Since March, a perfect storm has erupted for domestic violence (DV) in the U.S. The devastating consequences of the global pandemic, on top of staggering job loss and a deep recession, coupled with unprecedented natural disasters, have collectively led to an alarming rise in violence against women.
This fall, Sharity, in partnership with the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV), YWCA USA, and other national and state organizations released the first-ever “National Assessment on the State of Fundraising for Domestic Violence Organizations.”
The report is being used to identify top fundraising and operational struggles, share easy-to-implement strategies, and develop new fundraising tools to position DV organizations across the nation for more success with donors so they can help more survivors during the pandemic and beyond.
Among its findings: About half (49%) of our nation’s DV organizations, including 54% of rural programs, have less than 90 days of operating reserves.
Sadly, as alarming as these numbers are, they are not surprising. Even in the best of times, less than 2 percent of the nation’s charitable giving goes towards nonprofits that focus on women and girls; giving to groups preventing violence against women makes up less than a quarter of one percent.
No longer can we as a nation remain quiet about the silent pandemic of domestic violence during COVID-19; nor can we stay silent about the severe funding crisis facing those organizations responsible for protecting women and families from violence.
The U.S. Senate recently released its appropriations bills, and the bill that funds the Department of Justice contains a severe 40% cut ($1.1 billion) to the Victims of Crime Act. Last year, the non-taxpayer-funded VOCA grants — the primary source of federal funding for thousands of victim service providers nationwide — decreased 25%. Combined, these cuts over the last two years would mean VOCA victim service grants will have been cut by an astronomical 74%.
To be clear, VOCA grants through the Crime Victims Fund are not taxpayer-funded. They are paid for by monetary penalties from federal criminal prosecutions, which have run dry due to the pandemic. The COVID-19 relief packages that passed the U.S. House in May and September included a fix to deposit all monetary penalties from deferred and non-prosecution agreements into the Crime Victims Fund (the same as penalties resulting from criminal convictions).
In response, advocates — representing thousands of victim service providers, and millions of survivors of crime — called on Congress to immediately prevent these catastrophic cuts. Tragically, as the authors noted, the funding downturn for victims coincides with “continued increased need, particularly for African American communities that have been disproportionately impacted, for services resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic and reduced state and local funding.
We need the same call at the state and local levels. Here in Florida, trust funds, similar to the Domestic Violence Trust Fund, are projecting 40% to 60% cuts due to decreased revenue.
I cannot stress enough the urgency of this moment. Unless a fix shoring up funds gets signed into law, many victim services programs could likely be forced to shut their doors for good.
While it may be hard to believe that this year can get worse, as we enter the holiday season, it’s almost inevitable as the pandemic rages like never before across America amid intense polarization and millions unemployed and suffering from enormous financial instability. In households with abusers, stress mixed with alcohol consumption added to confinement only further exacerbates domestic violence.
But, what if there’s nowhere to go? Without a major infusion of cash soon, keeping the doors open at domestic-violence organizations may increasingly become the exception rather than the rule.
At a time when public health experts and so many of our nation’s mayors and governors have wisely cautioned that staying home is the safest place this holiday season, we mustn’t forget that for those stuck at home with their abusers, the reality can be anything but. For them, home is where the danger lies.
Surely, ending violence against women and children is a goal that everyone should be able to embrace regardless of politics. If you agree, contact your legislators in Congress and the state Legislature, and support our domestic-violence organizations this holiday season. Let’s not let the final horror show of 2020 be that we failed as a nation to keep America’s domestic-violence centers open for those hoping to escape the terror of their abusers during the pandemic.
Carol Wick is a former CEO of one of the nation’s largest domestic-violence shelters and a leading advocate in the space for 30 years. Carol Wick founded and runs Sharity, an international consulting firm that helps nonprofits worldwide.