Friday, January 20, 2017

Save VAWA; Save Lives

Every incoming administration has its own policies and priorities. On the day before President Trump’s inauguration, a report from The Hill identified several programs that his administration may eliminate. One of those is the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) grant program. Since 1994, VAWA through its 15 separate grant programs has provided millions of dollars to support services to victims of domestic violence, guidance to states and municipalities to improve the way domestic cases are investigated and prosecuted, and provided addition support for underserved communities.

Crime Victim Advocacy Center receives more than 20% of total revenue from VAWA grant programs. The end of those grants would affect CVAC’s legal program that provides free legal representation at Order of Protection hearings and for divorce and custody cases. The end of VAWA would cause a reduction in the number of counseling hours available to victims of all types of crime. Additionally, it would not only affect our victim advocate programs in the St. Louis City and County Police Departments, but also the number of detectives who investigate domestic violence cases.

VAWA funding is not just vital to the work of CVAC; it is vital to many agencies across the country. A full repeal of the funding stream could force the closure of agencies that serve vulnerable victims of interpersonal violence. These programs are often the victim’s only avenue to escape emotional, physical, financial, and sexual violence at the hands of an intimate partner. It is not overstating the point to say that these programs save lives.

Besides the funding, VAWA is important as a driver of equality within the domestic violence movement. When VAWA was reauthorized in 2013, it contained a nondiscrimination clause. For the first time, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals were named as an underserved community. VAWA mandated that agencies receiving its funding provide services for anyone regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. Funds were made available for targeted services from victim advocates, law enforcement, and courts to improve the response to LGBT victims of domestic violence. Without VAWA, these services might not otherwise be available.

Certainly, there will be more to say about VAWA and its potential elimination. No final decisions have been made as far as we know. Take this blog as a warning, however, that the potential to end these vital grants to police and domestic violence services is on the table for discussion and that this move would have far-reaching and disastrous consequences for services to domestic violence victims of all sexual orientations and gender identities. #saveVAWAsavelives

Comments by Jessica M., Director of Advocacy & Community Services

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