Victims of domestic violence and sexual assault brought their stories to Beacon Hill this week, hoping to help legislators put a face to their cause. Jane Doe Inc., a nonprofit coalition, rallied victims, advocates and family members at the State House to convince lawmakers to restore $1 million that House budget chiefs cut from the fiscal 2009 budget last week.
Victims of domestic violence and sexual assault brought their stories to Beacon Hill this week, hoping to help legislators put a face to their cause.
Jane Doe Inc., a nonprofit coalition, rallied victims, advocates and family members at the State House to convince lawmakers to restore $1 million that House budget chiefs cut from the fiscal 2009 budget last week.
"This year there is an increase to the Department of Social Service budget but there's a cut to the domestic violence budget. It doesn't make sense in light of the fact that domestic violence homicides are predictable and preventable,'' said Mary Lauby, executive director of the organization.
Among the initiatives the House Ways and Means Committee cut from Gov. Deval Patrick's budget proposal was $1.3 million out of more than $30 million for domestic violence treatment and prevention programs.
If the House approves the cuts, service providers and support organizations would see funding decrease by $1 million from the current fiscal year.
"It's just this horrible spiral that our member programs are experiencing,'' Lauby said of the financial stress of providing services to a growing number of victims without any increase in resources.
Gerry Desilets, planning director of the South Middlesex Opportunity Council, said the cuts could affect the ability of Framingham-based Voices Against Violence to match victims with emergency housing and other services.
"The level of service will always decrease with level funding because you'll have inflation and increases in the cost of providing services, so even level funding is a problem,'' he said of the state funding trend in recent years.
The two most effective ways to prevent domestic violence murders are investing in local programs and arresting offenders, Lauby said.
There were 55 domestic violence-related homicides in Massachusetts in 2007, the highest number in 15 years, and 13 deaths so far this year, said Toni Troop, a spokeswoman for Jane Doe Inc.
The organization tracks homicides and suicides spurred by abusive or controlling relationships, including incidents that have not yet been resolved in court.
Rep. Peter Koutoujian, D-Waltham, attributes that increase in part to the amount of money devoted to local programs and outreach services.
"We simply don't have enough beds to get people out of harmful situations safely ... If you only offer them half of what they need they can't really get out,'' he said. "They need to know that they'll be able to get out and stay out and not get pulled back in.''
Koutoujian serves on the board of directors of REACH - or Refuge, Education, Advocacy, Change - which provides emergency shelter and support to victims in Waltham and surrounding towns, and has signed on to several budget amendments to increase domestic violence funding.
The statewide Domestic Violence SafeLink hotline can be reached at 1-877-785-2020, Voices Against Violence at 1-800-593-1125, and REACH at 1-800-899-4000.
Lindsey Parietti can be reached at email@example.com.
MetroWest Daily News