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

 

Maria DiBari | Like TCCC on Facebook

 

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:

 

  1. Crime victim’s 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. 
  2. Pro bono legal representation for divorce and family law cases are lacking. 
  3. Pro bono surgeries after domestic violence are difficult to access for victims.
  4. 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. 
  5. Transitional Housing is in high demand for victims of domestic violence. 
  6. 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. 
  7. 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. 

 

Maria DiBari | Like TCCC on Facebook

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Address Confidentiality Programs fall short in protecting victim’s privacy

By Alexis A. Moore: SIA

Address Confidentiality Programs fall short in protecting privacy

Thirty two U.S. states, including California, offer address confidentiality programs for the ostensible purpose of protecting victims of crimes such as domestic abuse and stalking. Victims count on these programs to protect them from their abusers, but privacy protection in the Internet age has become much more difficult. Technology now enables abusers to penetrate or work around confidential address and other programs—and many abusers do so.

Believing that these programs are ironclad, victims are often caught off-guard when their privacy is breached. The reality is that the protection they provide is limited, and participation in them can give victims a false sense of security. The good news is that legislators, advocacy groups, and prosecutors are beginning to wake up to the need for stricter measures to protect the privacy of crime victims.

Nonetheless, because privacy protection can be a matter of life and death, it is critical for victims themselves, and their families, to fully understand confidential address programs and their limitations.

To a degree, confidential address programs can help prevent perpetrators from locating victims’ home addresses. For example, these programs seal Department of Motor Vehicle records so that only the victim’s private mail box—not her home address—is on file. On the other hand, these programs have severe limitations that can unintentionally undermine victims’ efforts to keep their confidential information private. For example:

  • ·         Although they are designed to protect victims from their abusers, confidential address programs can go far afield from this objective. Rather than simply preventing the perpetrator’s mail from reaching victims, these programs prevent the delivery of packages, certified mailings, and certified letters from anyone. These items are returned to the sender. To keep acceptable mail from being returned, victims must obtain yet another private mailbox through a UPS Store or similar mail-receiving station, requiring even more time and expense and making their lives even more complicated than they already are. Kind of defeats the purpose of having a confidential address, doesn’t it?
  • ·         Water, gas, electric, and cable TV records include victim names, physical addresses, and confidential mailing addresses. With the “confidential address” co-mingled in this way with the actual physical location, it becomes easier to breach privacy. Lawmakers in California are now considering legislation that will regulate the contents and use of utility records.  
  • ·         Property ownership records are available online to anyone, including convicted felons, stalkers, and domestic abusers, through each County Recorder’s Office. For their protection, crime victims as well as law enforcement personnel, prosecutors, and other vulnerable individuals should have the option of keeping these records private. Survivors In Action is presently lobbying for legislation that would restrict access to property records. Although this proposal is currently under review at the state and federal levels, many obstacles to implementing it still exist, including the costs of software development and of other changes that would be required in every County Recorder’s Office across the country.

    I cannot emphasize enough that protecting the privacy of a domestic violence or stalking victim can be a matter of life and death. That’s why—at least until these and other dangerous shortcomings of confidential address program are remedied—I encourage representatives of victim support organizations and other advocates to:

    • Inform their clients that confidential address and other privacy protection programs have limitations and should not be assumed to provide full protection.
    • Suggest that their clients seek additional privacy safeguards—such as
    • Using mail-receiving locations outside their county of residence (this costs money so may not be an option for everyone).
    • When possible, completing applications with outdated information already known to perpetrators.
    • Encourage their clients to contact privacy experts like myself who can advise them on other protections they can and should take on their own.

    I believe it is critical for every state to appoint a Privacy Protection Officer who would be responsible for ensuring that advocates and other personnel who assist crime victims are properly trained. Advocates must thoroughly understand privacy protection programs and their limitations and have the knowledge to advise their clients on additional ways they can protect their privacy.

    It is also critical for victim advocates and our nation’s lawmakers to work closely together to develop more effective measures for improving crime victim privacy protection. The current system just isn’t working, and victims are being left behind.

The case for DV Reform

Posted on October 27, 2011 by DVReform

Gimme Shelter: The Case for Domestic Violence Reform

By the time you go to bed tonight, 3 women will have been murdered by their husbands or boyfriends.

For millions of victims, domestic violence is a matter of life and death, but victims of domestic abuse are being victimized again- ignored and abandoned by the very victim service providers that claim to help them. These publicly and privately funded agencies have no oversight – and are in desperate need of reform.

It’s hard to comprehend, but each month its estimated thousands of victims of abuse are turned away from state and federally domestic violence shelters and agencies. Many shelters refuse women with children, charge fees battered women cannot afford, and reject women because of their immigration status, their sexual orientation or their abuser’s occupation. A majority of those shelters that DO accept all victims are not funded by the private and public sector through NNEDV, NCADV, and state coalitions, so they are limited to the numbers of victims they can shelter.

When a victim of domestic violence calls a hotline at the local, state or national level, instead of help, they are often referred to another agency, which in turn refers them to yet another agency. Many women tell of being referred back to the same agencies, but receiving little or no practical help.

Maria DiBari, an abuse survivor who has since created the Tri-County Crisis Center in New York, says, “A victim will reach out in need of a specific resource and no one can provide it. Hotlines will refer to shelters and shelters will refer to other agencies and programs and those programs and agencies will refer them back to the shelters. So it becomes a vicious circle.”

DiBari approached many agencies including LSHV, OPDV, NCADV, NYS Coalition, every shelter in NY, Justice Centers in NYS, and she contacted all of her state officials for assistance and still could not get the resources she needed.

Alexis Moore, head of Survivors in Action, and also a former victim of abuse, agrees. “I was referred and referred and referred… until finally I was referred back to the same agencies that I had already been through.”

They both point to battered women like Heather Williams, of Connecticut, who has reached out to more than 50 state and local agencies, but has yet to receive the help she needs. Heather’s most dire need: legal representation.

“I am a victim of domestic violence and stalking. I have a four year-old daughter and have been in an ongoing custody battle with my abuser. In the past, I’ve had numerous orders of protection that have been violated, have been unable to obtain my own police reports, and, most recently, have been falsely charged with domestic violence. I’ve already spent $100,000 in attorneys’ fees for child custody and have been unsuccessful in my attempts to protect my daughter and myself from my abuser. I live in fear of retaliation. Once you’ve left, the danger is far from over. Now your abuser is on the war-path, and there’s no one to help you.”

Finding and obtaining legal representation is the biggest challenge for victims. Many victims go without legal counsel because they can’t afford lawyers. Agencies will often refer them to Legal Aid, a service that provides free representation, but few if any of their attorneys are experienced in domestic violence law, an essential to help victims of abuse navigate the courts, DCF/CPS, the paperwork, the endless bureaucracy, and the legal tricks their abusers will play.

Heather, after requesting assistance from more than 50 government and private agencies in New York and Connecticut, as well as the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, has yet to find a pro-bono attorney to take her case.

Often services offered women are simply denied. Lily Morales contacted the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence – one of the most heavily funded agencies in the United States – for free reconstructive surgery after her abuser disfigured her face. Though surgery is advertised as a service the NCADV provides, Morales was refused.

Other women are simply given incorrect or bad advice. Alexis Moore was told by prosecutors, law enforcement, victim advocates, domestic violence shelters, and other agencies to change her social security number for safety reasons, only to have her request repeatedly denied by the social security administration, for “lack of ongoing abuse” – the standard reply in such cases. When the SSA does grant a social security number changes, victims have actually been arrested and accused of identity theft or fraud.

Karen Elkins, a pro-bass angler, abuse survivor, SIA advisory board member and DV Reform supporter was denied social security number change for safety in 2009. The letter she received from SSA denying her social security number change for safety is like what is estimated to be millions of letters received by abuse victims from SSA each denied by SSA for the same reason, “lack of ongoing abuse”.

There is little oversight of how federal and state funded agencies spend their money: no assessment as to whether or not these agencies are meeting the victims’ needs. Even worse, victims have no recourse when this happens – no place to report this second victimization.

The problem is NOT money but instead how monies and resources are allocated by publicly-funded agencies. DV Reform is about bringing oversight and accountability to these agencies. DV agencies and victim service providers are not regulated as other agencies are yet they deal with customers i.e. victims who are facing life or death circumstances. Victims left behind need to have a place to file formal complaints like consumers have today with law enforcement, businesses and other government agencies.

Everyone knows all too well what DV is. The problem now is victims who are reaching out for help find that no real help exists and there is no place to turn when they are left behind to complain or file a formal complaint.

We are advocating for there to be a federal domestic violence oversight committee for EVERY agency who operates in U.S. that receives funding from public or private sector – where victims can document experience and file complaints.

By writing to local, state and federal officials in support of DV Reform, individuals can use social media platforms to promote this cause as well and join with Tri-County Crisis Center and Survivors In Action by visiting our web sites and contacting us there.

www.SurvivorsInAction.org and www.TriCountyCrisisCenter.org

We’re glowing red, not purple.

Please visit: a movement against domestic violence , link to Maria’s blog post it and comment we need DV Reform and we need it now! 

Glowing Purple: Shine the Light on Domestic Violence…this is the name of a campaign started by the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence this past May. What is this campaign about? Is it a campaign to make sure “no victim is left behind”, or is it a campaign about making sure no victim falls through the cracks of the system?

No!

Glowing Purple is a campaign started by the NCADV. The campaign is about changing the domestic violence awareness month to May, and this transition will cost nearly one million dollars. They started this campaign this past May with hopes to change the awareness month officially next year. According to The West End News (www.westendnews.com)

I realize that October, the month DV awareness falls on, competes with Breast Cancer awareness and there is a struggle to get donations to both of these causes, but spending one million dollars in this economy for this reason seems completely unnecessary and I would hope the DV Coalitions would have better a use for their funds–like maybe allowing it to trickle down to the victims that are suffering. For me, I’m glowing red, not purple.

Posted by Maria Phelps