Funding at Risk for Abuse Victims

(Memphis) Funding through the Violence Against Women Act may be at risk, after the House of Representatives failed to advance a re-authorization of the bill that’s been in place since 1994.

House Republican leaders would not bring up the vote, because of expanded protections for victims who may be undocumented immigrants, Native American, or gay.

“It’s very, very sad. Because in the majority of cases, we wouldn’t have turned down a rape victim in any of those categories,” Dottie Jones, the director of the division of community services.

Having missed the deadline, congress would have to start from scratch to provide funding that currently helps thousands of women and children in Shelby County.

“That seems simple, because you think we’ll just cut and paste from the last version, into a new version, but again when we’re talking about our economy right now and the stress that’s on the government to cut spending, what I fear most of all is that women are going to get hurt,” Jones said.

Jones said that thousands of people use the services that depend on these funds. For example, half the budget of the Shelby County Crime Victims Center and half the budget of the Rape Crisis Center come through VAWA.

The money helps children exposed to violence, helps train Shelby County deputies for domestic violence-related crimes, helps the YWCA women’s shelter, and helps in the testing of rape kits, among other things.

Charmaine Bradford is a client of the Crime Victims Center.

“April 29, 2011, my live-in boyfriend, when I tried to get out of a controlling relationship, he shot me twice with a 12-gauge shotgun in my face and in my shoulder,” Bradford said.

She has had to relearn how to talk, and may never be able to work again, because of extensive nerve damage.

She said she has survived mainly with the help of the Crime Victims Center.

“They have played a very vital part in my recovery, not just for the financial assistance, but also the therapeutic counseling. Of course my life was shattered, and I received counseling here with the social worker.”

The center staff helped her not only with therapy but also with court proceedings. The center was also able to assist with medication her insurance would not cover, with some bills, and with small essentials, like prescription soap and lotion required for the injuries.

“I only thank God for saving me as he did, because my doctors said I shouldn’t even be alive,” she said.

Bradford hopes Congress will act quickly so that funding can continue in the next fiscal year.

If no action is taken, funding will likely disappear after October of 2013.