Domestic violence month marred by increase in calls, funding cuts


By Patrick Keck - pkeck@aimmediamidwest.com



SCIOTO- This year’s domestic violence awareness month comes with the additional burden for county services due to the coronavirus and funding cuts. Announced during the Scioto County Commissioners Thursday session, the campaign coincides with high rates of reported domestic violence calls this year.

“It’s no doubt that domestic violence has been a problem in our country,” said Commissioner Bryan Davis, announcing that a quilt and empty table, representing the victims of domestic violence, will be present in the courthouse lobby for the entire month. “We have heard of a lot of domestic violence during COVID, this is a timely request.”

According to Portsmouth Police Department records, the department has reported 485 domestic violence calls as of Sept. 30 this year, slightly less than the 517 calls in all of 2019.

Many of these reports came from the same addresses, one reaching six calls between March and April of this year. Davis owed this surge in violence as a result of the lockdown and the economic stresses that many are facing across the country.

Mary Ann Peercy, director of the Southern Ohio Domestic Violence Shelter, said this number does not account for the calls and messages the shelter receives through its 24/7 hotline and social media, meaning the true extent of domestic violence in the city is likely more than officially recorded.

“We have victims reach out to us through social media because they may not be able to get to the phone to call because the abuser is right there with them,” said Peercy. “Those numbers stay pretty high throughout the year.”

Peercy said 2020 has challenged the nonprofit organization like never before. Closing donations for nearly three months between March and May has left them in need of cleaning supplies, while experiencing an increased need for its service.

“It has been a really, really tough year,” said Peercy, adding that community support has been very strong. “We’re hoping they will continue to help us through this, not only through COVID, but with the budget cuts and whatever else might transpire in the future.”

Relying on funding through grants, United Way, local churches, and other organizations, the shelter and other Ohio domestic violence organizations are now facing a significant cut to its funding.

Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost announced on Sept. 25 that $59 million would be awarded to over 500 recipients, $55.5 million coming through the federal Victims of Crime Act fund and $3.5 million from the State Victim Assistance Act fund.

“The organizations receiving these grants provide vital resources to families during one of the most difficult times of their lives,” Yost said in a press release. “It is important that every dollar go to support these victims and help them recover.”

Despite Yost’s and attorneys general from all 50 states call to members of Congress for increased funding, VOCA dwindled again this year, down from $112 million in 2018.

Three Scioto County organizations receive funding through VOCA and SVAA- Scioto County Court Appointed Special Advocates, Scioto County Prosecutor’s Office Victim Assistance Program, and Southern Ohio Task Force on Domestic Violence- and saw drastic decreases in VOCA funding while SVAA remained the same.

Organization

2018

2019

2020

Scioto CASA SVAA

N/A

N/A

N/A

Scioto CASA VOCA

N/A

$69,000

$46,054

Task Force SVAA

$23,230

$23,230

$23,230

Task Force VOCA

$116,723

$149,939

$101,155

Prosecution SVAA

$71,926

$71,926

$71,926

Prosecution VOCA

$25,070

$22,909

$19,400

The task force is associated with the shelter, meaning this year’s VOCA cuts will affect their services said Peercy.

“Services will still be operational,” said Peercy. “We’re in the process of trying to honestly figure out what our next step is.”

Most likely cuts will come to utilities and general shelter supplies, but she believes the primary goal of providing a save location for its guests will still be possible. Paramount to its success will be increased support from the community in the form of clothing, food and cleaning donations.

“That is something that is always ongoing,” said Peercy, regarding its need. “We can always use those things, but with the budget cuts, we will really need to depend on the community’s support for those items more so now than ever before.”

Scioto CASA Director Kenya Johnson said VOCA is the agency’s primary source of funding, which will lead her to apply for additional grants to make up for the loss. Down 12% from what was requested, Johnson said they were expecting a decline. Their 33% decrease from last year to this year was actually better than the Yost-reported state average of 37%.

This year’s sum is equivalent to the pay of one full-time and one part-time CASA employee, she said. Changes to the budget have yet to be finalized, but are due by Friday, Oct. 9.

The shelter resumed collecting donations in May and is requesting cleaning supplies, laundry detergent, personal hygiene items, toilet paper, disinfectant spray and all other basic household items. Donations are received at 2315 Grant St.

By Patrick Keck

pkeck@aimmediamidwest.com

Reach Patrick Keck (740)-353-3501 ext. 1931, by email at pkeck@aimmediamidwest.com, or on Twitter @pkeckreporter.

© 2020 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved.

Reach Patrick Keck (740)-353-3501 ext. 1931, by email at pkeck@aimmediamidwest.com, or on Twitter @pkeckreporter.

© 2020 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved.