Domestic Violence Executive Directors Salaries Higher than US Average Household Income

Oversight of Funding of Domestic Violence Agencies Long Overdue

Survivors in Action
February 22, 2012

(If you are seeking 990 Tax Returns for domestic violence shelters, state domestic violence partnerships or coalitions or 990 tax returns for the many national domestic violence agencies and organizations that are funded in the United States, these records are available via public records search)

Domestic violence lawyers are one of the most critical elements in the direct victim service system we have in place for crime victims in America. Lawyers that dedicate their professional careers to serving victims of violence provide direct support and services to victims throughout the entire victimization cycle. Whether it’s fighting for child custody or a restraining order in court, these public servants risk their personal safety, sacrifice high paying positions, and handle an overwhelming number of caseloads each year.

Although these dedicated defenders of victims’ rights have incurred high college loan debts and have spent years in academia, domestic violence lawyers are retained by shelters for far less than the average cost of one year of graduate school. Earning a salary of $30-$45,000 per year is typical for a lawyer employed at a local shelter; three times less than an average attorney in the US. In fact, domestic violence lawyers have similar salaries to managers at McDonalds. This is surprising considering the abundance of overpaid directors at domestic violence shelters and non-residential victim service agencies across the US, pulling in six-figure salaries with social work degrees. For example, all NNEDV directors make $100,000 plus, with the President racking in profits of nearly $300,000 per year, and this agency does not provide direct victim services and has recently closed their victim fund. The NYSCADV CEO is paid fairly well for not providing victim services either, with a salary of $90,000 per year. In 2010, the California Partnership lead director was compensated nearly $95,000 too. The New Mexico Coalition Executive Director is also paid considerably well at well over $80,000 per year, although below average in comparison to other Coalitions. These are a few examples of out hundreds around theUS where there is no victim support provided, yet high compensation for directors of non-profit agencies.

Domestic violence shelter and national agency directors salaries are higher than the average household income in the US yet directors provide NO direct support to victims and refer them to volunteer agencies and those that are not funded.

With shelter and national agency directors taking salaries higher than the average household income in theUS, and DV lawyers making a salary equivalent to fast food restaurant managers, what message are we sending to direct service providers and public servants around the nation? Why aren’t those defending victims’ rights in a court of law rewarded with decent wages? Where is the incentive for lawyers? With many states struggling to provide adequate legal representation to victims of domestic violence, perhaps victim service providers should rethink their operational budgets. InOrangeCountyNY, there has been a steady rise in violence yet, there is only one domestic violence lawyer throughout the entire county. Currently, the Department of Social Services funds one attorney through Safe Homes ofOrangeCountyto handle all DV cases. It is not uncommon for this attorney to have a long waiting list and an overloaded schedule. In fact, do to an overwhelming number of victims reaching out for legal representation in NY and around the US, many victims go without specializing attorneys, and instead, are granted Legal Aid lawyers that are also underpaid and overworked.

Legal representation is the number one need of victims in the 21st Century. Therefore, funding allocation and operational budgets should reflect what the majority of clients need in order to become survivors.