VOICES: Demand for domestic violence services highlight need for more funding

A domestic violence awareness vigil in Hamilton. JOURNALNEWS file photo
A domestic violence awareness vigil in Hamilton. JOURNALNEWS file photo

Credit: CARRIE COCHRAN/JOURNALNEWS

Credit: CARRIE COCHRAN/JOURNALNEWS

Since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, the need for services at Artemis Domestic Violence Center has increased significantly. Over the past 11 months, we have seen an 18% increase in hotline calls, as compared to the same time period the previous year. Victims in Dayton need more support than ever.

But in these increasingly dangerous times, we at Artemis have been forced to significantly decrease our services in the local criminal court systems. In 2019 advocates provided support to survivors at 360 court hearings. In 2020, we attended far fewer hearings — only 160.

This is due to a nearly 36% cut to my most important funding source – the Victims of Crime Act grant (VOCA). Grants to domestic violence programs in Ohio were cut by $7.7 million in October.

The state Attorney General’s Office has warned another VOCA cut of as much as 34% is expected this year. If I am forced in the near future to make further staff or program cuts, our ability to serve our clients will significantly decrease.

It was a hopeful sign when in 2019 Ohio became one of 33 states that provide support for their programs. The $1 million budget annual allocation provided grants of $17,800 to 47 residential programs that year and $12,000 grants to 69 programs in 2020.

Artemis greatly appreciated the funding, which helped offset the close to $230,000 VOCA cut. But it is just not enough support for a program that last year received 4,512 calls to our hotline and helped close to 6,000 victims go to court, find housing, get counseling and take other steps to rebuild their lives.

Jane Keiffer
Jane Keiffer

Our programs need a more generous, stable funding source they can count on every year. Next year, we need a $5 million annual line item, which would bring Ohio’s support for DV programs closer in line with other states. Among the 33 states that provide state domestic violence service support, Ohio’s support is the lowest on a per capita basis. Among our surrounding states, Ohio spends nine cents per capita, compared to $1 in Michigan, $1.40 in West Virginia, $1.49 in Pennsylvania, and $1.50 in Kentucky.

Meanwhile, the need for emergency shelter and support services for Ohio families struggling with domestic violence is greater now than ever before. In the past five years, 23 children and seven law enforcement officials were killed by domestic violence abusers. Domestic violence fatalities in Ohio were up by 35% from July 2019 through June 2020, according to ODVN’s annual fatality count, and preliminary data shows that domestic violence homicides continue to rise around the country.

Like Artemis, Ohio’s domestic violence programs are struggling to respond to a spike in the number of families seeking help. Half of the state’s programs reported increases in the number of survivors seeking shelter, calls to the hotline, or other requests for services in 2020 compared to 2019, according to a survey the Ohio Domestic Violence Network conducted in January. More than half (57%) of the programs noted an increase in the severity of violence and injuries reported, including an alarming increase in strangulation.

Ohio’s elected and executive branch officials must be prepared to fully support the domestic violence programs on the front lines by supporting an increase in the domestic violence survivor services line item from $2 million to $10 million. Victims depend on us when they are in crisis. Ohio’s domestic violence programs and communities are relying on legislative support to keep families safe.

Jane Keiffer is the Executive Director of the Artemis Domestic Violence Center

In Other News