If funded, provisions in Violence Against Women Act will help kids
By Colleen Flaherty
Congress finally reauthorized the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) last week, a law widely credited with reducing domestic violence rates by more than half since its passage in 1994 by funding essential programs for victims and their families.
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Kellee Wilkins-Hall was a child therapist in Ohio who worked with children who witnessed domestic violence in their homes.
“Many of these children present with depression, anxiety and/or trauma symptoms, all of which can cause interference in a child’s ability to focus and concentrate,” said Wilkins-Hall. “Also, these disturbances often present themselves as aggression and/or irritability in children and teens, impacting their interaction with peers and teachers.”
Domestic violence has an enormous impact on children. According to the National Domestic Violence Hotline, over half of female domestic violence victims live in households with children under the age of 12, and those children are very likely to be victims of abuse themselves.
VAWA provides help for these families, including emergency shelters, counseling and legal services for the victims and their children. It also funds programs specifically for children, such as Court Appointed Special Advocates for Children, a program that assigns volunteers to work one-on-one with young victims of abuse and neglect.
Unfortunately, just as this landmark legislation has been reauthorized, it is in danger of being underfunded thanks to across-the-board cuts that kicked in on March 1. If sequestration is allowed to fully take effect, $20 million will be cut from VAWA, according to an analysis conducted by Sen. Tom Harkin and the Campaign for Funding to End Domestic and Sexual Violence.
This drastic cut would leave 112,190 victims without access to domestic violence programs and shelters and domestic violence training will be eliminated for 34,248 police officers, prosecutors, judges and victim advocates.
With fewer professionals available to respond, greater numbers of children will be left vulnerable to the terrible, life-altering effects of witnessing or directly experiencing abuse.
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