ITHACA, N.Y. — The Tompkins County Advocacy Center stands to possibly lose over $400,000 worth of funding if President Donald Trump’s budget passes in its current draft form.
The center is the primary service provider for victims of sexual and domestic abuse and is responsible for community outreach efforts and training.
“It’s been a long time, I think, since we’ve had to worry about funding for crime victim services,” said Heather Campbell, executive director of the Advocacy Center of Tompkins County.
She said that for the past 15 years or so, funding for those services has been a bipartisan issue. But if Trump’s budget passes, it will cut major grants that go toward those services.
The Tompkins County Advocacy Center stands to lose $442,303. Its 2017 budget is $1,256,968.
“That means cutting staff and services,” Campbell said.
The first set of grants on the chopping block are the ones facilitated by the Violence Against Women Act, known as VAWA.
“In domestic violence (work), one of the ways we measure time is what it was like before VAWA and after VAWA,” Campbell said. “It’s really disheartening.”
The local advocacy center receives $81,960 from VAWA grants.
The first is a Services Training Officers Prosecutors grant worth $35,280.
It goes toward a variety of services, most notably the training of Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners, also known as SANE nurses.
The nurses specialize in performing tasks for victims of domestic or sexual assault, including collecting physical evidence in criminal investigations and analyzing and treating injuries — all the while working to help a victim maintain their dignity and privacy, as much as possible.
And there already aren’t enough of the nurses, not enough to meet the county’s needs, Campbell said.
The advocacy center pays for the nurses to undergo the SANE training with money from the grant.
The money also goes toward other “nuts and bolts” aspect of the center.
It pays for advocates to have work cell phones; it funds personnel who handle after-hours intakes or meet with people who need emergency care; and it maintains the operation of the organization’s 24-hour crisis hotline.
The Sexual Violence Prevention Grant, known as the SVP3 grant, provided the local Tompkins County center with $39,915.
This grant pays for child sexual abuse prevention efforts, like the Enough Abuse Tompkins Child Sexual Abuse Prevention Program.
In addition to outreach efforts — through video, billboards and pamphlets — personnel who work on these preventative programs also conduct presentations throughout the country about child sex abuse awareness.
Last year, Campbell said 780 people sat in on informational presentations about child sex abuse.
“That program would be gone if VAWA was cut,” she said.
The center also has a Sex Abuse Investigation Team, which is funded by a $6,765 grant.
The team includes representatives from the District Attorney’s Office, law enforcement, county attorney, child protective services, and probation.
“This is how we do our best to make sure that cases don’t fall through the cracks,” Campbell said.
In addition to the cut VAWA grants, the Advocacy Center gets $442,303 from other federal grants being cut.
The Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) — provided through New York State Office of Victim Services — gives the center $361,364.
The money pays for 80 percent of advocate salaries at the Advocacy Center.
The Family Violence Prevention & Services Act allows the center to allot $80,940 for emergency services, such as temporary emergency shelter for victims of domestic and sexual assault.
Campbell said that in many instances, lack of housing or shelter for a victim and children prevents a person from leaving an abusive partner. If the grant is cut, there wouldn’t be enough funds to keep all emergency shelters operational and in good repair.
“They’re going to be much less likely to feel like they can leave their domestic partner,” Campbell said.
The funding also helps with non-residential services, such as the Child Protective Services and Domestic Violence Collaboration Project, which is now in its second year of operation.
The collaboration allows for an advocate to be on-site at the CPS offices, something considered best practices by industry standards.
What can people do to help?
Since VAWA was passed in 1994, Campbell said that the program has proven to be successful.
According to the Advocacy Center, national data shows that there has been a 51 percent increase in reported domestic and sexual abuse crimes by women and a 37 percent increase in reported domestic and sexual abuse crimes by men. This has decreased the number of fatal domestic instances by an intimate partner by 34 percent for women and 57 percent for men.
“We really need people’s help so that victims’ needs and rights don’t get lost, “ Campbell said. “People’s safety and people’s lives depend on this.”
She said the Advocacy Center is asking people to call their local representatives and ask them to ensure victim services do not get cut.
Related: Find your representative here.
Campbell also said the Advocacy Center has postcards available for those who want to send one to their representatives. The center can be reached using contact information available here.
Corrections at 2:47 p.m. — The VOCA funding pays for 80 percent of advocate salaries at the Advocacy Center, not employee salaries as originally reported.
Clarification at 2:47 p.m.: For the purposes of The Family Violence Prevention & Services Act, emergency shelter is not considered housing. Emergency shelter is temporary and housing would be considered a more permanent issue.
Disclosure: The Advocacy Center has, in the past, been an Ithaca Voice Sponsor. The funds used for the sponsorship were made available through the Sexual Violence Prevention grant, which could be cut in the newly proposed budget. The sponsored videos can be seen here. We do not feel that this has biased our reporting. Anyone with concerns should contact Executive Director Mike Blaney at firstname.lastname@example.org.