Family Violence Prevention and Services Act (FVPSA) Consultation

By NIWRC and AKNWRC Policy Teams

Priority Issues to Address Domestic Violence

How the Family Violence Prevention and Services Act (FVPSA) Become Federal Law in 1984

Since the 1970s, survivors of domestic violence (mostly women), their advocates, shelters, and domestic violence programs (hereinafter advocates) have organized at the grassroots level to effect social change locally, statewide, and nationally. While we’ve seen some changes, the issues that they spoke about and organized to change since then continue to be issues today.

In response to the grassroots movement, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights sponsored a Consultation in 1978 entitled “Battered Women: Issues of Public Policy.” Six years later in 1984, this organizing resulted in the passage of FVPSA with dedicated funding for shelter and supportive services. FVPSA marked a shift in our nation’s culture providing resources for state and Tribal efforts “to support the establishment, maintenance, and expansion of programs and projects to prevent incidents of family violence, domestic violence, and dating violence; to provide immediate shelter, supportive services, and access to community-based programs for victims of family violence, domestic violence, or dating violence, and their dependents; and to provide specialized services for children exposed to family violence, domestic violence, or dating violence, including underserved populations, and victims who are members of underserved populations” (45 CFR §1370.10(a)). This shift paved the way for the passage of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) 10 years later in 1994 and was a shift from the legally, and in many instances religiously sanctioned belief that men had the right to abuse their partners. Advocates have been the nexus of that social change and lead ongoing grassroots organizing.

Survivor and Advocate-Led Solutions

The 1978 Consultation report offers recommendations worth considering. We must continue to change U.S. culture from one that normalizes violence against women to a culture that prevents violence centering survivors’ experiences to develop solutions. Tribal and Native Hawaiian responses that restore customs and traditions which protect Native women must be at the root of solutions. The impact of domestic violence on Native women reflected in the cries of families of missing and murdered Indigenous women (MMIW) demands solutions that center survivors’ experiences. Anything less is a breach of the federal trust responsibility to assist Tribes in safeguarding Native women’s lives. As Chief Michael Williams from the Akiak Native Community shared at the 2021 VAWA Consultation, “Less than 60 Native shelters and less than 300 Tribal programs addressing violence against women cannot be the markers for providing women with the comprehensive assistance they need.” We must develop solutions across all branches of government, advocacy, and systems, including child welfare, health, justice, housing, education, and economics. Red tape must not stop us from securing the shelter and supportive services women need.

The late Del Martin testified at the 1978 Consultation, and shared:

“Solutions to the for nontraditional measures and radical change in approach, the impetus for which has come from women who are victims of tradition…developing their own support systems.. based upon the concept of women helping women...

Beside hotlines, response to the immediate crisis, emergency shelters..., these women provide consciousness raising...The battered woman gains..strength through peer counseling, sharing with other women who have suffered the same…The wife/victim becomes aware of options…knowing that whatever she chooses she will have support from the other women…

Marya Grambs, co-founder of La Casa de las Madres..shelter for battered help the victim make connections with other women and reduce her isolation…The function of La Casa is to help the women take power over their lives.

What we need are counterpart programs conducted by men who…work with battering husbands in much the same way as women are helping wife/victims. If…men would offer husband/offenders peer support and programs to help them change destructive patterns into constructive outlets…we would move a lot faster towards ending marital violence.”1

The 1978 Commission speakers also addressed the need for governments to support survivors’ leadership and organizing to uphold their rights to:

  • Shelter and safe, affordable, and quality housing;
  • Affordable childcare;
  • Economic security and financial independence;2
  • Access to affordable health care, substance and alcohol abuse treatment, and legal services;
  • Lives free from domestic and sexual violence, including homicide; and
  • Equal protection under the law.3

“..[W]hat was it then about the family that enabled it to help battered women? I identified three…simple… things…The first factor of immediacy is that, if my sister is battered and I am in the extended family, I can and will…end it. The second factor…is interest. As a member of that family...I have a vested interest in stopping that violence. I don’t want it to extend to me…to influence my reputation or the other people in the family. The third factor…is authority. As a member of the family, I have the authority to deal with that violence. I can be a buffer with the other members of the family…And if worse comes to worse, and we have to banish that member…I can keep the victim at my side, shelter..and comfort her. Now where in the criminal justice system have we ever found comparable immediacy, interest, or authority? It simply does not exist.”4

How we can provide shelter and supportive services that uphold the federal trust responsibility to Indian Tribes and is:

  • respectful of the richness of Native traditions;
  • consciousness-raising;
  • strengthens connections;
  • reduces isolation;
  • helps Native women to take power over their lives,
  • expands preventative, supportive services for women, and;
  • radically increases tools of accountability for the men committing domestic violence and terrorizing their loved ones.

The 2018 Broken Promises Report states, “Unequal treatment of tribal governments and lack of...recognition of the sovereign status of tribal governments…diminish tribal self-determination and negatively impact criminal justice, health,…outcomes for Native Americans.”5 Specifically, a new allocation distribution formula for FVPSA Tribal funds must increase the quantity and strengthen the quality of Tribal shelter and supportive services.

The spectrum of violence is intertwined with barriers embedded within the federal government. These barriers developed as the U.S. seized the homelands and natural resources of Native peoples, forcibly removed and relocated Native people, and created living conditions where Native women are vulnerable to violence. To prevent violence against women, these barriers must be removed and the sacred status of Native women restored.


Shawl ceremony by the Wabanaki Women’s Coalition opening and closing the FVPSA Government-to-Government Consultation September 8-9, 2021.
Photo courtesy of Paula Julian, NIWRC.

FVPSA Allocation Distribution Formula

Regarding the question in FYSB’s framing paper: Do Tribal Leaders support the FVPSA Program establishing a minimum grant award of $55,000 for all Tribes that apply for FVPSA funding?

Increasing the FVPSA grant award Tribes receive is essential to ensure all Tribes enhance their response to domestic violence.

The overall amount of FVPSA funds is inadequate, so the current formula leaves smaller Tribes with inadequate funding. For example, under the current formula, the La Jolla Band of Luiseno Indians (CA) with a population of 720, and Anvik Village (AK) with a population of 321 received 2-year awards for $17,454. From this amount, the Tribe covers the cost of administration, including reporting and hours to attend required meetings. If travel is required, depending on the meeting location and remote location of a Tribe, the cost to administer will exceed the award amount.

The current formula is not adequate to 1) prevent domestic violence; 2) provide shelter, supportive services, and access to community-based programs; and 3) provide services for children exposed to domestic violence. In addition, the statutory percentages distributing the funds are outdated. The 10% allocation to Tribes was established in 1992 before Alaska Tribes were restored to the list of federally recognized Tribes in 1993. This recognition of Alaska Tribes meant that more than 220 Tribes became eligible for funding, nearly doubling the eligible Tribes. Yet, FVPSA Tribal funding was not increased.6

It is crucial for Congress to authorize the increase to the overall percentage of FVPSA funds allocated to Indian Tribes from 10% to not less than 12.5% as reflected in the current Senate bill (S.1275) that Congress must pass and get to the President’s desk before the end of 2022.

Recommendations for Shelter, Supportive Services, and Housing Needs

  • Support for roundtables with Tribal shelters and programs to develop action plans strengthening services for Native women and children/youth.
  • Shelter and supportive services for Native women must account for their needs, which if not addressed often leads to victims returning to their abusers and unsafe homes. Tribal shelters need resources to address the needs of children/youth, alcohol and substance abuse counseling/treatment, assistance with transitional and permanent housing, and economic security.7
  • Support for Tribes to administer cash assistance for victims.
  • In consultation with Indian Tribes, a collaboration between FYSB and the Department of Labor to identify how to improve Native women’s economic security.
  • Dedicated funding for transitional and permanent, safe, affordable housing for victims of domestic violence.
  • Support for the recommendations from the 2020 report, National Workgroup on Safe Housing for American Indian and Alaska Native Survivors of Gender-Based Violence: Lessons Learned.
  • Long-term support for the Tribal Safe Housing Capacity Building Center.
  • Support for the Tribal enhancements in FVPSA bills (H.R. 2119 and S. 1275).
  • Support for permanent funding for Tribes in the Victims of Crime Act.
  • Meaningful coordination between federal offices that address housing, child welfare, economic security, and public benefit programs for women.

“Survivors, advocates, shelters, and domestic violence programs supported by FVPSA funding have been the nexus of that social change and continue to lead ongoing grassroots organizing.”

—Paula Julian, (Filipina), Editor, Restoration Magazine & Senior Policy


Recommendations for Supportive Services for Native Children & Youth Impacted by Domestic Violence

  • Reform federal and state laws, policies, and programs to prioritize “home-grown, tribally based systems, respective of the civil rights of all citizens, systems that reject outmoded command-and-control policies in favor of increased local control, accountability, and transparency.”
  • Because Native children and youth face the highest disparities (please see stats included in Chapter 6 of the ILOC Report), an increase in FYSB’s base allocation would help develop and strengthen services for children and youth.
  • Increase funding for Tribes and technical assistance and training specifically focused on children and youth under the FYSB Specialized Services for Abused Parents and their Children Program.
  • Support for the ILOC Report’s twelve (12) recommendations in Chapter 6.8
  • Coordinate across federal agencies to identify programs that serve Native children/youth and their families to inform Indian Tribes; with the inclusion of such agencies at consultation.
  • Coordinate across federal agencies to provide increased funding to improve educational services and restore Native language education, with greater investments in Tribal schools and community services such as domestic violence shelters.

Recommendations for the Child Welfare/Foster Care System

  • Strengthen collaboration and coordination of social services, Tribal shelters, and domestic violence programs.
  • Support dedicated funding and resources for Tribes to collaborate with State agencies to strengthen the capacity of Tribal child welfare agencies.
  • Require as a condition for federal funding from the Administration for Children and Families that States consult with Tribes to develop a plan to provide a payment system for services needed for Tribal court cases.

Recommendations for Alaska Issues

  • Fully fund efforts to develop the infrastructure, capacity, and technical support to increase broadband and internet access for Alaska’s Tribes.
  • Increase access to funding for transportation, especially in rural Alaska where the cost of airfare and fuel hinders a victim’s ability to travel to safety; and
  • Ongoing support for the Alaska Native Women’s Resource Center to provide technical assistance and training to Alaska’s Tribes to enhance Tribal responses.

1. Presentation of Del Martin, Overview Scope of the Problem, Battered Women: Issues of Public Policy, Consultation sponsored by the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, Jan. 30-31, 1978, pgs. 25-26.
2. “1 in 4 AIAN women live in poverty - the highest rate of poverty among women or men of any racial or ethnic group.” R. Bleiweis, D. Boesch, & A. Cawthorne Gaines, The Basic Facts About Women in Poverty, Center for American Progress, Aug. 3, 2020, pg. 2.
3. Supra: “Courts have acknowledged the legal status of Native Americans as both a sovereign political entity and as a racial group with constitutionally guaranteed rights to equal protection.”
4. Supra, Response of Charles Schudson, pg. 89-90.
5. Broken Promises: Continuing Federal Funding Shortfall for Native Americans Briefing Report, U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, 2018, pg 19.
7. Indian Law and Order Commission (ILOC), A Roadmap for Making Native America Safer Report, Executive Summary, 2013, pg. xxxi.
8. Ibid: Executive Summary, pg. xxxi.