Budget impasse places domestic violence victims at risk

Today marks the start of Domestic Violence Awareness Month. All across the country, advocacy groups, survivors and allies will be joining together to remember those who have lost their lives as well as those who managed to survive and to teach others the importance of creating a culture free from fear of abuse.

But this year, by failing to pass a fully funded year-long budget, the governor and Illinois lawmakers have eliminated state investments in services to empower and protect survivors of domestic and sexual abuse. This failure has put the lives of tens of thousands of people, mostly women and children, at risk.

Instead of receiving the help they need to heal, physically and emotionally, Emily Miller at Voices for Illinois Children says, survivors in Illinois now face the reality that our elected leaders simply do not care enough to protect them.

According to Miller, the consequences of the budget impasse are real, not exaggerated. They include:

* Ending state funding for services that help 75,000 survivors of domestic violence across the state of Illinois—20,000 women and children in Cook County alone. This includes medical, psychological and legal services as well as emergency shelter and other protections.

* Some rape crisis centers are facing closure and others will be forced to lay off 30-40 percent of their staffs in the coming months, which would result in turning away 3,400 victims of sexual violence who need advocacy and counseling;

* Eliminating state funding for services that provide immediate crisis intervention for at least 3,700 survivors of sexual assault;

* Eliminating state funding of civil legal aid, compromising access to the civil justice system for 17,500 vulnerable Illinoisans impacted by domestic violence, eviction, and financial exploitation.