On April 12, 2017, the Justice Systems Appropriations Subcommittee proposed their SFY18 budget. Legislators proposed a 26% cut in funding for victim services: $5 million for victim assistance grants compared to previous years’ $6.7 million. Victim assistance grants provide crucial support and resources to survivors of sexual violence and domestic abuse.
“This kind of significant cut to victim service agencies will create immediate and harmful consequences for survivors,” says Beth Barnhill, Executive Director for IowaCASA. “A reduction in state funds greatly limits access to services and options for some of our most vulnerable community members. Rural offices are most at risk for being shut down under the proposed budget cuts, leaving potentially 10,000 survivors without crisis and advocacy services. Supporters of victim services need to contact their legislators and implore them to protect our communities and to help secure the safety and well-being of survivors. Funding for victim services must be a top priority.”
“Cuts to funding will have a devastating and detrimental impact on Iowa survivors,” adds Laurie Schipper, Executive Director for ICADV. “Victim services funding served nearly 47,000 children, women, and men impacted by violence in 2016. With previous support and funding from our elected officials, we’ve seen a 66% increase in the total number of survivors served since 2013. Funding cuts to victim service programs, as proposed in this budget, would shamefully roll back these gains, and threaten the capacity for advocates to provide emergency and post-crisis services to survivors. Without state dollars, agencies can’t pay their rent or keep their lights on. This means fewer offices, fewer advocates, and fewer services. This is unacceptable. Survivors deserve better.”
Victim service grants provide crucial support and resources to survivors of sexual violence and domestic abuse in all 99 counties of Iowa, including but not limited to:
Providing support, referrals, and crisis counseling to survivors and their families
Accompaniment by advocates to hospital exams following abuse, court proceedings, reporting to law enforcement, and more
Housing assistance, including emergency, transitional, and permanent housing
Linguistic and culturally specific assistance to diverse communities
Safety planning for families, including children and pets
Civil legal assistance and court advocacy to survivors, services that are often necessary to secure a sense of safety and well-being
Sexual violence prevention programs for schools, colleges, youth-based organizations, faith-based organizations, and more
Transportation assistances and childcare assistance, especially in rural communities
Job search coaching, employment assistance, and financial literacy education
Since a 2013 restructuring of statewide victim services—a collaborative effort between both coalitions, comprehensive sexual violence and domestic abuse programs, and state legislators—Iowa now serves as a national model for service delivery to other states. Since then, Iowa victim service programs have seen a 125% increase in the number of sexual violence survivors served, and a 45% increase in the number of domestic abuse survivors served.