Editorial: Prioritize funding for survivors of home violence | Editorials

There have been almost 500 gun-related domestic violence fatalities this year in the United States. There are 10 million people a year physically abused by an intimate partner and 20,000 calls are placed daily to domestic violence hotlines.

The police responded to more than 100,000 calls each year that were domestic in nature.

On average approximately 10,000 petitions for protection from abuse (PFA) orders were filed from 2014 to 2019.

There were 43 people killed in domestic violence incidents in 2021 — more than doubling domestic violence murders from the year before, and the largest number known to date.

These cases may differ nationally versus locally, but all have similar effects. While these stories are happening every day, we need to examine them in October during Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

We see that domestic abuse does not discriminate. It affects all races, ethnicities and walks of life — not even just women or children. It also can be directly tied to poverty, housing insecurity and job instability — all of which affect survivors’ abilities to escape any abuse.

“By intentionally denying Black people access to economic opportunities, the ability to build intergenerational wealth, health care, education, and a sense of safety from governmental systems, racist policies increase the prevalence of risk factors for domestic violence,” according to a statement from the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

The national coalition also said that more than 40% of Black women have experienced physical domestic violence, domestic partner sexual violence and/or intimate partner stalking in their lifetimes. And more than half of Black adult female homicides are related to domestic violence.

At Coburn Place, a domestic violence service organization, 65% of their clients in 2020 identified as Black and female, and that is true at many similar groups across the US Black women and men experience intimate partner abuse at a disproportionately higher rate than whites. But why?

“First of all, a lack of opportunities along with financial barriers lead to domestic violence,” said Jacqueline Willett, coordinator of Coburn Place intake and well-being services.

Cecily Johnson, director of strategic initiatives at the Domestic Violence Network, agrees it’s a systemic issue.

“Because of the history, because of the 400-year gap and 400 years of being left at the starting line while other groups have moved forward with ease, that holds us back,” she said. “That’s the root cause. It’s a combination of things we’re not given. We’re just not given opportunities in education that generally would be made available to other populations, specifically white populations. And it’s socioeconomics. Typically, the higher you are in that socioeconomic strata, the greater access you have to education and resources where you can get some of this information, where you can receive services.”

The Family Violence Prevention and Services Act, first passed by Congress in 1984, was the primary federal funding source dedicated to assisting survivors of domestic violence and their children with things such as emergency shelters. It also provided core funding to more than 1,500 domestic violence shelters and programs.

The reauthorization of the Family Violence Prevention and Services Act, which expired in 2015, is long overdue. The act helped survivors access violence-prevention resources, health care, housing, education, child support and much more. Resources from the act also helped other groups that support survivors get training, technical assistance and grants. Groups also used the funds to increase their service capacity, community engagement and other things to help survivors.

The House has already reauthorized the act in 2021 and the Senate has yet to pass it.

The Family Violence Prevention and Services Act is critical, life-saving legislation that survivors depend on and we need to tell our senators to support domestic violence survivors by passing it.

We must ask our legislators to support this act and help to ensure that domestic violence survivors aren’t re-victimized.

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