Vera Launches the Center on Victimization and Safety

NEW YORK—The Vera Institute of Justice today announced the launch of its new Center on Victimization and Safety (CVS), which will work in partnership with government and nonprofit organizations to help people who experience domestic or sexual violence. CVS aims to prevent and address domestic violence, sexual assault, and related crimes by promoting cross-disciplinary collaboration and by advancing policies and practices that hold abusers accountable and help survivors to heal.

Nancy Smith has been named the inaugural director of the Center. Smith has run Vera’s Accessing Safety Initiative (ASI) since December 2005.

“Although other crimes in the United States have been declining, it seems clear that domestic violence, sexual assault, and other similar offenses are on the rise,” said Smith. “The Center on Victimization and Safety builds on a strong current and historical foundation of Vera’s work in this area, in New York and across the nation, to help jurisdictions make the most of limited resources and continue providing innovative services to end violence in their communities.”

CVS’s initial work is anchored by ASI and two new major projects:

  • Since 2005 the Accessing Safety Initiative has helped disability and victim-service organizations throughout the United States work and learn across disciplines to better meet the needs of survivors with disabilities and Deaf survivors;
  • The new Supervised Visitation Initiative helps professionals working at the intersection of domestic violence and custody to improve the quality and safety of supervised visitation between adults and children through partnerships with other agencies when appropriate and by providing training and guidance to staff;
  • The Promising Practices Initiative, also new, works closely with government officials and experts throughout the U.S. to identify and share practices that jurisdictions can use to respond effectively to domestic violence, sexual violence, and stalking. 

All three projects are funded by the U.S. Department of Justice's Office on Violence Against Women.

In combining Vera’s expertise in research, technical assistance, and demonstration projects CVS is a response to several critical justice needs, including the current lack of useful information resulting from underreporting to officials of crimes such as domestic violence and sexual assault, delays in releasing data that does exist, and limited research. In addition to improving practice and enhancing cross disciplinary learning, CVS will work to increase policymakers’ access to reliable data and knowledge to better inform understanding and decision making in these arenas.

“We are thrilled that CVS is taking its place alongside our existing centers on Immigration and Justice, Sentencing and Corrections, and Youth Justice,” said Vera’s director, Michael Jacobson. “Vera has a rich history of working to promote effective responses to domestic and sexual violence. As the first new center we’ve launched in five years, CVS will round out our work and create a focused opportunity to help shape the experiences of victims and survivors of these crimes.”

Vera’s work on behalf of victims of crime can be traced back to at least 1978, when two Vera demonstration projects helped inspire a national victims’ rights movement and combined to become the independent organization Victim Services—later Safe Horizon. More recent initiatives include the Judicial Oversight Demonstration Initiative, which worked with court officials to enhance victim safety and offender accountability, and the Safe Return Initiative, which focused on responding to domestic violence issues in the context of prisoner reentry.

As part of the new center, Sandra Harrell, ASI’s associate director since November 2007, has been appointed the director of ASI. Ona Foster, who has spent the past seven years implementing and directing a supervised visitation program in Dallas, Texas, has been appointed director of the Supervised Visitation Initiative. The Promising Practices Initiative will be directed by Catherine Carroll who, prior to her appointment, provided training and technical assistance on legal issues impacting survivors of sexual violence in Washington State.

For more information on Center on Victimization & Safety and its projects, visit