As I prepared materials for a recent HAVEN Board of Directors meeting, I couldn’t help but feel immersed in irony. A key point of discussion at many of our meetings is the current impact of the sequester (click for background info) on HAVEN’s budget as well as the yet to be determined impact as we look forward to FY 2014. Not a fun discussion to have as we consider how to continue to provide comprehensive quality programming to survivors in need AND make up for lost federal revenue in order to continue to support survivors.
The irony came as I conducted my quick, daily review of local and national media headlines. I found story after story about violence against women:
- 3 Ohio Women Reunited with Family
- Man Charged with Attempted Murder after Throwing Girlfriend Out Window
- Police Seek Man Accused of Abducting Ex-Girlfriend
Rarely does a day go by that a story of domestic or sexual violence isn’t front-page news. Yet we must all keep in mind that these crimes remain two of the most underreported of all crimes and only a small percentage of those crimes that are actually reported make front-page news.
So how can our federal legislators continue to turn their backs on this problem? How could they find a fix for the FAA for flight delays but not for the thousands of victims in great need – those whose daily safety is at risk? The estimate by multiple agencies (Campaign for Funding to End Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault) puts the number at over 100,000 victims left un-served. In the National Domestic Violence Counts Census Day over 64,000 adults and children received services from domestic violence programs and over 10,000 individuals on that one-day alone were un-served due to lack of resources (Funding Challenges for Domestic Violence Programs: The Impact on Victims).
And the Federal Government, the employer of the U.S. Military, is also failing to provide a safety net for sexual assault victims within the military and that is before any funding cuts: Military Plagued by Sexual Assaults. Research has continued to show time and time again that the military is not providing protection for its female military members. Sequestration cuts will only make bringing an end to this epidemic of abuse even more difficult. The Department of Defense appears to already be holding back on the hiring of sexual assault response coordinators
Sequestration cuts to domestic and sexual violence services is a re-victimization of an already vulnerable population. It allows for the sad stories like sexual assault by top military officials, local men attempting to kill or kidnap their partners and the unimaginable life of three women being held captive for years to continue to make headlines.
As we continue to have difficult discussions at HAVEN about how our local budget could impact the needs of survivors please remember to continue to talk about the need for safety and support for victims within your own circles. And please contact your elected officials and urge them to act now to reach a solution to avoid these devastating cuts. Awareness is key now more than ever.