Domestic violence awareness month

I am delighted to be a guest blogger for Concurring Opinions this month and look forward to our exchanges.  I’ll be blogging mostly about issues related to gender and other forms of inequality, especially issues of gender violence and economic equality, which is the focus of much of my work.

It is auspicious to begin blogging here at the beginning of Domestic Violence Awareness month, which this year coincides with the government shutdown.  Of course, there is no shortage of examples of hardship wreaked by the shutdown.  But one of the less widely recognized effects is its impact on gender violence survivors.  Despite President Obama’s Proclamation, affirming the administration’s commitment to advancing policies that will better serve survivors and will help prevent abuse, the logjam in Congress jeopardizes safety and security on many fronts.  The shutdown imposes an additional challenge for social service providers, such as domestic violence shelters, who already have had to cut back programming and service capacity due to the automatic spending cuts imposed last spring that resulted from sequestration. These effects seem to escape much of the headline news.

The cutbacks are all the more problematic because the need for services, which was stark even in stronger economic times, increases during times of economic challenge.  As social scientists document, abuse tends to increase during times of economic insecurity, and service providers consistently report increased demand.  In addition, the cuts put survivors at increased direct risk, especially because safety net programs that have been available, such as TANF, may be threatened by a prolonged shutdown.

The challenges created during these times of fiscal constraint highlight the need to address economic equality and prevention more broadly.  As several colleagues and I previously have argued,  federal and other funding is disproportionately directed to criminal justice responses.  The 2013 VAWA, and related state initiatives, take some needed steps, for example, expanding services for LGBT survivors, enhancing remedies for survivors in Native American communities, and addressing survivors’ housing and employment needs.  But much more remains to be done.  I’ll be looking at tensions, challenges and opportunities for reform in my next post.

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