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What If Leaving Your Abuser Means Living on the Street? How Budget-Cuts Make Life Even Harder for Abused Women

Budget cuts have strained domestic violence resources. What does that mean for women who need a safe place to go?

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Preston knows how important it is to have a safe place to go. When her husband came back from Vietnam, he had a drug problem on top of his already existing alcohol problem. "I could tell when he'd be triggered, especially by his drinking. The drunker he got, the more angry he would get at somebody else for something stupid. A car would go in front of us, he'd go off. If I would stick up, then it all turned on me. That's when I began to catch it all."

For 13 years she told friends and family her wounds were from, say, playing softball. "They must have thought I was the most accident prone person in the world," she says. But one memorial day, her husband's Wild Turkey-fueled freakout landed her, her sister, and her sister's husband in the hospital, where a nurse who saw their injuries asked if they'd all been in a car accident. 

Now she couldn't hide it from her family anymore, so she left, moving into a new place where he wouldn't be able to find her. She kept the shades shut just in case he tracked her down. One day, he called her at her new place and asked her why she always kept the shades drawn. What was she trying to hide? Did she have a man in there?

"He'd been sitting outside, watching me in my apartment," says Preston. 

Right after she left, she decided to kill him to keep herself and her son safe. She went to a pawn shop looking for a gun, but then she realized what would happen if she missed. "About the worst thing that could happen is I'd miss him, go to jail, spend life in jail for trying to kill him, and he'd raise my son to be a batterer," she says. 

"There were no battered women's shelters at that time, a woman was out there on her own, doing what she needed to do. I was blessed because I had family, or I'd have been out on the street homeless too." 

It's heartbreaking for her to see things get worse and worse as lawmakers callously pull back resources for homeless shelters and domestic violence programs, pretty much everything that America's most needy women and children depend on, sometimes to stay alive.

In 2009, then California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger led the way in using cash earmarked for domestic violence programs to fill state budget gaps. The governor line item vetoed all state funding for shelters, forcing six shelters to close in six weeks and  the rest to limit their services. (The funding was restored the next year, after lots of fighting by DV advocates, but around $4 million of  previous cuts remained.)

Christine Gregoire's 2011 proposed  budget for the state of Washington contained massive cuts to domestic violence funding. 

In February, Iowa cut $1 million from domestic violence and sexual assault programs,  reported KWQC, forcing shelters across the state to scramble to make up the funds with private support. Twelve shelters were informed they would no longer get funding so the remaining resources could be spent on the bigger shelters,  according to local news sources. 

What makes the cuts especially galling, Kim Gandy notes, is how little money they actually save states. Earlier this year, Bobby Jindal had proposed cutting $2.4 million for domestic violence services, or more or less the price tag of a soccer field and fishing pier the governor had proposed at the same time. 

"In the grand scheme of things that's not that much money for an entire state. It's peanuts," she says. "That tells you how underfunded those programs were to begin with."

 
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