Remarks of Secretary Julián Castro
National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV) 2016 Conference
Chandler, AZ
Monday, October 24, 2016

As prepared for delivery.

Good afternoon, everybody.  Thank you for that warm welcome. It's an honor to be with such an amazing group. 

Thank you Carrie [Bettinger-Lopez] for that kind introduction, but more important, for the incredible work you and the entire team in Vice President Biden's Office are doing to address domestic violence in our nation.

The Vice President has spent more than 20 years fighting to end violence against women, and he's been one of the leading advocates for addressing sexual assault on college campuses.  And I want to applaud him for his outstanding leadership.

I also want to give a shout out to Ruth Glenn and the entire team at the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV) for bringing us all together today and to the Arizona Coalition to End Sexual and Domestic Violence for their support of this event. 

A big thank you as well to the leaders of the Gila River Indian Community for opening their doors for this vital conversation.

And a personal thanks to everyone here today who provides services to, or advocates for, survivors. 

You're saving lives and helping survivors to build a better future.

Please give yourselves a round of applause. 

I also want to say to all the survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault here with us today: we see you, we hear you, and we support you.

The theme for this year's conference, Voices United, could not be more appropriate. 

You're joining your unique voices to the ever-growing chorus of people who're standing up and saying, “enough.” 

Enough to anyone who excuses sexual assault. 

Enough to anyone who turns a blinds eye to the violence so many women, children and, yes, men are subjected to. 

Enough condoning toxic masculinity with euphemisms like “boys will be boys.”  Enough.

Together we can, and we will, put an end to domestic violence. 

Nobody should have to choose between staying in an unsafe home or having no home at all.

But too often, that's the choice domestic violence survivors have to make: stay with a dangerous partner, or escape to uncertainty-like living in a car or a shelter. 

Risk exposing family and friends to violence or go without support and resources and risk being pursued alone.

These are choices that all too often end in tragedy.

But there is hope.

People in this room, and across the nation, are working toward the day when no survivor will have to make that choice.

You're asking the right questions about all the complex intersections of domestic violence:

How do we get survivors into safe housing?

What kind of investments do we need to make so that all survivors get proper healthcare?

How do we reduce the impact gun violence has on domestic violence?

How do we tackle this crisis both as a cultural issue and a criminal justice issue?

What protections do members of LGBTQ communities need?

And what are the particular challenges of addressing domestic violence in sovereign Tribal Nations? 

As Carrie pointed out, the Obama Administration has made important strides toward creating a comprehensive, coordinated, and thoughtful response to domestic violence.

Today, I'd like to talk about how HUD is using its unique role to change the culture around domestic violence and housing, what partnerships to address domestic violence look like across the Administration, and where we need to engage going forward. 

Vice President Biden regularly speaks about the need to change the culture around domestic violence and sexual assault. 

And at HUD, we're uniquely positioned to do that. 

You see, our mission is built around using housing as a platform to improve lives. 

The 2005 reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) began offering core housing protection to residents in public housing and for folks using Housing Choice Vouchers.

The 2013 reauthorization expanded these core protections to more of HUD's housing programs, including our HOME initiative, Multifamily Housing programs-including housing for the elderly and disabled-Housing Opportunities for Persons with AIDS (HOPWA) and our homelessness programs.

HUD made it clear to housing providers that the core protections were to be extended not only to survivors of domestic violence, but to survivors of all forms of sexual violence and assault, including dating violence and stalking.

It was important progress, but we believed we could do more.

That's why today, I'm proud to announce that HUD seized upon VAWA's protections to go even further. 

Thanks to the partnership of the folks in this room, we've developed a strong rule that puts a host of new protections in place for anyone who lives in HUD-assisted housing and becomes the victim of domestic violence.

There are many new provisions.  For example, survivors can now obtain emergency transfers, that will allow them to move if there is another safe and available unit.

It allows the survivor to determine what constitutes a safe unit so it keeps them in control of their relocation.

Providers will have to outline steps to assist survivors ahead of time, in case they don't have a safe unit available.

A housing provider may also allow for a survivor to split their lease so that if a violent partner is evicted, the survivor isn't put at risk.

Our new rule recognizes that domestic violence often has serious financial and criminal consequences for survivors.

Victims are often forced to destroy their credit or commit crimes to support their abusers.

So we protected survivors from being denied housing or tenancy rights solely because of economic or criminal factors directly related to their abuse.

The rule makes it clear that in most cases a survivor only needs to self-certify that they are in need of VAWA protections or an emergency transfer, rather than requiring burdensome third-party validation.

All of this work sends a clear message to survivors: we stand with you. 

We know, though, that words on paper aren't enough, so we're putting our federal muscle behind the promise of the Fair Housing Act to protect the rights of domestic violence survivors too.

Last month, we released new guidance on nuisance and crime-free housing ordinances. 

Too often, they force survivors to choose between keeping their home or protecting their life. 

Survivors like Lakisha Briggs, from Norristown, Pennsylvania. 

At the time, Norristown had a nuisance ordinance that sanctioned property owners if emergency services were called to their property more than two times.

When Lakisha called the police to report her ex-boyfriend's abuse, she was told it was her first strike.  Two more calls and she could be evicted.

Afraid of losing her housing, the next time her boyfriend violently attacked her - stabbing her in the neck with a shard of broken glass-she refused to call 911.

She later had to be airlifted to the hospital because of how serious her injuries were.

When she was able to return home, an eviction notice was waiting for her.

Survivors and their families should never be put at risk for reporting a crime.

We're pushing for a culture where it's easier for survivors to get the help they need, not harder. 

Our new guidance helps make sure that local governments don't violate survivors' fair housing rights. 

HUD's Acting General Counsel, Tonya Robinson, Sandra Park from the ACLU, and Norristown Police Chief Mark Talbot will be speaking on the panel immediately following me to discuss changes Norristown has made and HUD's guidance in more detail.

A third way we're changing the culture is by encouraging those who receive our homeless assistance grants to adopt Trauma-Informed approaches to service provision.

We want to make sure that all HUD's homelessness programs are equipped to serve domestic violence survivors with dignity and respect.

I also want you to know we hear your concerns about the loss of Continuum of Care funding for domestic violence programs in some communities.

We support high-quality housing programs for domestic violence survivors, including rapid re-housing, transitional housing, and safe and affordable permanent housing.

We're working with the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH), DOJ, and Health and Human Services (HHS) to implement strategies that will address the housing and service needs of these survivors.

President Obama has made it clear from the beginning that, as a nation, we have a moral obligation to end domestic violence.

And under the President and the Vice President's leadership, officials at every level of government have made protecting survivors and dismantling systems that protect abusers a priority.

As Carrie discussed, it was clear that gender bias meant that laws weren't protecting victims fairly or consistently.

The DOJ partnered with law enforcement, victims' advocates, and civil rights experts to change that. 

Last year, DOJ released new guidance to help law enforcement agencies prevent gender bias in their response to sexual assault and domestic violence. 

Now, we have a framework that acknowledges how gender bias undermines our efforts to protect victims and survivors and provides step-by-step direction to help root it out.

This Administration listens to communities about what they need and then empowers them to make change. 

We know, for instance, that Native women can experience domestic violence rates 50 percent higher than other groups, but jurisdictional hurdles can leave them more vulnerable.    

The 2013 reauthorization re-affirmed Tribes' rights to investigate, prosecute, convict and sentence Native Americans and non-Natives who assault their spouses or partners, or violate protection orders.

But removing barriers isn't enough.

This year, the Justice Department funded the first round of grants aimed at helping Tribal communities make full use of their special domestic violence criminal jurisdiction.

It's one more way we're attempting to strengthen relationships with Tribal nations based on respect and understanding.

We also found new ways to bring federal agencies together to tap HUD's housing expertise and apply it to address these important issues.

Just as our broader work on homelessness through the President's Opening Doors plan relies on federal partners coming together - our work on domestic violence and homelessness is a team effort too.

Numerous studies have found that many women who become homeless report that domestic violence was the immediate cause.

Last year, together with DOJ and HHS, we funded the Domestic Violence and Housing Technical Assistance Consortium.

These grantees are already advising service providers on how to better meet the housing needs of victims of domestic violence and their children.

We worked with DOJ to invest $9 million to support the housing and service needs of low-income victims of violence who're living with HIV or AIDS.

For folks who're managing a chronic disease like HIV, protecting their health depends on housing.

Our grantees are building partnerships with service providers to create comprehensive, supportive services for HIV positive survivors and their families.

Finally: So what's next?

Obviously, VAWA's 2018 reauthorization will present new opportunities to better serve and protect survivors by further strengthening housing protections.

Your voices are going to be important in shaping that conversation.

But I want to talk about two related areas where we need you to keep pushing policy forward.

Because our work-and our progress-must continue, regardless of elections or administrations. 

First, we need to address domestic violence as a cause of family homelessness.

Under President Obama's leadership, we've made tremendous strides toward ending homelessness in America.

Since 2010, chronic homelessness has declined 22 percent nationwide.

Veteran homelessness has fallen by 47 percent since 2010, and 31 communities and two states have ended veteran homelessness.

We've set an ambitious goal to end homelessness for children and families by 2020. 

But we won't get there without really addressing the intersection of domestic violence, housing instability and homelessness. 

The National Center for Children in Poverty reports that more than 80 percent of mothers with children who are experiencing homelessness have experienced domestic violence.

We also know that both domestic violence and housing instability have a disproportionate impact on families of color, Native Americans, immigrants, and people living in poverty or who are geographically isolated.

That means from emergency shelters, to transitional housing, to rapid re-housing, to permanent supportive housing-we need all of it to meet the needs of survivors and their families.

An Administration can focus on a problem, lead a national conversation and help direct resources. 

But it's been you - our nation's advocates and survivors - that have made the biggest difference in our fight so far. 

You have kept the safety of domestic violence survivors and their children front and center in our efforts.

Now we need you to join efforts to end family homelessness more broadly by sharing your expertise and best practices.

Second, we must do more to address gun violence in this country. 

We need to keep guns out of the hands and homes of abusers and stalkers- they're fuel on an already dangerous fire.

Women are five times more likely to be killed when there is a gun present in a domestic violence situation. 

In fact, more than half of intimate partner homicides are committed with guns. 

And every 14 hours in America, a woman is fatally shot by her spouse, her ex, or her partner.

We can't let that stand.

Women deserve better, families deserve better, and our nation deserves better.

We need your voices to break through the stalemate on strengthening gun laws.

Keep advocating at the local and national levels for life-saving, common-sense policies.

You have the data, you have the personal stories, and you have the drive to get it done.

I want to thank NCADV again for the opportunity to be here with y'all today. 

In closing, I'll say this: we have your backs.

We're going to keep fighting for you.

And we're going to keep working until every survivor is safe and has opportunity to thrive. 

Thank you.


Content Archived: February 9, 2018