VOICES: Why it matters that Ohio legislators keep increased funding for domestic violence programs

In the Dayton area, it’s clear. Both the number of domestic violence cases and the severity and lethality of incidents are on the rise. When survivors seek help, we are seeing more intensity of violence, with hostage- taking, strangulation, sexual violence, more severe injuries.

To help, domestic violence centers across Ohio need more resources. And we are excited that Gov. Mike DeWine and Attorney General Dave Yost are recommending that an additional, much-needed $20 million in line-item funding for domestic violence services be included in the Ohio budget for 2024-2025.

I urge the Ohio legislators and residents of the Dayton community to support the proposed $20 million funding increase – which would be a crucial step towards bringing our state closer to spending parity for domestic violence services with surrounding states. Currently, Ohio spends 32 cents per capita on domestic violence services, compared with 92 cents for Indiana, $1.41 for West Virginia, $1.56 for Pennsylvania and $2.54 for Kentucky.

The additional funding the governor and attorney general propose would bring Ohio’s per capita rate up to 85 cents.

In 2021, advocates at the Artemis Center answered 6,665 calls on our crisis hotline – and the number of those emergency calls is on the rise. We provided services to 4,127 survivors in 2021. National statistics show that a quarter of women – one in four – have been the victim of severe physical abused by an intimate partner, as have one in seven men.

For the Artemis Center, that additional funding could make a real difference to survivors of intimate partner violence and their children. It would allow us to send more staff members to accompany survivors when they go to criminal or civil court hearings – to help them navigate the complex and often confusing court system, to help them know what to expect, to sit with them in support if they have to be in a hearing with their abuser present.

The federal CARES money for COVID relief that our center has been using to support that work is ending, and without additional funding we’ll have to cut back. We also need funding for client assistance – everything from providing gas cards so clients can access services to supplying survivors with safety equipment such as door locks and window alarms, or TRAC phones if their abuser has destroyed or taken their cell phone.

Calls to our emergency hotline are increasing, as a lack of affordable housing and high rent costs in the Dayton area mean that some survivors have trouble accessing alternate housing and sometimes are having to stay put in vulnerable settings.

In the fiscal year ending in June 2022, Ohio reported 81 victims killed in domestic violence cases – from a day-old baby to a 90-year-old woman. It’s clear: increasing the line-item funding for domestic violence services, as the governor and attorney general are proposing, is cost-efficient. It will save taxpayers money in emergency response, court costs, medical expenses and so much more.

Most importantly, it may well save lives.

Jane Keiffer is the executive director of Artemis Center.

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