Domestic violence prevention should be a collective effort
by ALLISON CRYER
The state has decided to cut domestic violence programs at a time when Louisiana ranks in the top five in the nation in domestic abuse-related homicides.
Weak state tax collections, coupled with education expenses, reportedly prompted the governor to trim the operating budget mid-year by $166 million.
The cuts will hit aid programs to vulnerable citizens including childhood support services and family violence prevention and intervention.
The funding for family violence prevention and intervention programs was cut by $998,413, a 16 percent reduction in total dollars through the contracts the state holds with shelters and other domestic violence prevention providers, according to the Louisiana Coalition Against Domestic Violence (LCADV).
For 2010, the Violence Policy Center ranked Louisiana fourth in the nation in the number of women murdered by men in single victim-single offender homicides.
According to LCADV, Since 1997, Louisiana has consistently ranked within the top five states among female victims killed by male offenders in single victim/single offender incidents. Also, between Jan. 1, 2010, and Oct. 31, 2012, domestic violence was blamed for the deaths of nearly 200 people across Louisiana.
With that being said, why does our governor want to eliminate services that would prevent such violence and save lives?
The Jindal administration says the state is moving away from costly residential care for domestic violence victims in favor of short-term hotel stays and family care.
However, many victims of domestic violence often lack the money to pay for a hotel room or do not want to leave an electronic trail by using a credit card. Asking them to stay with family the batterer knows could be dangerous for both the victim and the family.
The move also places more of the burden on local law enforcement. What is law enforcement supposed to do when their jails are overrun with an increase in multiple offenders because their victims are being forced to return to the home after only a few days in a hotel?
Our state’s shelters already operate on very little money. Critics have said that the cuts to domestic violence prevention will most negatively impact the individuals with the greatest needs and least resources.
Many people who are in an abusive relationship have no access to health care, money or even friends and family because they have been isolated from the outside world. How are they supposed to cover the cost themselves of shelter when most who make it out alive escape with only the clothes on their back?
Jeff Davis Parish Communities Against Domestic Abuse (CADA), the only women’s shelter in the parish, has provided services to over 18,000 women and children since opening in the year 2000. The agency said this week they expect the reduction in funding to affect the services they provide for domestic violence victims in the parish.
Shelters across the state will have to pare the number of beds for battered women and children by a third, according to LCADV. Also, the cuts will erode funding for an emergency shelter.
The root causes of crimes must be addressed. Effective public safety involves more than law enforcement patrols. It also requires a network of services to help make criminal activity less likely. That is why I think the state is going in the wrong direction.
As usual, the state expects local law enforcement, churches, non-profit organizations, along with the taxpayers to make up the difference. When domestic violence increases in our state due to lack of funding for critical services, the increase of victims visiting emergency rooms and larger jails local law enforcement agencies will be forced to build to house the offenders of preventable crimes will most definitely be passed on to the taxpayer.
Preventing domestic violence should be a collective effort – by the private sector, local municipalities, churches, as well as the state. This is just another move by our governor to place more of burden on the private sector, and this time he is targeting the most vulnerable – victims who are usually women and children looking to escape a violent situation.
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