Justice Dept. to give $2M in grants to help reduce domestic violence

WASHINGTON (AP/ABC7) - Vice President Joe Biden says the Justice Department is handing out more than $2 million in grants to help reduce homicides from domestic violence.

Biden and Attorney General Eric Holder said at a news conference Thursday in Rockville, Md., that 12 communities in 10 states are set to get the grants.

The money will aid programs that identify potential victims and offer assistance, and also track high-risk offenders. Officials noted local programs that have had success by offering personalized assistance, like the Montgomery County Family Justice Center.

Domestic violence rates have dropped in recent decades, but Biden says that on average, three women are killed each day by a current or former boyfriend or husband.

The announcement of the grants comes just two weeks after the renewal of the Violence Against Women Act. The law was first enacted 20 years ago, and since, hundreds of similar state laws have emerged.

Biden hopes the grant will be another catalyst for change.

"It's not just the Violence Against Women Act. It's changing the culture, it's changing the norm of what we are willing to accept," he said.

For the families left behind, murders stemming from domestic violence can be nearly impossible to accept.

Janet Blackburn's sister, Gail Pumphrey, was gunned down in a murder-suicide five years ago.

"Perhaps her high-risk status would have played a part in decisions made by others, maybe she and her children would have been offered better protection, perhaps they could have been saved," Blackburn, now a domestic violence activist, said.

The 12 sites, which will receive between $108,000 and $200,000, include:

• Contra Costa County, Calif.
• Miami-Dade County, Fla.
• Palm Beach County, Fla.
• Rockdale County, Ga.
• Winnebago County, Ill.
• Boston, Mass.
• Brooklyn, N.Y.
• Westchester County, N.Y.
• Pitt County, N.C.
• Cuyahoga County, Ohio
• North Charleston, S.C.
• Rutland, Vt.