Beth Taylor Contributing columnist
October 17, 2013
Having originated as the “Day of Unity” in October 1981, the very first Domestic Violence Awareness Month was nationally observed in October of 1987.
Since that time, coalitions, agencies and advocates have come together across our nation to show our unity towards our common goal of raising awareness about domestic violence in our communities. However, this movement neither begins nor ends in October. The commitment of this mission is ongoing in an effort to reach out to our neighborhoods, schools, churches, and clubs to encourage victims to seek help and to let them know that resources are available.
We at Domestic Violence & Rape Crisis Center of Scotland County have actively provided services to hundreds of women and their children during the past year, including education, advocacy, peer support counseling, court & hospital accompaniment, and a 24-hour emergency shelter.
National statistics say that one in four women will experience some kind of domestic abuse in her lifetime, as well as one in seven men. In small, rural areas like Scotland County, the numbers are significantly higher.
As a grant-funded non-profit agency, you’d be correct in guessing that the recent shutdown of the federal government has had an impact on us here at DVRCC-SC. This time of year is typically when we are transitioning from the previous fiscal year to the new fiscal year, and we are waiting on funding from our grantors. Without supplemental support from our community to bridge this gap, we struggle to sustain services until our new funding from our grantors is made available to us. For the second year in a row, DVRCC-SC has come into October with no money to meet our expenses. This is a serious matter, because if we fail to pay utilities and operating expenses, we would have to suspend victim services until such time that funding is available to satisfy our obligations.
Many of our grantors receive their funding from the Federal level, and distribute to sub-grantees, such as DVRCC-SC, either directly or as reimbursement for expenses. This shutdown on Capitol Hill has delayed funding even further, and many agencies located in the rural areas of our state are at risk of closing. The impact of what this could mean to victims is almost incomprehensible.
Long periods of delayed funding for life-saving victims services would result in many victims not having access to local services through DVRCC-SC, forcing them to stay in abusive and unhealthy situations with their perpetrator, putting them at further risk of serious injury or even death; for victims who are referred to services in other, larger, and better supported agencies, it means relocation, upsetting the structure of the family even further. I also fear that this type of overflow into the larger counties will result in their being placed on waiting lists when they come from out of the area to seek victim services. I believe this would ultimately lead to an increase in the number of people who find themselves truly homeless due to abuse, because many, once they have made the choice to leave, would rather be homeless and hungry than to stay one more day in such a harmful environment. We cannot, in good conscience, allow this to happen.
Continuity and consistency of services on the local level is not a want for us here at DVRCC-SC, it is vital. We know that we have no control over what is going to happen on Capitol Hill. I see no better time than right now to issue a call to action to our community to come together and help us out. The families who come to us for services should never have to be turned away or sent to another county for any reason, but without proper funding, that is a very real possibility of what our agency could face.
When a woman has packed up her kids in the middle of the night with nothing on but pajamas and whatever she could grab to bring with her, the only thing she needs to know is that we are able to be here to give her the safety that she is seeking in that moment. Please reach out to your churches, civic groups, and clubs; reach into your hearts, and give what you can, if you can. Times have never been more critical than they are right now.
To find out what you can do to help, call us at 910-276-5505. Donations are tax deductible, and can be mailed to DVRCC-SC, P.O. Box 2130, Laurinburg, NC 28353.
Beth Taylor is the executive director of the Domestic Violence & Rape Crisis Center of Scotland County.