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.