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Shelters for domestic violence victims may lose federal funding

Victims of domestic violence and sexual assault frequently need a safe place to stay. The Violence Against Women Act provides federal funding to shelters that take in victims of domestic violence or abuse who may have no place else to go. For the first time since the act became law in 1994, Congress has failed to reauthorize funding, which could mean that some domestic violence victims will be denied assistance.

New Jersey received $5.7 million because of VAWA in 2012. Shelters in Cape May County and other areas of the state may find themselves unable to help everyone who comes to their doors if the House of Representatives and the Senate cannot agree on a version of a reauthorization bill.

The Senate proposed a version that would extend protection to victims who are gay, lesbian and transgender, as well as including illegal immigrants and American Indians living on reservations. The version put forth by the House did not include the expansions proposed by the Senate, but it did add measures designed to prevent fraud.

Providence House, a New Jersey shelter, has received funding from VAWA annually since the act's initial approval. The shelter's director has never turned victims away. The uncertainty surrounding continued funding has caused the nonprofit group to cut back on staff members. The director said that if she has to let more staff go then she will have to turn away people seeking help.

If reauthorized, the VAWA will likely appropriate $600 million in grant money to provide counseling, sheltering and police training to help victims. However, Congress needs to agree to a version of the bill before this can happen.

Victims of domestic violence could lose a major source of support if VAWA funding does not come through. People threatened with physical abuse, emotional abuse or sexual abuse may not know where to turn for help. Individuals concerned for their welfare or the welfare of their children can benefit from knowing what legal actions are available to ensure their safety.

Source:, "Domestic violence funding uncertain after Congress fails to reauthorize Violence Against Women Act," David Levinsky, Jan. 8, 2013

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