When Republicans stood in unison against renewing the Violence Against Women Act last year and early into this year, their main justification was that the bill was simply too bloated–it tried to do too much to help too many people who just didn’t really need the help.
I’m curious where they got their information, because a new report shows the exact opposite to be true: domestic violence is a pervasive, chronic public health problem that need serious and immediate attention. And thanks to the looming sequester, help for victims is about to be even harder to find.
In just one 24-hour period, local domestic violence programs across the country provided help and safety to 64,324 adults and children who are victims of domestic violence. Survivors were given a safe place to stay and resources to escape violence and abuse. Sadly, 10,471 times on that same day, a hotline rang or a victim showed up at the door to request a shelter bed, an attorney, counseling or another critical service and the local program was forced to say “I am so terribly sorry that we don’t have the resources or funds- can I work with you on a safety plan or try to find you some help in a neighboring town?”
This is the legislative bloat Republicans were so “brave” to stand up against.
For the seventh consecutive year, the National Network to End Domestic Violence (NNEDV) conducted its annual National Census of Domestic Violence Services. They just recently released their analysis of that data in the report: Domestic Violence Counts: A 24-hour Census of Domestic Violence Shelters and Services. The report revealed that reduced funding for domestic violence services means that programs are unable to help survivors with shelter, attain legal help or leave abusive partners. Gee, thanks GOP.
The economic conditions of the past few years have had a significant impact on domestic violence programs, and that was before Republicans started playing a game of funding-chicken with these much needed services.
“Cutting funds to domestic violence programs means that victims have fewer places to turn,” said Kim Gandy, President and CEO of NNEDV. “It is impossible to hold offenders accountable and provide safe havens for victims with reduced funding for services and shelters. Budget cuts at the local, state, and federal level are creating increased danger to victims and their children.”
It’s not just games over VAWA hurting domestic violence victims. Thanks to Republican gaming on all things related to the budget, Congress will not face any impact from the sequester, but domestic violence victims sure will. According to recent analysis, sequestration will result in approximately 70,000 fewer victims getting help from domestic violence programs and approximately 36,000 fewer victims having access to protection orders, crisis intervention and counseling, sexual assault services, hospital-based advocacy, transitional housing services and help with civil legal matters.
“Across the country, domestic violence programs are working harder than ever to help victims of abuse,” added Gandy. “But we also know that, across the board, funding for victim services is dwindling while the demand is climbing.”
The report breaks the data down in to state-by-state summaries, providing a comprehensive look at a problem that is solvable but for a lack of political will, and therefore political resources. We may not be able to stop all abuse before it happens, but there’s no reason we can’t be there for victims when it does.
Photo from jronaldlee via flickr.