Budget cuts endanger domestic violence and sexual assault victims

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On Capitol Hill “sequestration” may mean a percentage point or two in lower GDP growth, but beyond the Beltway it is more than an abstract economic concept. It means real pain for real people.

According to the Department of Justice, more than 1 million women will fall victim to domestic violence this year alone.

. . . . According to our analysis of the most recent data available, sequestration will cut more than $26 million this year from services that support victims of domestic violence and sexual assault.

Sequestration’s cuts will reduce the federal government’s ability to enforce the recently reauthorized Violence Against Women Act, or VAWA, and the Family Violence Prevention Services Act, or FVPSA. VAWA provides funding to state and local agencies to assist in the prosecution of domestic-violence crimes, while FVPSA provides state and local grants to run support and prevention programs, as well as shelters for women and children. Kim Gandy, president and CEO of the National Network to End Domestic Violence, recently characterized these programs as “really vital services to people who are already in a terrible situation and really in need of emergency services—and there aren’t alternatives.”

The effects of the cuts are already being felt across the country. Last month we highlighted the plight of the Shade Tree, a Las Vegas shelter for abused women whose federal funding was cut by 15 percent beginning on March 1. Marlene Richter, executive director of the Shade Tree, explained that the shelter was going through reserves to the tune of $50,000 a month even before sequestration, so the reduced funding was “[t]he last thing [the shelter] needed.”

What’s more, these sequestration cuts come on top of decreases in public and private funding for domestic-abuse shelters as a result of the weak economy. In Shreveport, Louisiana, the Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners group, a local nonprofit that provides sexual-assault examination services, may be forced to close entirely, as sequestration will result in its annual budget being slashed in half—from $400,000 to $200,000.

Domestic violence is not only on the rise, it is pandemic

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WASHINGTON, May 21, 2013 – Staggering statistics from the United States Office on Violence against Women (OVW) claim a woman is assaulted or beaten every nine seconds. Domestic violence is the leading cause of injury to women in the United States. Three women perish at the hands of abusers daily.

With all that is known today about domestic violence and the effect and cruelty of this behavior, why is this behavior on the rise in what is supposed to be a civilized culture? Many ask aloud, “What kind of low life inhuman freak of non-compassion could commit such acts on a partner they are supposed to love, care for, protect and cherish?”

The OVW defines domestic violence as “a pattern of abusive behavior in any relationship that is used by one partner to gain or maintain power and control over an intimate partner.”

Studies from around the globe confirm that many abusers were victims of abuse as children. The abuse they inflict in turn as a result can be sexual, physical or emotional.

After the initial episode, additional episodes occur when tension mounts as the abuser attempts to control rage. The abused tries mightily to assuage the concerns of the abuser to avoid violence.

If there is an abusive event, the abuser typically will apologize profusely and declare the victim was at fault, yet promises to never do it again. At least until the next time.

Afterwards, the abuser will try to diminish the act by claiming the abused is making “a big deal out of nothing” and calm will settle in for a period of time. Calm for the abuser, an uneasy calm for the abused. Generally, the calm periods have shorter intervals as time goes on.

Victims of abuse can suffer severe, chronic depression. Quite often, they develop Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and feel hopeless and helpless. Exacerbating the problem, the victim may feel he or she has no place else to go, particularly disturbing if children are involved.
According to the Maryland Health Coalition Against Domestic Violence, Minnesota Center Against Violence and Abuse and a 2011 U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee report, of the 1.3 million victims of domestic violence, 37 percent of female victims of domestic violence are pregnant at the time of abuse. Most often, physical violence is directed to the abdominal area.

Abuse takes form in emotional, verbal, sexual and physical modalities. The type of people who commit abuse are jealous, controlling, keep the victim isolated out of fear of discovery, sexually demanding and selfish and have predetermined concepts of what roles their mate may play in life.

Their personality traits may be clever, charming, persuasive deceptive and manipulative. Coincidentally, these personality traits are equivalent in criteria for psychopaths, sociopaths and Narcissistic Personality Disorder, all extremelly difficult to treat with a low level of success. Cognitive behavioral therapy and psychotropic drugs can only do so much with these types of individuals.

The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) reports 71 percent of abused women claim the household pet was abused or killed. This behavior is a classic sign of pending or ongoing domestic violence.

The rise of violence may have several sources ranging from media violence, confusing social constructs and the recent economic downfall causing high levels of stress and anxiety. Adding drugs or alcohol to the mix and the emotional precipice is no longer a barrier.

There are measures to take if one is abused. First, call the police. Second, work with an attorney and the courts to have a restaining order placed on the abuser. Restraining orders are generally good for a one year period. One can renew the restraining order annually if the threat of violence remains. However, be aware no piece of paper can stop a bullet, knife or fist.

Each state has a domestic victims advocacy group to assist with results of violence. One can seek out such groups and other government assist programs to deal with with the expereince(s) and heal from the physical and emotional pain.

There is no excuse for domestic violence nor should it be tolerated. If you feel your mate has the personality traits described, abused your house pet or seems to be bulging at the emotional seams and begins to threaten any form of abuse, run don’t walk to the nearest exit.

Keep in mind the figures represented are estimates based on reported cases. Many cases go unreported which must be taken int account.

DV Center Closes – Services shifted to regional model

Although Marshalltown’s (Iowa) Domestic Violence Alternatives and Sexual Assault Center will close as part of a statewide regionalization of crime victim services, its executive director said it’s not abandoning anyone.

Dotti Thompson, executive director at DVA/SAC, said her 10 full and part-time staff will do all they can to ensure the transition to regional service is as smooth as possible. When she first heard of the switch, she said she could picture the faces of those who would be affected.

“I want to make sure no one feels there will not be services,” Thompson said.

For the past 30 years, the center has provided advocacy services to victims of sexual and domestic assault in Marshall, Jasper, Tama and Poweshiek counties. In its previous fiscal year, DVA/SAC helped 562 clients with 3,934 instances of domestic abuse and sexual assault in Marshall County, and the center projected it would provide those services to 620 people in its current fiscal year.

According to a DVA/SAC press release, the Iowa Legislature has severely underfunded the center for several years, and as of July 1, the center’s state funding will expire because of its inability to secure the necessary money to keep operations afloat.

Last year, the Crime Victim Assistance Division of the Iowa Attorney General’s Office announced a plan to break down service areas into districts. Services for Marshall and Tama counties will shift to ACCESS (Assault Care Center Extending Shelter and Support) in Ames, which serves Boone, Greene and Story counties.

“I just don’t think anyone knows what the full ramifications are on this,” Thompson said. “Those in the Iowa Legislature have not put priority on meeting the needs of domestic assault and sexual assault violence victims.”

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N.J. Assembly grants approval for NJ SAFE Act for domestic violence victims

TRENTON – The full New Jersey Assembly granted final legislative approval to a bill sponsored by Assembly Democrats that will provide more financial security to victims of domestic violence.

The New Jersey Security and Financial Empowerment Act, or the “NJ SAFE Act,” will give victims an extra 20 days off from work, within the year following a domestic violence incident. Assembly Democrats Angel Fuentes, Gabriela Mosquera, Celeste Riley, and Daniel Benson are sponsoring this bill, that will allow employees, employee’s children, parents, spouse, or civil union or domestic partners to receive this benefit.

The leave time is intended for victims to seek medical attention for physical or psychological injuries caused by the incident. This includes any counseling, safety planning, temporary or permanent relocation, time to seek legal counsel, time to prepare for court hearings, and services provided by a victim services organization.

“Domestic violence cases can present a huge disruption to a victim’s life,” said Fuentes. “By providing additional leave time, hopefully we can give domestic violence victims increased support to overcome a very trying situation.”

Now, the measure will head to the governor’s office for further action.

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