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Domestic violence, sexual assault victim support services ask for state intervention amidst federal funding cuts

Organizations across Washington that provide support for victims of sexual assault, domestic violence, as well as civil legal aid groups say they are at risk of losing funding and cutting services.

Most have historically been dependent on a shrinking source of Federal funds. They’re calling on the state to fill that gap.

Most victim services in the United States are dependent on the Federal Crime Victims fund, or money from the Victims of Crime Act (also known as VOCA) which is paid from the proceeds of prosecuting federal crime. That fund is roughly a fifth of what is was ten years ago, according to publicly available United States Office of Crime Victims documents.

Rochelle Cleland is the advocacy director for Lutheran Community Services Northwest, which provides support to victims of sexual assault, human trafficking as well as other crimes such as elder abuse. She said without state intervention, her organization will likely have to eliminate between two, and six positions due to the estimated 17 to 36 percent reduction in Federal funds.

“If we have less staff, that's less folks that we can serve, less partnerships we can be present for and then reducing our chance of being able to operate 24 hours,” she said.

Jeanette Hauck, CEO of the YWCA of Spokane said her organization is facing similar funding challenges, with an estimated $300,000 reduction in its VOCA grant. The grant money supports domestic violence shelters as well as staff.

“We consider these services as essential,” she wrote in an email. “I will fight long and hard before I reduce staff or cut services.”

According to the Washington Coalition Against Domestic Violence, organizations that provide victim support have already been unable to meet the massive increase in demand for services during the pandemic. The, as well as organizations that provide civil legal aid and support for child crime victims, are asking the Washington legislature for $132 million to sustain victim services across the state.

Read the full request here.