Baylor Institute Receives $2.97 Million from Justice Department for Domestic Violence Research

June 22, 2006

by Julie Carlson, (254) 710-6681

In collaboration with the state of Montana's Office of Victim Services (OVS), Baylor University's Institute for Studies of Religion (ISR) has received a $2,975,035 grant from the Department of Justice's Office on Violence Against Women. The grant will fund The Faith and Community Technical Support (FACTS) program.

FACTS will oversee a national grant competition, which will provide funds to support small, rural faith-based and/or community-based programs that provide services for victims of domestic violence, and provide technical assistance to those organizations receiving funds. This is one of the first grants given by the Office on Violence Against Women that will provide funds to faith-based organizations.

Victims of domestic violence residing in rural communities face unique challenges that are often times exacerbated by the geographic isolation that comes with living in rural areas, says Dr. Byron Johnson, professor and director of ISR. "For example, the delivery of social services in remote communities may be too late or even absent. This project is designed to be intentional in building capacity so that appropriate social service delivery can be made available even in remote places."

Based in Helena, Mont., the Office of Victim Services brings a distinctively rural component to the oversight of the FACTS project. The FACTS principal project staff will be based at Baylor. FACTS team members have extensive experience working with rural programs and small faith-based and/or community organizations that serve victims of domestic violence.

"There's a real concern that some victims of domestic violence who happen to be committed in their faith won't feel welcomed in some shelters that happen to be hostile to churches and religious organizations. This is unfortunate because many victims of domestic violence are women for whom faith is important and congregations may well represent one of the only places where they can turn to for support," Johnson said.

In addition to personally interviewing and surveying survivors of domestic violence for the last 15 years, Johnson cited recent evidence of this position in a recent study titled "The Importance of Spirituality in the Lives of Domestic Violence Survivors" that was published in the Journal on Violence Against Women. In the study, researchers interviewed 151 women and 97 percent of them said spirituality or God was a source of strength or comfort to them.

"What the Department of Justice is acknowledging with this grant is that there are groups out there that are doing good work and that they should not be discriminated against because they happen to be religious. If they are providing much needed social services to victims of domestic violence, why should not the government provide the resources to help them serve more women," Johnson said.

"A lot of people claim that it is unfair that these faith-based groups will be allowed to compete for these funds, but in reality, faith-based groups may be the only ones providing services to victims of domestic violence in these very remote communities."

With the funds provided, the FACTS project will conduct a grant solicitation, advertising it across the country. Organizations in rural communities, whether faith-based or community-based, that have a budget of $100,000 or less will be eligible to apply.

"Our goal is to fund approximately 50 to 60 different faith or community-based organizations," Johnson said. "An interesting question is whether or not these faith-based organizations will even apply. Will rural faith-based organizations across the country hear about the solicitation, will they know how to apply, or will they be leery of applying altogether? Perhaps we will only have community based groups to apply -- it will be interesting to see."

FACTS personnel have published extensively in these areas, producing materials utilized widely by federal programs working with the issues of domestic violence. Johnson, who currently directs the National Domestic Violence Fatality Review Initiative (NDVFRI), funded by OVW, and housed at Baylor, will serve as the FACTS project director. Dr. Elizabeth Kelly will serve as the Project Coordinator, and Matt Dale (Montana - OVS) will be the project liaison between Baylor and the Office on Violence Against Women.

This project was supported by Award No. 2006-WR-AX-K001 awarded by the Office of Violence Against Women, Office of Justice Programs.

For more information, contact Elizabeth Kelly at (254) 710-1420. The FACTS website also can be accessed at http://www.factsdv.org.

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