Talking Points About Budget Cuts
Domestic violence is a real and pervasive problem in Louisiana which is compounded by a lack of adequate resources for response.
- Louisiana has the 4th highest rate of female homicide in the nation. 97% of these women knew their assailant and 70% of those victims were wives, ex-wives or girlfriends of their assailant.
- Women are murdered at a rate about 40% higher than the national average in Louisiana. We consistently lead the nation in domestic homicides and have ranked in the top 5 every year since 1997.
- There was at least one domestic homicide in every parish between 1997 – 2009.
- Louisiana has 18 shelters compared to South Carolina with a similar population which has 24. We have fewer shelters than both Oregon and Oklahoma which have 1 million fewer residents than Louisiana.
- More than 90,000 shelter nights and 38,000 crisis calls were handled within the last year by domestic violence programs in Louisiana.
- Louisiana has a higher than average rate of multiple death domestic violence incidents. The average is about 30%, ours is 39% and often includes extended family and 10% of the time bystanders.
DOMESTIC VIOLENCE SHELTERS ARE A GOOD INVESTMENT
- Shelters are already very efficient, in fact cheaper than hotels. At one program the DCFS contract for bed night cost $43. This is cheaper than a hotel and the women get security, food, transportation, advocacy and other services they would not get at a hotel. At most agencies bed night cost is between $30 – $50.
- In some rural areas there aren’t enough hotel beds to accommodate the needs of survivors.
- Hotels and staying with family are often dangerous suggestions. Hotels lack a level of security that is critical for many battered women. Perpetrators often target a victim’s family. Suggesting that battered women stay with families increases the risk to multiple citizens.
- Broad –based advocacy has shown to result in decreased risk of re-abuse as well as increased access to community resources, higher social support, higher mental health and well-being. One study of civil legal advocacy found that such services may decrease women’s risk of re-abuse and increase their well-being.
- In rigorous studies that included large samples across multiple shelters, the vast majority of survivors report that they felt safer, more hopeful, and had more safety strategies at their disposal post-shelter. They also demonstrated a significant decrease in trauma-related symptoms after women’s shelter stays.
- Clearly, shelters provide not only immediate and long-term support for abused women and their children but are in some cases life-saving as well.
- Finally, it is that three studies asked women what they would have done if shelter had not been available to them, and their responses were sobering. Women’s responses included that they would have been homeless, would have continued to be beaten, or that they would have prostituted to support themselves or their abuser.
IMPACT OF 2012-2013 BUDGET CUTS
- In December of 2012, domestic violence programs lost $998,000 in mid-year budget cuts. This represented a 17% loss in total funding from the state. Programs are heavily reliant on these dollars as the economic downturn and recent disasters have created an increase in service requests while reducing available local funding.
- Many outreach services have been reduced. This means a reduction in prevention services and protection order assistance, both proven cost savings. One study indicates, for every dollar spent on a protection order $30 is saved in costs to local communities.
- When DV services are lost it actually increases costs to local communities with more strain on other systems including law enforcement and courts.
- Programs have reduced staff by about 25 positions, roughly 10% of the total advocate workforce in the state.
- Many programs have used their reserves to continue operating. This threatens the long term viability of programs. It will be years before they can regain those funds and recover from cuts this significant.
- In the last year programs were unable to meet 1,820 service requests due to lack of resources. This was before the crippling mid-year cuts which can be expected to increase the number of unmet requests.
- Further cuts could result in closures and destabilize the whole system, increasing homicides and costing local communities money.