The level of uncertainty for domestic violence victims and the programs that serve them is increasing as the federal government shutdown drags on with no end in sight – the longest in U.S. history! This shutdown jeopardizes safety for victims of violence. Those of us who serve victims of domestic violence and sexual assault hope that our leaders in Washington will move quickly and eliminate the pending crisis in funding for domestic violence and sexual assault agencies. This government shutdown is destabilizing for victims, who may fear that no one will be there to answer their call. Even when the government is open, more than 11,000 requests for services from victims can go unmet in a single day.
The House has taken action to end the shutdown, but the Senate has not. It is my understanding that Federal agencies that fund domestic violence programs are currently open but some have ceased distributing funding as of 6 am on Friday, January 18. After that, local shelters and programs that are funded through the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) and the Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) may start to run out of funds to provide services.
As a provider of services to domestic violence victims, I would hate for any victim to have to make the awful choice to return to an abuser because their local shelter has been forced to close. Domestic violence and sexual assault programs are the calm in the storm for victims in danger and in crisis. It is unconscionable for such programs to be thrown into their own crisis by a government shutdown. I urge my fellow citizens to contact their elected officials and urge them to act now to restore funding to these life-saving programs in order to avert a tragedy.
Steve Vickman, Executive Director, HELP of Door County, Inc.
Sturgeon Bay, Wis.