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DeLauro: Trump Budget Could Impact Domestic Violence Services

by Ethan Fry | May 16, 2017 5:41 am

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Posted to: Ansonia, Derby, Oxford, Seymour, Shelton

photo:ethan fryRep. Rosa DeLauro told a roomful of leaders from groups that serve victims of domestic and sexual crimes Monday that she hopes a budget proposal from President Trump won’t hurt the thousands of area residents who seek help from them each year.

DeLauro said that lawmakers don’t yet know all of the specific programs that will be targeted for cuts in Trump’s “America First” budget.

But after noting that Attorney General Jeff Sessions voted against the most recent reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act while a senator, she said she’s not expecting much.

“I want to be pleasantly surprised,” DeLauro said. “That’s where we’re at. It’s like Stockholm Syndrome.”

The president’s administration is due to release more information next week about his 2018 budget proposal.

An outline of the spending plan contains planned cuts to departments like health and human services and the justice department, funding from which is vital for groups like BHcare’s Umbrella for Domestic Violence Services.

Breitbart, a Trump-supporting online publication once run by Stephen Bannon, now White House Chief Strategist, called the Violence Against Women Act “well-intentioned” but “poorly drafted.”

The Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank that has heavily influenced Trump administration policies, issued a report in 2012 saying the programs funded through the Violence Against Women Act should be paid for by the states, not the federal government.

DeLauro visited BHcare’s offices in North Haven Monday for a discussion with advocates and survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence in an effort to highlight what she said could be disastrous funding cuts in Trump’s budget proposal.

For example, a $491,125 federal grant helps to train law enforcement officers throughout the state in a “Lethality Assessment Program” initially developed by Ansonia police in conjunction with BHcare based on research conducted at the Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing.

The goal of the program is to prevent homicides stemming from domestic violence. 

Police officers are trained to assess whether a victim of domestic violence is likely to become a homicide victim.

Under the program, police officers responding to scenes of family violence immediately connect high-risk victims with services through a 24-hour hotline.

And it works.

In places it’s implemented, about 70 percent of domestic violence victims receive further help or counseling. In areas where police just give victims information on how to reach out for services on their own, the figure is about 4 percent.

It’s unclear what Trump’s budget proposal will mean specifically to funding for the program, which comes from the justice department’s Office of Violence Against Women.

But DeLauro noted that the president has promised more money for the Department of Justice for programs like immigration enforcement — while at the same time proposing an overall cut for the justice department budget of $1.1 billion, or nearly 4 percent.

“Where is the money going to come from?” DeLauro said. “We have to watch very carefully to see if we are in fact going to be looking at the robbing of funds from VAWA (the Violence Against Women Act) when this budget comes out.”

Other programs DeLauro said could be in jeopardy deliver funding through the federal Department of Health & Human Services for the Family Violence Prevention and Services Act, which provides funding for domestic violence shelters.

The issues are more widespread than people may perhaps think, said Laura Cordes, Executive Director of the Connecticut Alliance to End Sexual Violence. She said 1 in 5 Connecticut residents has experienced sexual assault in their lifetime.

“We just can’t afford to take a step back,” she said.

Karen Jarmoc, CEO of the Connecticut Coalition Against Domestic Violence, noted Trump’s budget outline includes a proposed 18 percent cut for the federal Department of Health and Human Services.

“These are really critical dollars,” Jarmoc said. “One of our primary sources of funding is housed in that agency. That’s tremendously scary to us.”

Esperina Stubblefield is the Director of the Umbrella Center for Domestic Violence Services, a program from BHcare that provides services to roughly 7,000 victims of domestic violence throughout the Valley and Milford areas each year.

photo:ethan fry

She outlined for DeLauro how the Lethality Assessment Program works.

She told the congresswoman she’s also worried about funding from the federal Victims of Crime Act, which pays for counselors to visit victims in their homes in the immediate aftermath of a domestic violence incident.

“This is a program that would essentially go away if (those) dollars are cut,” she said.

DeLauro called on advocates to involve law enforcement and medical professionals in drawing attention to the importance of federal funding for their programs.

“We have such a powerful issue here,” DeLauro said. “This is the physical safety of men and women and children as well. This is one of the issues where we cannot let families have to deal with these things on their own, or not at all.”

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