The Domestic Violence Empire; Billion dollar industry in need of reform

By Maria DiBari

April 19, 2012

Since the enactment of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) in 1994, the federal government has channeled over a billion dollars into organizations that are required to provide assistance to victims of domestic violence. The VAWA Web site does post figures on grants awarded to specific organizations and the amount of each grant, but does not detail how the funds are expected to be spent. -Womensenews, Regina Varoilli.

The goal of the domestic violence reform movement is to ensure that all victims are afforded equal protections and services regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, age and their perpetrator’s occupation. Victim resources and public policy must provide services and laws that address the needs of all victims including: women, men, teens, LGBT, officer-involved victims as well as immigrants so equal protections and services for all.

Currently, victims of violence on a local, state and national level are being failed by our funded resources. The problem is that domestic violence shelters and agencies get funding based on the need for services and the number of hotline calls or heads in the shelter, not the cases they solve or the needs they meet. You or I may call the shelter with a question, and that is then counted as a statistic for their agency. Whether they help you or I or not, we both become a statistic for the agency and in turn, the agency will get rewarded with funding and grants.

The most effective way to approach the reform issue is to spearhead this movement at the local and state level, while simultaneously gaining national support. Our local and state resources are flawed and victims are unable to obtain appropriate services from shelters and agencies. Some problems with the current support system include:

  • Crime victims compensation is difficult to obtain for domestic violence related injuries. Emergency relocation is nearly impossible to obtain due to the lengthy application process and documentation required to proceed with the request; providing an emergency service should be a fast process, not one that takes weeks to complete with the risk of being denied services.
  • Pro bono legal representation for divorce and family law cases are lacking.
  • Pro bono surgeries after domestic violence are difficult to access for victims.
  • Career services for victims of domestic violence is a needed resource that should be provided by all shelters. Helping women re-enter the work place and teaching victims how to be financially independent is vital.
  • Transitional Housing is in high demand for victims of domestic violence.
  • Victim transportation to court, case related appointments and to and from work while residing in a shelter is needed for all victims to maintain stability, financial independence, and make necessary appointments.
  • Stalking resources are non-existent in every shelter.

The list goes on; however, these are the most immediate resources that need to be addressed on a national level.

A lack of funding for domestic violence is not the problem. Many DV executives are making six figure salaries and beyond, and work 35 hour weeks. Safe Horizon, the richest shelter in the US located in NYC, gets nearly 42 million dollars per year, while less than 1 million dollars is allocated towards direct services for victims in 5 boroughs. The top executives at Safe Horizon make hundreds of thousands of dollars each year with bonuses of 50K per year. Even at the local level, executives running the county shelters make top salaries to serve a small population, and even then, many victims are being left behind. There is nothing wrong with getting paid for a job well done and hard work, but getting rewarded while victims’ needs go unmet and while domestic homicide is on the rise is illogical.

Each year, Mary Kay donates millions to the NNEDV, and this is not surprising since a Mary Kay representative sits on their Board. This agency does not provide direct services to victims at any capacity. How do I know that? I was denied services and support by the NNEDV as a victim in need of resources, and I am not the only one. One of their missions is to empower victims of DV. I was never empowered by this group. The NNEDV did provide a victims fund “Amy’s Courage Fund”, which was sponsored by the Mary Kay Foundation, but that fund has closed because the resources were in high demand and the funds were exhausted. This is a clear example of what victims need most: emergency funds for survival.

In fact, many large corporations sponsor local shelters and national coalitions and agencies each year. Many sponsors rely on statistics provided by the agencies and truly believe that victims are getting the services they need and are benefiting. The reality is not as bright as the statistics portray, and, instead, many go without, find it impossible to get help, are denied shelter and services, and even die trying to get assistance.

“Funding needs to be reallocated to lawyers and trained consultants that work one on one with victims of domestic violence, and provide follow-up on cases to ensure needs are met. National, state and local domestic violence agencies need to be held accountable through proper oversight, which does not exist today. Follow-up is poor, training is lacking and there are no incentives for agencies to provide victim services throughout the entire victimization cycle” Alexis Moore, Director of Victim Outreach for Tri-County Crisis Center, Inc.

Victims need real services. The most critical point in any given victimization cycle is the point at which the victim picks up the phone and reaches out for help. At that point it is critical for the victim in need to have access to direct services such as pro bono representation, career services, counseling, emergency funds, housing and shelter, transportation and basic necessities. Without these services, victims are lost and are unable to survive the cycle of violence. Without proper follow-up and attention, victims fall between the cracks and are put at risk. These problems can be solved and should be tackled at the local and state level first, and then the movement must continue nationally with the support of organizations and individuals such as National NOW, NCADV, NNEDV and public officials.

Source: Survivors in Action