Ten years ago, the women’s shelter saved Vickie Stevens’ life. Now an advocate at the Southeast Missouri Family Violence Council Shelter, she knows firsthand the importance of the services offered there.
That is why she took particular exception to a comment from Representative David Sater saying that domestic violence services are nonessential and not critical. The shelter is facing a 50 percent cut in its state funding, which would amount to about $40,000 in lost revenue.
“To the women we serve, we are critical,” Stevens said. “There is nothing like this agency in five counties. The families affected by domestic violence depend on us.”
Stevens, speaking by telephone, said she had just spent five hours in the hospital with a woman who had been beaten and raped by her boyfriend. “She had to have two metal plates in her face to reconstruct it. The gentleman who beat her bonded out on $50. Can you believe that?”
Shelter director Carla Crocker recently traveled to Jefferson City to talk to legislative officials about restoring the funding for domestic violence shelters.
In an e-mail sent out to media representatives and supporters, Crocker called the reduction in funding devastating to all state domestic violence shelters.
“Last year alone, SEMO Family Violence Council provided essential services to more than 500 women and children including safe shelter, 24-hour crisis hotline, court advocacy, child advocacy, outreach advocacy and domestic violence prevention.”
Even so, the shelter lacked funding to serve 26 clients last year and had to turn them away.
Stevens worries that a funding cut will mean a drastic cut in services and that more people will have to be turned away.
“If our funding is cut in half, we’re going to lose the ability to serve a lot of those people,” Stevens said.
The shelter offers many services in addition to safe harbor for a woman fleeing domestic violence that might also have to be cut back. Classes such as healthy relationships for local high schools, which teaches young daters warning signs, hospital advocacy for sexual assault victims, and support groups.
“We don’t know exactly what we would have to cut,” she said. “The $40,000 isn’t going to be in salaries, it’s from the general operating fund, but we are not big enough to handle that kind of cut. We already do a lot of fundraising every year and we rely heavily on the donations from the community to buy the things we can’t afford to buy.”
Crocker urged voters to get involved and call their representatives. If the funding isn’t restored, she fears women and children may be forced to remain in abusive homes.
“Please get involved,” she wrote. “It doesn’t take much time to make a phone call or send an e-mail. Please take the time to e-mail or call at least one person on the list. Domestic violence services are critical, essential and save lives. Cutting domestic violence funding by 50 percent will endanger the lives of women and children in every community in Missouri, including ours. Please urge our legislators to take a stand for abused women and children by asking them to cast the votes needed to restore these essential services for victims of domestic violence.”
Renee Jean can be reached at 573-431-2010, ext. 117 or email@example.com