Government shutdown gives domestic violence advocates sense of uncertainty

Local News

DAYTON, Ohio (WDTN) – As gridlock in Washington, D.C. continues during a partial government shutdown, a sense of uncertainty is growing among domestic violence and sexual assault advocates.

The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) expired at midnight on December 21, as the shutdown took effect. The law has been renewed and expanded several times since it passed in 1994.

It’s intended to provide and funding and tools to protect victims of abuse. At YWCA Dayton, YAWA supports everything from emergency shelter and a 24-hour crisis hotline, to case management and job skills training.

“It really touches all aspects of our programming,” explained Sarah Wolf-Knight, the grants and advocacy manager at YWCA. “And then some of our protections that are provided in VAWA truly touch everything that we do.”

Both the U.S. House and Senate passed spending bills with clauses that would have temporarily extended VAWA until February. Part of its funding, which comes from the Department of Justice, is on hold while Congress and President Donald Trump agree on budget details for a myriad of federal departments.

“It definitely does give us, as an agency that relies on VAWA funding, a little more uncertainty when we’re looking at our budget,” said Wolf-Knight.

The possibility of new appropriation constraints may affect budget planning, but Wolf-Knight explained the organization does not rely entirely on federal grants.

She said the YWCA still has enough funding from other resources to cover employee salaries and operations expenses. 

She also emphasized that eventual renewal of VAWA is likely, but even if Congress did not reauthorize the law it would like still likely appropriate funds.

The concern in not renewing law, according to Wolf-Knight, is jeopardizing new protections often added when Congress updates the appropriations deal. One proposed version of the renewed VAWA clause, which created political divide, included additional measures to prevent more perpetrators from buying firearms.

YWCA advocates also called the law’s expiration ‘disheartening,’ because of its unspoken message from lawmakers.

“We think it’s really more symbolic that our legislators have let the Violence Against Women Act to expire because they’re really not showing that they’re prioritizing women and survivors of gender-based violence,” Wolf-Knight said.

You can learn more about YWCA Dayton’s efforts to combat domestic violence and sexual assault, as well as support its mission, here.

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