crime.[Footnote 13] Similarly, the FVPSA grant program was established, 
in part, to provide shelter and related assistance for victims of 
domestic violence and their dependents. Therefore, grant recipients 
under this program collect and report information on the services they 
provide to domestic violence victims, but not to victims of the other 
three categories of crime. Although some of these victims may also have 
been subjected to multiple victimizations, such as those associated 
with sexual assault, dating violence, or stalking, ACF officials stated 
that they established data collection and reporting requirements 
consistent with the statute. Thus, ACF officials do not expect grant 
recipients under this program to collect and report information on 
services provided to sexual assault, dating violence, or stalking 
victims who are also victims of domestic violence. Furthermore, ACF 
officials said that it would be difficult for their grant recipients to 
determine the number of victims that received services by all four 
categories of crime because some of these victims have been subjected 
to multiple victimizations, such as both domestic violence and sexual 
assault. According to OVW officials, the agency is currently in the 
process of revising some of its data collection forms for several of 
its grant programs to capture information on services provided to 
victims of additional categories of crime because of the 2006 
reauthorization of VAWA.[Footnote 14] OVW officials anticipate that the 
changes to these data collection forms will be finalized in January 
2008. They said that these revisions are designed to bring the 
reporting forms into conformity with the 2006 reauthorization of VAWA, 
thereby assisting in capturing data on all four categories of crime. 
However, according to OVW, these revisions are not intended to result 
in data being collected and reported on the demographic characteristics 
of victims by type of service because the 2006 reauthorization of VAWA 
did not require such data. 

In addition, because the statutory reporting requirements vary, 
information collected and reported for the 11 grant programs is not 
always consistent or comparable across all programs. For example, 
recipients of FVPSA grants are required to collect data on the number 
and age brackets of domestic violence victims sheltered.[Footnote 15] 
In contrast, recipients of Victim Assistance Formula Grants must 
collect data on the number of victims served who suffered child 
physical abuse, child sexual abuse, domestic violence, adult sexual 
assault, and elder abuse, but they are not required to break down the 
data by gender or specific age classifications. However, OVW officials 
said that the office has sought to collect consistent data on victim 
services across its grant programs where the statutory purposes of the 
programs permit provision of the same types of services.[Footnote 16] 

Second, data on some FVPSA victim services appear to be inconsistent 
because (1) ACF has not yet developed a standard form for its grant 
recipients to use in collecting and reporting data, and (2) reporting 
periods sometimes vary among these grant recipients. As part of its 
program requirements, ACF requires that grant recipients report 
annually on several data elements, such as the number of shelters and 
shelter programs assisted by FVPSA program funds and the number of 
individuals sheltered.[Footnote 17] However, our review of eight FVPSA 
grant recipient files showed inconsistencies in the type of data 
reported. For example, one grant recipient reported the number of 
individual clients served by type of service, such as counseling; one 
recipient reported only the number of individuals receiving shelter; 
one reported no data on services provided; and five appeared to report 
the number of times a service was provided rather than the number of 
individual clients served. ACF officials acknowledged that such 
inconsistencies are occurring and said that they are attempting to 
resolve them through several initiatives, such as the creation of a 
working group to identify a more consistent reporting mechanism. Our 
review also showed that FVPSA grant recipients were reporting data for 
different time periods, making analysis difficult. For example, our 
review of eight grant recipient files showed that four state grant 
recipients reported data for the 2005 federal fiscal year and one 
reported data on the state 2005 fiscal year. One tribal grant recipient 
reported data for calendar year 2005, one reported data for a period 
from May 6, 2005, until July 21, 2006, whereas another tribal grant 
recipient's report did not disclose the actual time period for which 
data were being reported. ACF officials said that these types of 
inconsistencies occurred when state grant recipients report data on the 
period in which they allocate FVPSA funds to subgrantees--either the 
federal or state's fiscal year--or when ACF officials were late in 
issuing their program announcement related to the availability of 
funding to tribes and tribal organizations. Because they issued these 
program announcements later than anticipated, ACF officials said that 
some grant recipients may have been confused about the reporting 
periods, resulting in inconsistencies. ACF officials said that they are 
working to eliminate these inconsistencies by issuing program 
announcements for FVPSA grants on a more consistent and timely basis 
and by clearly specifying reporting requirements and timelines. 

ACF currently has several efforts under way to improve its data 
collection efforts for its grant programs to assist in obtaining better 
performance data in response to an Office of Management and Budget 
review done in 2005. Specifically, agency officials said that ACF 
joined a working group of individuals representing states, tribes, 
state coalitions, and other domestic violence prevention organizations 
to identify methods for developing more reliable data related to 
assessing and measuring the effectiveness of domestic violence 
programs. This group developed a number of survey instruments and other 
tools for domestic violence programs and coalitions to use to evaluate 
themselves. Using knowledge obtained by working with this group, ACF 
officials stated that they created another working group consisting of 
individuals representing many of these same organizations to help the 
agency develop measures to assess the effectiveness of grant 
recipients' use of FVPSA funds. These officials also said that 
representatives from this working group have developed specific outcome 
measures, such as the percentage of domestic violence survivors that 
have developed strategies for enhancing their safety as a result of 
contact with a domestic violence program receiving FVPSA funds. 
According to these officials, these outcome measures are currently 
being piloted by grant recipients in four states. Furthermore, ACF 
plans to expand the pilot to four additional states by July 2007 and to 
provide training to grant recipients on collecting these outcome data 
in fiscal year 2008. ACF officials also said that they plan to require 
their state grant recipients to begin collecting these new outcome data 
nationwide in fiscal year 2009. These officials stated that they also 
established a working group to develop a standard form to be used by 
its grant recipients to report information specifically related to the 
use of program funds. The officials said that, as part of this effort, 
the working group is trying to develop clearly defined data elements to 
help eliminate any further inconsistencies in reporting. They 
anticipate issuing a program announcement in January 2008 that will 
include these new reporting requirements for their state grant 
recipients and expect full implementation will occur in fiscal year 
2010.[Footnote 18] Finally, ACF officials told us that they provided 
funding to the National Institute of Justice for an independent study 
on the effectiveness of shelter services provided to domestic violence 
victims.[Footnote 19] They said that the study began in June 2007, with 
results to be provided to ACF by June 2008. These efforts may improve 
the consistency and reliability of the data ACF collects and reports 
from its grant recipients and provide additional insights into the 
effectiveness of programs initiated using FVPSA funds. However, 
although ACF officials said that they are planning to collect 
information on the extent to which men, women, youth, and children are 
recipients of FVPSA-funded services for its program in general, they do 
not anticipate collecting this information by type of service because 
of the record-keeping burden and confidentiality issues associated with 
collecting such data. 

Third, some data regarding victim services appear to be unreliable 
because grant recipient officials assigned to manage FVPSA programs 
experience high turnover, resulting in a loss of program knowledge. For 
example, ACF officials expressed concerns regarding the quality of the 
data collected by some tribal grant recipients on victim services 
provided using funds under the Family Violence and Prevention Services 
Act. These officials said that their concerns stem from the high 
turnover rate among grant recipient officials assigned to manage the 
program funds. According to ACF officials, these grant recipients 
generally manage very small operations with about one or two staff and 
do not have sophisticated data collection systems in place to support 
their operations. They said that the official leaving the program will 
often take all of the recipient's institutional knowledge about the 
program. As a result, when responsibility for managing such funds 
shifts to a different official, it takes time for the new person to 
learn the program requirements and obtain an understanding of the 
issues involved. Thus, it is difficult to consistently maintain the 
reliability of the data collected under such circumstances. 

Fourth, some grant recipients we met with reported not always 
collecting complete data or using varying data collection methods that 
could lead to inaccuracies. Specifically, 8 of the 23 grant recipients 
we met with made comments that raised concerns about the reliability of 
the data they collect on victim services. These 8 recipients included 
individual recipients of VAWA, Victims of Crime Act, and FVPSA funding 
and in some cases a combination of two of these funding sources. Four 
of the grant recipients said that they do not always collect complete 
demographic information on the victims they serve because their primary 
emphasis is on helping victims rather than collecting data. 
Furthermore, according to 4 recipients, they sometimes determine 
demographic data, such as a victim's race or gender, through visual 
observation rather than asking the victim to provide such information. 
Officials responsible for administering all of the grant programs we 
reviewed said that requiring victims to self-report demographic 
information is the programs' preferred method for obtaining reliable 
demographic information.[Footnote 20] Using other methods could lead to 
inaccuracies in the data collected. 

To help minimize data errors, OVW reported that it has instituted 
measures in its data collection system to improve the quality of data 
reported by its grant recipients. Specifically, electronic forms used 
by OVW grant recipients to report victim services data contain edit 
checks to help minimize reporting errors by grant recipients.[Footnote 
21] For example, if key data fields are not completed on the form or 
contain questionable information (e.g., the number of staff exceed 
expected levels) the grant recipient will receive a message asking the 
recipient to verify the information. Moreover, according to OVW, its 
data collection system will not accept the form if inconsistent 
information is entered (e.g., the number of victims served is not 
consistent with the number of victims for which age and gender 
information is provided). OVW also said that its staff are responsible 
for reviewing the completed forms submitted by its grant recipients 
(known as progress reports) to ensure that the data are complete and 
accurate and that the recipient is meeting the goals and objectives of 
the grant project. Moreover, if OVW staff identify a problem with the 
information reported by a grant recipient, OVW stated that its staff 
are responsible for contacting the grant recipient to obtain 
clarification or additional information. OVW commented that it then 
transmits data collected from its grant recipients to a university, 
with which OVW has entered into a cooperative agreement. The university 
conducts additional review and follow-up with grant recipients to 
identify and correct any erroneous data. Finally, OVW said that this 
university has undertaken a number of activities to enhance data 
collection and analysis such as providing training and technical 
assistance to grant recipients. 

The statutes authorizing the 11 grant programs we reviewed allow for a 
range of services to be provided with federal grant funds to victims. 
Authorized services include, but are not limited to, emergency 
services, outreach and support, shelter and related assistance, 
counseling, advocacy and intervention services, transitional housing, 
assistance in immigration matters, civil and criminal legal assistance, 
and supervised visitation or safe visitation exchange of children. 
Although such services can be provided to all victims, OVC does not 
collect data on demographic characteristics, such as age, race, and 
gender, of victims receiving services, and ACF and OVW do not collect 
demographic data by the individual type of service received for all 
services because of the challenges discussed below. 

HHS and DOJ Report Various Challenges Involved in Obtaining Additional 
Data on the Characteristics of Victims Receiving Services: 

HHS and DOJ reported various challenges, including victims' 
confidentiality and safety concerns, resource constraints, not unduly 
burdening grant recipients, and technological issues, associated with 
collecting and reporting information on the demographic characteristics 
of victims receiving services by type of service. According to ACF, 
OVC, and OVW officials, collecting and reporting demographic data by 
the type of service victims receive could lead to the inadvertent 
disclosure of the identity of victims, thus compromising the victims' 
safety. Officials at OVC and ACF also noted that the statutes governing 
the programs they administer specifically require grantees to protect 
the confidentiality of records pertaining to individuals receiving 
services and of individually identifiable statistical data collected 
from victims.[Footnote 22] In addition, although ACF officials said 
that such data could provide policy makers with useful information 
about the extent to which victim services are being made available to 
all segments of the population, they explained that some grant 
recipients do not have the resources or data collection systems in 
place to collect data at this level of detail for each service they 
provide. Furthermore, developing such systems may be very costly. In 
addition, ACF officials said that another challenge they would face is 
not being too prescriptive in requiring its grant recipients to collect 
demographic data that could overly burden recipients that report data 
to multiple funding entities. They explained that some grant recipients 
may obtain funding from and report to 20 or more entities. Furthermore, 
they said that data requirements specified by these entities vary, 
citing as an example that different age categories may be used by 
different funding entities, such as federal, state and local entities 
and private foundations. Thus, ACF stated it would be confronted with 
determining an appropriate balance between its data needs and other 
reporting requirements its recipients may face. 

OVC and OVW expressed similar concerns about collecting additional 
demographic information. According to OVC officials, the required 
changes in reporting requirements would have significant cost 
implications because OVC would need to develop a new database to 
collect and maintain the information as well as train staff and grant 
recipients on how to collect the additional data. OVW officials also 
said that making such changes would be costly and require extensive 
revisions to the agency's data system as well as the data collection 
systems used by its grant recipients. According to these officials, 
some recipients reside in remote areas and do not have access to 
technology, such as reliable Internet connections, needed to submit the 
voluminous data files that would result if OVW required them to collect 
demographic information from victims each time they receive a service. 

Agency Comments and Our Evaluation: 

We provided a draft of this report to HHS and DOJ for comment. HHS 
provided written comments on July 2, 2007, and DOJ's OVW provided 
written comments on July 10, 2007; they are presented in enclosures III 
and IV respectively. HHS generally agreed with the findings in the 
report and provided technical comments, which we incorporated, as 
appropriate. 

OVW had three general comments regarding the presentation of this 
report. First, OVW stated that the report does not describe the types 
of victim services data that grantees collect and report to OVW, 
thereby creating a misleading impression that OVW does not collect such 
data. We believe this report appropriately discusses the aggregate data 
that agencies collect from grant recipients for the 11 grant programs 
we reviewed. These data include the types of services provided, such as 
counseling, the total number of victims served, and in some cases, 
demographic information for victims such as age and sex. This report 
notes that the type of data being collected and reported by grant 
recipients varies according to the specific statute authorizing the 
grant program, but also states that the quantity of information is 
extensive for some programs, such as those administered by OVW under 
VAWA. As stated in the objectives for this report, we focused on 
whether grant recipients collect and report demographic data on men, 
women, youth, and children served by type of service and the likely 
accuracy of these data because our mandate required us to determine the 
number, age, and gender of victims receiving each available service. 
However, to help ensure that our focus is clear, we made changes to 
this discussion in the report. 

Second, while OVW maintains that a system relying on grantee self- 
reporting may be subject to error, it believes this report does not 
comprehensively describe the systems OVW has in place to improve the 
quality of its grant recipient data. To address OVW's concern, we 
included a description of the systems and measures OVW told us that it 
has in place on pages 9, 11, and 12, which we believe is sufficient to 
meet the objectives of this report. 

Third, while OVW acknowledges that the information presented in this 
report is technically accurate, it states that the report does not 
permit the reader to distinguish among the three agencies--OVW, OVC and 
ACF--and that, as a result, it appears to criticize OVW's data 
collection system for weaknesses it does not have. To address OVW's 
concern, we added information to the report to more clearly link the 
data issues we identified to the specific agencies that were involved 
in administering the grant programs. In addition, OVW stated that it 
was unsure whether the eight grant recipients discussed in this report 
that made comments raising concerns about data reliability included 
recipients of VAWA funding. To address this concern, we added language 
indicating that these eight recipients included individual recipients 
of VAWA funding, as well as Victims of Crime Act and FVPSA funding, and 
in some cases a combination of two of these funding sources. 

OVC and OVW also provided technical comments, which we incorporated as 
appropriate. 

We are sending copies of this report to selected congressional 
committees, the Secretary of Health and Human Services, the Attorney 
General, the Director of the Office of Management and Budget, and other 
interested parties. We will also make copies available to others on 
request. In addition, the report will be available on GAO's Web site at 
http://www.gao.gov. 

If your office or staff have any questions concerning this report, 
please contact me at (202) 512-6510 or by e-mail at Larencee@gao.gov. 
Key contributors for this report were Debra B. Sebastian, Assistant 
Director; David P. Alexander; Frances Cook; Katherine M. Davis; and 
Deborah S. Ortega. Contact points for our Offices of Congressional 
Relations and Public Affairs may be found on the last page of this 
report. 

Signed by: 

Eileen Regen Larence, Director: 
Homeland Security and Justice Issues: 

Enclosures (4): 

[End of section] 

Enclosure I: List of Committees: 

The Honorable Edward M. Kennedy: 
Chairman: 
The Honorable Michael B. Enzi: 
Ranking Member: 
Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions: 
United States Senate: 

The Honorable Patrick J. Leahy: 
Chairman:
The Honorable Arlen Specter: 
Ranking Member: 
Committee on the Judiciary: 
United States Senate: 

The Honorable John Conyers, Jr. 
Chairman: 
The Honorable Lamar S. Smith: 
Ranking Member: 
Committee on the Judiciary: 
House of Representatives: 

The Honorable John D. Dingell: 
Chairman: 
The Honorable Joe L. Barton: 
Ranking Member: 
Committee on Energy and Commerce: 
House of Representatives: 

[End of section] 

Enclosure II: Grant Programs Specifically Designed to Provide Direct 
Services to Victims of Domestic Violence, Sexual Assault, Dating 
Violence, and Stalking: 

As part of this audit, we focused on 11 federal grant programs that 
were specifically designed to provide direct services to victims of 
domestic violence, sexual assault, dating violence, and stalking. Table 
2 provides information on these programs, including the purpose of 
program, the federal agency responsible for administering the grant 
program, and the amount of funds appropriated for these programs in 
fiscal year 2005.[Footnote 23] 

Table 2: Grant Programs Specifically Designed to Provide Direct 
Services to Victims of Domestic Violence, Sexual Assault, Dating 
Violence, and Stalking: 

Grant program: Family Violence Prevention and Services Act Grants; 
Federal agency awarding and administering grants: Administration for 
Children and Families; 
Purpose: To assist the states and tribes or tribal organizations in 
supporting the establishment, maintenance, and expansion of programs 
and projects to prevent incidents of family violence and to provide 
immediate shelter and related assistance for victims of family violence 
and their dependents; 
Fiscal year 2005 appropriations (dollars in millions): $126.7. 

Grant program: Services, Training, Officers, and Prosecutors (STOP) 
Violence Against Women Formula Grant Program; 
Federal agency awarding and administering grants: Office on Violence 
Against Women; 
Purpose: To develop and strengthen the criminal justice system's 
response to violence against women and to support and enhance services 
for victims. Each state and territory must allocate 25 percent of the 
grant funds to law enforcement, 25 percent to prosecution, 5 percent to 
courts, and 30 percent to victim services. The remaining 15 percent is 
discretionary within the parameters of the Violence Against Women Act 
(VAWA); 
Fiscal year 2005 appropriations (dollars in millions): $150.4. 

Grant program: Legal Assistance for Victims Grant Program; 
Federal agency awarding and administering grants: Office on Violence 
Against Women; 
Purpose: To strengthen legal assistance programs for victims of 
domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking. Eligible applicants 
include Indian tribal governments, victim services programs, law school 
legal clinics, and other legal services organizations that assist 
victims of domestic violence or sexual assault. Five percent of the 
funding for this program is set aside for grants to programs that 
assist victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking on 
lands within the jurisdiction of an Indian tribe; 
Fiscal year 2005 appropriations (dollars in millions): $39.2. 

Grant program: STOP Violence Against Indian Women Discretionary Grants 
Program; 
Federal agency awarding and administering grants: Office on Violence 
Against Women; 
Purpose: To develop and strengthen tribal law enforcement and 
prosecution efforts to combat violence against Native American women 
and to develop and enhance services for victims of such crimes. 
Eligible applicants are recognized tribal governments or consortia; 
Fiscal year 2005 appropriations (dollars in millions): $9.2. 

Grant program: Grants to Encourage Arrest Policies and Enforcement of 
Protection Orders; 
Federal agency awarding and administering grants: Office on Violence 
Against Women; 
Purpose: To encourage state, local, and tribal governments and state, 
local, and tribal courts to treat domestic violence as a serious 
violation of criminal law requiring the coordinated involvement of the 
entire criminal justice system, including, among other purpose areas, 
strengthening legal advocacy service programs for victims. Eligible 
applicants are states, Indian tribal governments, state and local 
courts, and units of local government; 
Fiscal year 2005 appropriations (dollars in millions): $62.6. 

Grant program: Rural Domestic Violence and Child Victimization 
Enforcement Grants; 
Federal agency awarding and administering grants: Office on Violence 
Against Women; 
Purpose: To enhance services available to rural victims and children by 
encouraging community involvement in developing a coordinated response 
to domestic violence, dating violence, and child abuse. A state is 
considered rural if it has a population of 52 or fewer persons per 
square mile or the largest county has less than 150,000 people. In 
rural states, eligible applicants are state and local governments and 
public and private entities. Nonrural states may apply on behalf of 
rural jurisdictions in their states. At least 5 percent of the funding 
for this program must be available for grants to Indian tribal 
governments. Eligible applicants also include Indian tribal governments 
in rural and nonrural states; 
Fiscal year 2005 appropriations (dollars in millions): $39.2. 

Grant program: Grants to Reduce Violent Crimes Against Women on Campus; 
Federal agency awarding and administering grants: Office on Violence 
Against Women; 
Purpose: To strengthen the higher education community's response to 
sexual assault, stalking, domestic violence, and dating violence crimes 
on campuses, and to enhance collaboration between campuses and local 
criminal justice and victim advocacy organizations. Eligible applicants 
are institutions of higher education as defined under the Higher 
Education Amendments of 1998; 
Fiscal year 2005 appropriations (dollars in millions): $9.1. 

Grant program: Transitional Housing Assistance Grants Program; 
Federal agency awarding and administering grants: Office on Violence 
Against Women; 
Purpose: To create safe and affordable housing options for women who 
have left an abusive partner. Grantees will provide a wide range of 
flexible and optional services that reflect the differences and 
individual needs of battered women and their children. Services 
provided may include counseling, support groups, safety planning, and 
advocacy services as well as practical services such as licensed child 
care, employment services, transportation vouchers, telephones, and 
referrals to other agencies. Eligible applicants are states, units of 
local government, Indian tribal governments, and nongovernmental 
private entities; 
Fiscal year 2005 appropriations (dollars in millions): $12.3. 

Grant program: Safe Havens: Supervised Visitation and Safe Exchange 
Grant Program; 
Federal agency awarding and administering grants: Office on Violence 
Against Women; 
Purpose: To help create safe places for visitation with and exchange of 
children in cases of domestic violence, child abuse, sexual assault, or 
stalking. Eligible applicants are states, units of local government, 
and Indian tribal governments that propose to enter into contracts with 
public and private nonprofit entities to provide supervised visitation 
and safe visitation exchange of children in such cases; 
Fiscal year 2005 appropriations (dollars in millions): $13.9. 

Grant program: Victim Assistance Formula Grants; 
Federal agency awarding and administering grants: Office for Victims of 
Crime; 
Purpose: To provide states and territories funding to support community-
based organizations that serve crime victims. Approximately 5,600 
grants are made to domestic violence shelters, rape crisis centers, 
child abuse programs, and victim service units in law enforcement 
agencies, prosecutors' offices, hospitals, and social service agencies. 
These programs provide services that include crisis intervention, 
counseling, emergency shelter, criminal justice advocacy, and emergency 
transportation. States and territories are required to give priority to 
programs serving victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, and 
child abuse. Additional funds must be set aside for underserved 
victims, such as survivors of homicide victims and victims of drunk 
drivers; 
Fiscal year 2005 appropriations (dollars in millions): $382.8[A]. 

Grant program: Discretionary Grants; 
Federal agency awarding and administering grants: Office for Victims of 
Crime; 
Purpose: To improve and enhance the quality and availability of victim 
services. Discretionary grants can be awarded to federal agencies, 
states, local units of government, individuals, educational 
institutions, private nonprofit organizations, and private commercial 
organizations. Discretionary funds support a wide range of activities, 
programs, and services; 
Fiscal year 2005 appropriations (dollars in millions): $28.6[A]. 

Source: Departments of Health and Human Services and Justice. 

[A] Funding for the Victims Assistance Formula and Discretionary Grants 
is provided through the Crime Victims Fund, which was established by 
the Victims of Crime Act of 1984, as amended (Victims of Crime Act of 
1984, 1402, 42 U.S.C.  10601). Fines collected from individuals 
convicted of offenses against the United States and donations from 
private entities are credited to this fund. A total of 47.5 percent of 
the amounts authorized as new budget authority for this fund in fiscal 
year 2005 was made available for the Victims Assistance Formula grants, 
and 5 percent was made available for the discretionary grants. 
According to the Office for Victims of Crime, these discretionary 
grants generally support national technical assistance and awareness 
projects, but some funds are used for direct services. 

[End of table] 

[End of section] 

Enclosure III: Comments from the Department of Health and Human 
Services: 

Department Of Health & Human Services: 
Office of the Assistant Secretary for Legislation: 
Washington, D.C. 20201: 

Jul 2 2007: 

Eileen R. Larence: 
Director, Homeland Security and Justice Issues: 
U.S. Government Accountability Office: 
Washington, D.C. 20548: 

Dear Ms. Larence: 

The Department of Health and Human Services generally concurs with the 
U.S. Government Accountability Office's (GAO) draft report entitled, 
"Services Provided to Victims of Domestic Violence, Sexual Assault, 
Dating Violence, and Stalking" (GAO-07-846R). 

The Department has provided several technical comments directly to your 
staff. 

The Department appreciates the opportunity to review and comment on 
this draft before its publication. 

Sincerely, 

Signed for: 

Vincent J. Ventimiglia: 
Assistant Secretary for Legislation: 

[End of section] 

Enclosure IV: Comments from the Department of Justice: 

United States Department of Justice: 
Office on Violence Against Women: 
800 K Street, NW, Suite 920: 
Washington, DC 20530: 

July 10, 2007: 

By E-Mail Transmission: 

Eileen Regen Larence: 
Director, Homeland Security and Justice Issues: 
United States Government Accountability Office: 
Washington, DC 20548: 

Dear Ms. Larence: 

I have attached the Office on Violence Against Women's (OVW's) written 
agency comments in response to the General Accountability Office (GAO) 
report entitled Services Provided to Victims of Domestic Violence, 
Sexual Assault, Dating Violence, and Stalking, (GAO-07-846R Domestic 
Violence Services). 

OVW has three overarching concerns about the presentation of GAO's 
draft report. First, by failing to describe the data that OVW collects, 
the report creates a false impression that OVW does not collect 
detailed data regarding grant-funded victim services. Second, GAO fails 
to acknowledge fully the systems that OVW has instituted to enhance the 
uniformity and reliability of its grantee data. Third, and closely 
related to the first two, GAO generally fails to distinguish OVW's 
efforts from those of the Office for Victims of Crime and HHS's 
Administration for Children and Families, which results in a distorted 
picture of OVW data collection efforts. 

Thank you for the opportunity to comment on this draft report. 

Sincerely, 

Signed by: 

Acting Director: 

Attachment: 

The Office on Violence Against Women Office's Comments on GAO Draft 
Report, Services Provided to Victims of Domestic Violence, Sexual 
Assault, Dating Violence, and Stalking: 

The General Accountability Office's (GAO's) draft report on the 
availability of services for victims of domestic violence, sexual 
assault, dating violence, and stalking begins with the assertion that 
GAO could not conduct a survey of federal grant recipients that provide 
such services. Draft Report at 2-3. Instead, by agreement with 
Congressional offices, the report "[focuses] on the reasons the grant 
recipients did not collect and report reliable data to federal agencies 
on the services they provided to victims by type of service[.]" 
(emphasis added). Id. at 3. In particular, the report states that it 
will answer two questions: first, what types of data grant recipients 
collect and report to HHS and DOJ related to victim services, and 
second, what challenges federal agencies and grantees would face in 
collecting and reporting information on the demographic characteristics 
of victims receiving services by type of service. Id. 

The Office on Violence Against Women (OVW) has the following three 
concerns about the way that GAO addresses these two questions.[Footnote 
24] 

1. The Report Creates a False Impression That OVW Does Not Collect 
Detailed Data Regarding Grant-Funded Victim Services. 

OVW objects that, despite purporting to address the empirical question 
about what data collection practices exist, the draft report never 
describes the types of victim service data that grantees collect and 
report to OVW. By omitting any description of OVW's extensive data 
collection system, the draft report creates the misleading impression 
that OVW does not collect detailed, consistent data regarding services 
provided to victims of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual 
assault, and stalking by OVW grantees. In fact, OVW has committed 
significant time and resources over the past six years to designing, 
implementing, and refining a computerized progress reporting system so 
that it can monitor the effectiveness of grantee activities. For the 
record, OVW offers the following summary of its data collection 
activities. 

a. The VAWA Measuring Effectiveness Initiative: 

In the Violence Against Women Act of 2000 (VAWA 2000), Congress 
required that the Attorney General report biennially on the 
"effectiveness" of activities carried out with Violence Against Women 
Act (VAWA) funds. 42 U.S.C.  3789p. To implement this mandate, OVW 
entered into a cooperative agreement with the Muskie School of Public 
Service's Catherine E. Cutler Institute for Child and Family Policy 
(the Muskie School) to develop and implement state-of-the-art reporting 
tools to capture the effectiveness of VAWA grant funding. In November 
2001, the VAWA Measuring Effectiveness Initiative began to develop 
progress report forms for grantees to collect and report this 
information. As summarized in OVW's 2002 Biennial Report to Congress, 
the Measuring Effectiveness Initiative consulted with grantees, experts 
in the field, and OVW staff to determine what information should be 
reported by OVW's grantees and subgrantees. During FY 2003 and FY 2004, 
progress report forms for ten OVW discretionary grant programs were 
finalized, approved by the Office of Management and Budget, and made 
available to grantees. In FY 2005, OVW introduced report forms for 
State formula grant administrating agencies and their subgrantees. In 
FY 2006, OVW implemented a new form for the newly authorized 
Transitional Housing Assistance Grants Program (Transitional Housing 
Program). 

OVW and the Measuring Effectiveness Initiative tailored each grant 
program's form to reflect the different statutorily authorized 
activities that grantees perform. Thus, for example, the Legal 
Assistance for Victims Program (LAV Program) progress report form 
collects the number of custody, divorce, protection order, employment, 
and other cases handled by grantees, while the Grants to Encourage 
Arrest Policies and Enforcement of Protection Orders Program (Arrest 
Program) form collects information on law enforcement activities like 
calls for assistance and arrests made. The forms also collect uniform 
information on victims served, demographics, and common activities that 
occur across several programs (e.g., certain victim services, certain 
law enforcement, prosecution, and probation activities). OVW has 
developed computerized "smart" versions of these forms that grantees 
use to submit data online through the Grants Management System. 

b. OVW Data Collection Regarding Grant-Funded Services to Victims: 

These progress report forms provide OVW with extraordinarily 
comprehensive and consistent data regarding grantee activities, 
including services provided to victims. The Victim Services section of 
the progress report form for the Arrest Program is illustrative. First, 
question 21 requests aggregate data on victims who were served with 
grant funds, who were partially served, and who were not served. Next, 
question 22 requests that grantees check off reasons why victims, if 
any, were not served. Then, question 23 directs grantees to provide 
aggregate demographic information regarding victims served and 
partially served. In particular, the form requires information 
regarding victims' race, ethnicity, gender, and age; the form also 
requests numbers of victims who have disabilities or limited English 
proficiency, are immigrants or who live in rural areas. Question 24 
asks grantees to identify the relationship of victims to offenders 
(e.g., spouses or intimate partners, dating relationship). Question 25 
directs grantees to report the number of victims provided with the 
following victim services: criminal justice advocacy/court 
accompaniment; victim witness notification; victim/survivor advocacy; 
civil legal advocacy/court accompaniment; civil legal assistance; face- 
to-face crisis intervention; hotline calls; counseling/support group; 
and hospital response. Victims counted in question 21 may be counted 
more than once if they received more than one service. Finally, 
question 26 counts the number of protection orders that victims sought 
and received with the assistance of grant-funded staff. 

OVW does collect demographic information about all victims served, 
including gender and age, although OVW cannot determine if a given 
victim received civil legal assistance or help seeking medical 
attention. A sampling of aggregate numbers from across OVW programs 
illustrates the type of data that OVW collects. For example, during the 
each six-month period between January 2004 and July 2005, grantees of 
OVW discretionary grant programs (that is, all then-existing OVW 
programs other than the STOP Violence Against Women Formula Grant 
Program) provided a wide range of services to 99,834 to 120,867 
victims.[Footnote 25] The majority of victims served were female 
(89,185 to 101,484), white (50,971 to 56,722), ages 25 to 59 (62,780 to 
69,317), and had been victimized by a current or former intimate 
partner or spouse (76,765 to 84,634). The greatest number of victims 
received the following services during each six-month period: victim 
advocacy (35,871 to 50,717); legal advocacy (18,729 to 23,104); 
criminal justice advocacy/court accompaniment (27,265 to 32,591). 

Also, OVW collects demographic information regarding victims by grant 
program, even if it does not collect demographic information for 
victims by the type of service they received. Accordingly, for those 
OVW programs that fund specialized types of victim services - the LAV 
Program, the Safe Havens: Supervised Visitation and Exchange Program 
(Safe Havens Program), and the Transitional Housing Program - OVW has 
demographic information that is directly linked to a type of service 
(respectively, legal assistance, supervised visitation and exchange, 
and transitional housing assistance). The GAO draft report fails 
adequately to explain that demographic victim data is available for 
these three service-specific programs. 

Data from the LAV Program demonstrate the type of information that the 
draft report overlooks. During the two-year period between July 2003 
and July 2005, LAV Program grantees provided legal services to more 
than 35,000 victims in each six-month report period. Of these victims, 
a significant percentage were white (44-47 percent), a majority were 
ages 25-59 (67-76 percent) and a substantial majority were female (96 
percent).[Footnote 26] LAV grantees handled almost 50,000 legal issues 
during each six-month report period. During each report period, more 
than 10,000 victims received help with more than one legal issue (which 
is a key indicator that comprehensive services are being provided). The 
most common legal issues addressed by these grantees were protection 
orders, followed by divorce, child custody and visitation, and child 
support. 

2. The Report Fails to Present a Comprehensive Description of Systems 
That OVW Has Instituted to Enhance the Uniformity and Reliability of 
Grantee Data. 

OVW objects to GAO's contention that OVW collects data that is not 
uniform or reliable. Draft Report at 6, 7-8, 11. In leveling this 
charge, the draft report fails to present a comprehensive picture of 
the measures that OVW has instituted to improve the reliability of its 
grantee data. In fact, in developing its data collection system, OVW 
recognized that a system that relies on grantee self-reporting, as 
OVW's must, may be subject to grantee error. Therefore, OVW implemented 
an extensive system of checks to improve the quality of grantee data. 

The involvement of the Muskie School provides an ongoing mechanism to 
improve grantee reporting. As discussed above, OVW first entered into a 
cooperative agreement with the Muskie School to develop standardized 
reporting tools. In addition to creating the progress report forms, the 
Measuring Effectiveness Initiative created detailed instructions for 
each form to guide grantees as they report data. Since the completion 
of the forms and instructions, the Muskie School has focused on a 
number of activities to enhance data collection, data cleaning, and 
data analysis. These activities include: the development of a 
standardized training curriculum for each grant program; the ongoing 
provision of training for OVW grantees on how to use the report forms; 
the development of Access databases tailored to each program for 
grantees to use for collecting data; and the development of 
standardized syntax to facilitate the data cleaning and analysis 
process for grant program data. In addition, the Muskie School provides 
individualized technical assistance to OVW grantees via email and 
through a toll-free telephone line. 

The progress report forms themselves contain internal checks on grantee 
reporting. Each grantee progress report form is a Portable Document 
Format (PDF) form that has been computer-coded to enhance accuracy. 
Grantees cannot submit their forms on the Grants Management System 
unless certain, internal validations are met. If key data fields are 
left empty or contain questionable information (e.g., the numbered of 
staff funded exceeds a single digit number), the grantee will receive a 
prompting message asking that it verify its information. Similarly, the 
system will not accept a form if basic validations are not met (e.g., 
the number of victims served does not match the age and gender 
information provided regarding those victims). These preliminary checks 
at the data submission stage help to minimize grantee error.[Footnote 
27]  

OVW staff review of grantee progress reports also improves data 
reliability. Grantees submit progress reports to OVW either annually or 
semi-annually, depending on the requirements of the program. In most 
six-month periods, OVW will receive over 1000 progress reports. OVW 
staff review each report for completeness, accuracy, and to determine 
whether the grantee is meeting the goals and objectives of the grant 
project. If a staff member identifies problems with the report, the 
grantee is contacted for clarification or additional information. If 
necessary, further corrective action is taken until the reporting 
deficiencies are addressed and the report can be approved. 

After staff approval, OVW transmits data from all progress reports to 
the Muskie School, where Muskie staff members engage in an additional 
process to correct erroneous data. To this end, the Muskie School has 
identified, for each form, "red flags" that indicate the need for 
follow-up with grantees. To cite only one example, if a grantee were to 
report that its OVW grant does not fund any staff salaries but claims 
to have used grant funds to serve 100 victims, Muskie personnel would 
contact the grantee for verification or explanation. Through a 
laborious process of re-reviewing reports and contacting grantees, 
Muskie staff will either correct errors or establish that no error was 
made. 

3. The Report Fails to Distinguish OVW's Efforts From Those of the 
Office for Victims of Crime and HHS's Administration for Children and 
Families, Thereby Creating a Distorted Picture of OVW's Data Collection 
Efforts. 

By conflating the work of OVW, the Office for Victims of Crime (OVC) 
and the Administration for Children and Families (ACF), GAO has 
developed a report that, while technically accurate, does not permit 
the reader to distinguish among these agencies. As a result, the report 
appears to criticize OVW's data collection system for weaknesses that, 
in fact, have nothing to do with OVW. In particular, the report 
identifies three reasons why "the data that the federal agencies 
collect and report from grant recipients do not appear to be uniform or 
reliable." Draft Report at 8. None of these reasons points to 
deficiencies in OVW's data collection. 

The draft report first argues that data is unreliable because reporting 
requirements under the statutes authorizing these 11 grant programs 
were established for different purposes. Id; see also id. at 6 (data 
collected and reported "do not appear to be uniform or reliable . 
because . reporting requirements for the 11 grant programs differ[.]") 
Insofar as the reporting requirements for these 11 programs are 
different, this does not reflect poorly on the OVW or other federal 
agencies. Rather, GAO created a so-called lack of "uniformity" by 
refusing to consider separately 11 programs established according to 
three different statutory schemes (VAWA and subsequent legislation, the 
Victims of Crime Act, and the Family Violence and Prevention Services 
Act). In the case of OVW, we shaped our reporting requirements to do 
the following: (a) measure the statutorily-outlined grantee activities 
that our programs fund; (b) measure the effectiveness of these 
activities, as required by statute (42 U.S.C.  3789p); (c) collect 
data needed to comply with Government Performance and Results Act 
responsibilities; and (d) meet certain statutory reporting 
requirements.[Footnote 28] Where grantees perform similar activities 
across programs (e.g., staff hiring, training, victim services), OVW 
reporting requirements are standardized, consistent, and comparable; 
where grantees perform activities unique to a particular statutory 
framework (e.g., transitional housing assistance, supervised 
visitation), our reporting requirements vary by program. 

The draft report then details, at considerable length, inconsistencies 
in data collected by ACE Draft Report at 9-11. As described above, OVW 
collects consistent data through standardized forms with standardized 
reporting periods. None of the information about data inconsistency has 
any bearing on OVW activities. 

The draft report finally concludes that data is unreliable because 
grant recipients do a poor job collecting data regarding victim 
services. Draft Report at 11. In particular, the report notes that 
eight of 23 grant recipients interviewed made comments that "raised 
concerns" about data reliability. Id. Here again, the report fails to 
distinguish among federal funding agencies, so OVW does not know 
whether its grantees were among these eight. Nevertheless, as already 
discussed, OVW has taken extensive steps to enhance the reliability of 
grantee data.

[End of section] 

(440560): 

FOOTNOTES 

[1] Pub. L. No. 98-457, tit. III, 98 Stat. 1749, 1771-80 (1984). 

[2] Pub. L. No. 103-322  40001-703, 108 Stat. 1796, 1902-55 (1994). 

[3] Pub. L. No. 109-162, tits. I-VII, IX, 119 Stat. 2960, 2972-3053, 
3077-84 (2006). 

[4] Victims of Crime Act of 1984,  1404, 42 U.S.C.  10603. 

[5] An additional $565 million was available for compensation and 
assistance for victims of crimes, such as domestic violence, through 
the Crime Victims Fund, which was established by the Victims of Crime 
Act of 1984, as amended. Fines collected from individuals convicted of 
offenses against the United States and donations from private entities 
are credited to this fund, but amounts deposited in excess of $625 
million in any one fiscal year generally are not available until the 
following fiscal year under a provision included in each fiscal year's 
appropriations act. 

[6] The 2006 reauthorization of VAWA defined the term "youth" as teen 
and young adult victims of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual 
assault, or stalking. It did not define "children." In addition, the 
definitions of "youth" and "children" were not consistent across the 
grant programs we reviewed. For example, one grant program defines 
"child victims" as age 12 and under, while another defines them as 
those under age 18 or as otherwise defined by state law. 

[7] Unless otherwise specified, the term "victims" refers to victims of 
domestic violence, sexual assault, dating violence, and stalking. 

[8] Pub. L. No. 109-162,  119, 119 Stat. 2960, 2989-90 (2006). 

[9] GAO, Prevalence of Domestic Violence, Sexual Assault, Dating 
Violence, and Stalking, GAO-07-148R (Washington, D.C.: Nov. 13, 2006). 

[10] ACF officials said that this was due, in part, to differences that 
occurred in the reporting periods for grants. 

[11] In some cases, grant recipients may be required to provide data on 
services provided to children only for those programs that were 
statutorily authorized to serve child victims during the time period of 
our review, such as the Rural Domestic Violence and Child Victimization 
Enforcement Grants. 

[12] The victim services information federal agencies prepare for 
Congress may also be used by agency decision makers, service providers, 
and researchers to help evaluate the effectiveness of these programs. 

[13] However, the reauthorization of VAWA in 2006 expanded the 
categories of victims authorized to receive services for this program 
to include sexual assault and stalking victims. 

[14] Under the 2006 reauthorization of VAWA, victims authorized to 
receive services under the eight OVW grants included in our review were 
expanded to include victims of all four categories of crime--domestic 
violence, sexual assault, dating violence, and stalking. 

[15] ACF officials told us that for the purposes of the FVPSA program, 
dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking are addressed to the 
extent that they occur within the context of domestic violence or 
intimate partner violence. 

[16] OVW has established standardized forms for its grant recipients to 
use in reporting victim services data. These forms have consistent 
demographic categories across programs, where possible. They are also 
designed to capture aggregate data on the number of victims receiving 
certain categories of victim services that can be provided under 
multiple OVW programs, such as victim advocacy, legal advocacy, and 
criminal justice/court accompaniment. 

[17] ACF also requires that grant recipients include narrative 
discussions in their annual reports including a description of how the 
needs of underserved populations were addressed. 

[18] After the program announcement is made, entities apply for the 
grants. HHS then reviews and awards the grants. The performance period 
is expected to begin on October 1 of each fiscal year for which funds 
are granted. Upon completion of the performance period, grant 
recipients then submit the required reports. 

[19] The National Institute of Justice is DOJ's research, development, 
and evaluation agency dedicated to researching crime control and 
justice issues. 

[20] OVW officials said that while they prefer grant recipients 
providing services to require victims to self-report demographic 
information, they understand that it may not be practical for this to 
be implemented in some circumstances, such as when a victim may contact 
a hotline for assistance. 

[21] In 2001, OVW entered into a cooperative agreement with a 
university to develop standardized forms for its grantees to use in 
periodically reporting victim services data and to create detailed 
instructions for each form to guide grant recipients through the 
reporting process. 

[22] Similarly, the 2006 reauthorization of VAWA added a provision 
requiring grantees to protect the confidentiality of persons receiving 
services in order to ensure their safety. 

[23] The 2006 reauthorization of VAWA revised the title and purpose of 
several of these grant programs. For example, the 2006 reauthorization 
of VAWA changed the Stop Violence Against Indian Women Discretionary 
Grants program name to the Grants to Indian Tribal Governments program. 
It also expanded the purpose of this program to include funding for 
supervised visitation and exchange of children in situations involving 
domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking committed by one parent 
against the other. Because we focused on federal grant programs that 
were in place during fiscal year 2005, table 2 reflects the title and 
purpose of programs in effect prior to the 2006 reauthorization of VAWA.

[24] OVW agrees with statements in the report that requiring OVW 
grantees to report the demographic characteristics (race, ethnicity, 
gender, age, etc.) of each victim served by the type of service 
received (crisis intervention, safety planning, counseling, victim 
advocacy, court accompaniment, shelter, and a panoply of other 
services) would be prohibitively burdensome and risk compromising 
victim confidentiality. 

[25] OVW asks grantees to provide an unduplicated count for each report 
period. Therefore, to avoid duplication, OVW does not aggregate across 
six-month report periods the number of victims who receive grant-funded 
services. These ranges represent the high and low figures for the three 
progress report periods covered. 

[26] In that period, 13-15 percent of victims were African American, 19-
25 percent were Hispanic, 4-5 percent were Asian, and 3-4 percent were 
American Indian. Four percent of victims served were male. Three 
percent were 17 years old or younger; 17-21 percent were between the 
ages of 18 and 24. 

[27] The subgrantee form for the STOP Violence Against Women Formula 
Grant Program works in a slightly different fashion because these forms 
are submitted first to State STOP administrators rather than directly 
to the Grants Management System. Although the subgrantee form contains 
internal validation, there is no computerized mechanism to prevent 
submission of a form with validation errors. State STOP administrators, 
however, are responsible for reviewing subgrantee reports for 
completeness and accuracy before submitting them to OVW. 

[28] Of the eight OVW grant programs that GAO considered, four are 
subject to specific statutory mandates that identify particular 
information to be included in reports to Congress. See 42 U.S.C.  
3796gg-3(b) (the STOP Violence Against Women Formula Grant Program), 42 
U.S.C.  14045b(d)(3) (Grants to Combat Violent Crimes on Campuses), 42 
U.S.C.  13975(f) (Transitional Housing Assistance Grants Program), and 
42 U.S.C.  10420(d) (Safe Havens: Supervised Visitation and Safe 
Exchange Grant Program). OVW crafted the progress report forms to 
ensure that statutorily mandated information is reported. 

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