National Crime Victims’ Rights Week – April 10-16, 2016
On behalf of the 65 member Sexual and Domestic Violence Advocacy agencies who are at the center of the Action Alliance, the Virginia Sexual and Domestic Violence Action Alliance is pleased to observe National Crime Victims’ Rights Week 2016.
Virginia’s Sexual and Domestic Violence Agencies served more than 20,000 victims of domestic violence last year, and more than 7,500 victims of sexual assault. Those services included shelter for 3200 adults and their 2600 children.
More than half of the victims served had reported to law enforcement. For approximately 20% of victims the violence resulted in missing either school or work; 30% had to relocate as a result of the violence. One in 5 victims reported that a weapon was used during the violent incident that led them to reach out for help.
As one of the only services available 24 hours a day in every community in Virginia, Sexual and Domestic Violence agencies also responded to more than 70,000 Hotline calls. About one quarter of those calls were from individuals who were not victims of sexual or domestic violence, but who had some other urgent need—most often homelessness, or a mental health crisis.
A snapshot of an “average day” in domestic violence programs across Virginia can tell you a little bit more about how our member agencies are serving victims. The National Network to End Domestic Violence conducts an annual point in time census with domestic violence service providers nationwide. On September 16, 2015, over a 24-hour period, Virginia’s 51 Domestic Violence Programs (100% of whom participated in the census):
- Served 1,613 victims
- Provided emergency shelter to 267 women, 3 men, 1 transgender adult and 224 children
- Answered 565 Hotline calls
When asked about the specific types of services that each agency provided on that single day:
- 98% provided individual counseling or advocacy
- 33% provided a support group
- 50% accompanied a victim to court
- 25% assisted a victim with a disability
- 20% worked with a victim on an immigration advocacy issue
- 10% provided advocacy to an LGBTQ survivor
- 57% helped a victim to access health care or mental health care services
- 24% worked with one or more survivors to find employment
Sexual and Domestic Violence agencies are providing a wide range of services to diverse survivors each and every day. Of course, there is another side to this story. The census also revealed that on that same day 55 adults, with 29 children in their care, could not be sheltered because space was not available. Agencies also reported being unable to meet the full needs for legal services, counseling, housing assistance and child care on that day—with one agency reporting that the need so far exceeded their capacity that 23 victims were on a waiting list of counseling services!!
This gap between need and resources—which we first identified statewide in 2012—was further exacerbated in 2015 as 14 agencies reporting eliminating 32 direct service positions as a result of reductions in funding. We look forward to seeing a turn around in those numbers in the upcoming year as a result of increases in both state and federal funding!!
Sexual and Domestic Violence Agencies are based in principles designed to build trust, empower survivors and ultimately restore hope for survivors and communities. They are trauma-informed, recognizing the short-term and long-term impact of trauma in the lives of survivors and considering the impact of environmental, community and historic trauma on those victims from marginalized communities whose personal experience is compounded by this contextual trauma.
They are asset-based, recognizing the strength within each individual and cultivating health and wellness as a part of both intervention and prevention efforts. And they are committed to “justice for all” in a deep and meaningful way—addressing the root causes of sexual and intimate partner violence and recognizing and addressing the intersections of oppression not only in our communities, but in the lives of victims who are directly impacted by sexism, racism, homophobia, anti-immigrant sentiments and other forms of bias and discrimination. If we are to be trustworthy we must embrace the inherent dignity and worth of every individual.
Survivors tell us each and every day that Sexual and Domestic Violence agencies are meeting the goal of “Restoring Hope” in their lives. Each victim we serve has the opportunity to complete an anonymous survey that evaluates the services they received and offers an opportunity to provide feedback.
From the thousands of surveys that have been submitted over the past 3 years, we know that 85% of victims feel more hopeful about their lives as a result of the services they received. Survivors report:
“I needed support in my hardest times and she was there.”
“I was 9 months pregnant, with 3 kids. I had been strangled and almost killed. Because of you I didn’t give up. You helped my keep going on…you have helped us to see that there is light out there for me and I’ll be okay.”
And from a caller to the LGBTQ Helpline
“I’m so glad that you have a service like this because I cannot talk to my friends or family members.”
All Virginians should be proud that you have created a network of “services like this,” through public funding, through your personal donations, through your contributions of time and talent as volunteers and as board members, and as dedicated advocates all across the state. You truly are “Restoring Hope.”
Kristi VanAudenhove is the Executive Director of the Virginia Sexual and Domestic Violence Action Alliance. She has been a leader in coalition work, advocacy and policy for nearly 40 years.
Joining the Action Alliance adds your voice to making change in Virginia. Start your membership today or call804.377.0335.
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