Author Archives: Sarah Gonzalez Bocinski

Looking Beyond Campus Sexual Assault

The stats are alarming. Nearly 15 percent of American women are victims of rape. And girls between the ages of 16 and 19 are four times more likely to be victims of rape or sexual assault than the general population. With these statistics, it is understandable why prevention efforts often focus on college-aged women, especially considering high profile sexual assault cases including the Columbia University student who has garnered national attention for carrying her mattress around campus and the recent spring break gang rape in Panama City, Florida. New resources and efforts have emerged to combat violence on campuses. The White House’s new initiative, “It’s On Us”, seeks to raise awareness and engage the community to take a stand against sexual assault. The recent FY16 budget proposed by the Obama Administration included a $14 million increase in funding for campus violence programs while sexual assault programs as a whole were budgeted at $3 million less than in FY15. These campus prevention and response efforts are clearly necessary and warranted, but it is important that they don’t diminish resources directed toward survivors who do not fall into the population of young women in college.

A recent report from the US Department of Justice, Rape and Sexual Assault Victimization Among College-Age Females, 1995–2013, found that nonstudents were raped at a rate that was 1.2 times higher than students. And there are other differences. Rural nonstudents experience much higher rates of rape than rural students – 2 times higher. And while women aged 18-24 have the highest rates of sexual assault of all age groups, the remaining 62.6% of rape survivors were under 18 or over 25 years of age at the time of their assault.

SA Chart 2013Young women aged 18-24 who are nonstudents will likely have few resources and be less economically secure than their peers in college. Women with a high school diploma earn an average $21,968 a year, which is 72% of the income needed to be economically secure. The physical and psychological care, new safety measures and other resources needed to move forward and recover from violence are often out of reach for those who are economically insecure. Furthermore, those in the workforce with lower incomes – especially women and minorities – also often lack the necessary workplace protections such as sick leave so that they can attend to their safety needs.

Rural survivors also face challenges to safety and economic security due to geographic isolation, absent or deficient resources, and depressed economic opportunity. Not only are rural women more economically insecure than their urban peers, they have less access to critical victim services. While survivors on campus access to basic health services on campus and support services as required by Title IX, in rural parts of the country such services either don’t exist or require survivors to travel significant distances for help. In a survey of rural prosecutors, two-thirds report that there were no rape crisis services in their jurisdictions and that 62.5% lacked trained sexual assault nurse practitioners.

These survivors need adequate resources and supports so they can move forward and recover from violence. While the attention and resources that campus sexual assault is receiving is necessary and welcome, it shouldn’t be at the expense of or overshadow the needs of other survivors. As this year’s Sexual Assault Awareness Month concludes, we mustn’t forget the other victims of sexual assault.

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Why Workplace Leave and Flexibility Matter

Working as an advocate for low-income families at Wider Opportunities for Women (WOW), I have always been grateful for a good job, a safe home and some stability. I consider myself incredibly fortunate and am thankful every day because I know that in a moment’s notice, this all can change. Economic insecurity is just one emergency away for so many of us. A year ago I faced that emergency.

Pregnant with my first child, I knew my life was in for a big change. My husband and I consciously decided to start a family at a point in our lives when we felt stable and reasonably economically secure. I knew things would be difficult – like most new parents I worried about my ability to balance work with family responsibilities and the cost of raising a child – but I never imagined nor was I prepared for the challenge we faced. While traveling to upstate New York and nearing the end of my fifth month of pregnancy, my water broke. After being admitted into a hospital more than seven hours from home, the doctors were able to stabilize my and my baby’s condition. We suddenly found ourselves facing a life-threatening emergency with no option of returning home for an unknown amount of time.

After being admitted into the hospital, I called my boss to explain the situation. I did this without fear of losing my job. WOW made accommodations so that – per my request – I could work remotely from the hospital and allowed me to maintain a flexible schedule to accommodate the uncertainty of my situation. Fortunately, my husband received the same response from his employer and he was able to stay in Syracuse with us. With my job secure, I still had health insurance to cover the high cost of the specialized care that we would need. Our combined medical bills would total well over a half million dollars, a sum that would have bankrupted us without excellent coverage.

How much did these workplace accommodations and good health benefits mean to the economic security and emotional well being of my family? At 24 weeks gestation our son faced terrible odds – survival rates were between 50% and 70% and he would likely face moderate to severe long-term health problems. Not having to worry about my job or ability to pay the hospital bills reduced my stress, allowing me to remain strong and positive, which certainly prolonged my pregnancy and affected my son’s well being. While most women experiencing their water breaking so early into their pregnancy deliver within 48 hours, we were able to delay labor and buy him precious time. Three weeks after being admitted to the hospital my son, Henry, a tiny 2 pounds 7 ounce fighter, was born 13 weeks prematurely.

Being away from home with no option to be transferred to a local hospital due to the precariousness of Henry’s health, we were faced with many more unexpected expenses, particularly a need for temporary housing. Organizations like the Ronald McDonald House of Central New York, where we lived for three months during my son’s stay in the neonatal intensive care unit, provided us with housing and food at just a fraction of the cost we would have paid for a hotel room. Furthermore, because of Henry’s low-birth weight he was eligible to receive Social Security Insurance benefits during his hospitalization. While the process of accessing this benefit was incredibly cumbersome and frustrating, this support helped us cover the some of the additional expenses we faced being away from home.

2014 was the most difficult and heart-wrenching year of my life, but I am happy to say despite those many terrifying months and hardships, my son is now a thriving and healthy one-year-old. Unlike many others, our story had a happy ending.

I am sharing my story, not only because I am grateful, but also because this demonstrates why all families need these types of protections and supports when things go wrong. Employer flexibility and the ability to work remotely enabled me and my husband to keep our jobs and benefits with no undue hardship on our workplaces. Having health insurance meant that we were able to afford the care that saved my son’s life. Community services and safety net programs helped to provide support to us in a time of need and reduced the amount of debt we accumulated. All of these elements are critical for family economic security and without them my life might be very different today. I am incredibly fortunate to still have my job, not be crippled with debt, and most importantly that our irrepressible Henry is with us today. I don’t want our experience to be the exception, it should be the rule.

SGB and Henry

 

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Promoting Women’s Economic Security: Acknowledging the Effects of Trauma

Since its inception in 1964, Wider Opportunities for Women (WOW) has helped women create pathways and overcome barriers to economic security through direct services and advocacy driven by research. Our roots are grounded in providing job training and workforce development through a gender lens. While we now primarily use this expertise to provide technical assistance and training to organizations across the country, we still maintain connections with some local service providers here in Washington, DC.

In 2008, we began a partnership with the District Alliance for Safe Housing (DASH), which provides emergency and long-term safe housing, and innovative homelessness prevention services to survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault. WOW provides career and economic counseling to survivors in their programs. While the physical and health impacts of abuse were apparent, the economic impacts of abuse often proved to be more of a barrier to their safety and recovery. Many of the survivors we work with faced a number of economic consequences as a result of their abuser’s actions including:

  • Job loss or lost wages due to interference from the abuser at work or time off to recover from abuse;
  • Unfinished education due to missed classes or a need to relocate;
  • Eviction and damaged tenant history due to law enforcement involvement;
  • Debt from healthcare, relocation costs and replacing damaged property;
  • Damaged credit and identity theft;
  • Loss of personal property; and,
  • Coercion into crime such as dealing drugs, fraud and/or prostitution.

By deliberately destroying survivors’ ability to be economically secure, abusers often eliminate the very resources they need to escape abuse and recover. The survivors we serve are lucky in the sense that they were able to enter a transitional housing program that provides them with safety and stability while working to rebuild their lives. Those who can’t access the limited resources available to survivors are often unable to break free from violence and abuse. But even when survivors do find these programs, the economic impacts of abuse may be so significant that they may never fully recover without the right interventions.

Providing immediate safety is first and foremost. But providing safe housing is not enough. Survivors need health and counseling services to help them cope with trauma. Once physical and mental health needs are addressed, we can then begin the long process of helping survivors recover from the economic impacts of abuse. Only then are survivors ready to develop and implement a plan that will help them become more economically secure and independent in the future. This often requires rebuilding damaged credit, getting training or education so that they have the skill-set needed to obtain good jobs that pay a living wage and offers benefits, accessing income support to provide interim stability and getting restitution to recover financial losses. Temporary and flexible financial support is critically important. Few jobs pay wages that would enable a single worker with children to cover all their monthly expenses, and those that do require years of training or experience. This reality often leaves survivors with few options but to remain in an abusive situation.

The economic consequences of violence and abuse are significant and complex. If we are to effectively promote women’s economic security, we must take into account and address the impacts of violence against women. When one in four women experiences rape, physical violence or stalking by an intimate partner, addressing the intersections of violence/abuse with economic security must be a priority for all organizations seeking to eradicate poverty and promote gender equity.

 

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The Consequences of Childhood Victimization on Safety and Future Economic Security

Earlier this week, I was honored to give the opening address at the Shenandoah Valley Multidisciplinary Conference: Strengthening the Response to Sexual Assault presented by the Collins Center. My remarks were on the economic aspects and complications of violence and abuse and why they are particularly challenging for the youngest victims of sex abuse. This is an important issue that unfortunately has not been a focus of anti-violence work and I am thrilled to see more organizations around the country interested in adopting this economic lens.

Childhood victimization is costly both in the immediate aftermath of abuse and in terms of long-term economic consequences. Some of these costs are incurred by the families of the victim and some by the victim him or herself.

CSA CostsFamily economic insecurity can greatly limit available options to keep a victim of child sex abuse (CSA) safe or provide them with the necessary supports to recover. The short-term health costs – including both physical and mental health needs – are estimated to be $32,648. While some of these expenses may be covered by insurance, there are still deductibles and co-pays that must be meet and often mental health services are limited or not fully covered. In addition, studies have found that children who experience abuse are significantly more likely to need special education than children who were not abused. This average cost was found to be $7,999 over the course of one’s school years. There are also legal fees, potential costs of relocating, and lost wages or job if a parent needs to take time to care for their child and doesn’t have access to leave. Families that are struggling to get by may not be able to get their child these much needed services or may face significant financial hardship in doing so. Accessing these resources and getting the appropriate support early is critical to help minimize the long-term effects of CSA.

Experiencing trauma so early in life can also have deep ripple effects on victims’ health, brain development, ability to develop relationships and on future social and economic success. A study of sexually abused 7-12 year-old girls found startling effects of abuse on their academic performance. Nearly 40% of victims reported academic difficulties, 24% repeated a grade, 48% reported below average grades and more than 37% displayed cognitive ability below the 25th percentile. These poor education outcomes lead to poor employment outcomes and lower future earnings. Abused children are less likely to hold “skilled” jobs or be employed. Low skilled jobs often offer minimum wages and have no benefits that are necessary for safety and economic security such as sick or family leave, group health insurance and retirement contributions. Furthermore, these jobs are often subject to unpredictable schedules which make it difficult to secure stable childcare or take advantage of education and training opportunities that could help individuals break the cycle of low-wage work. One study found that survivors of CSA earn $5,000 less a year than peers who have not experienced CSA. These gaps are surely more profound for women and minorities as a result of the wage gap. These lower earnings not only undermine a survivors ability to be economically secure today but it also compounds over time, increasing the likelihood they will live in poverty as seniors. In addition to an inability to save for retirement, lower earnings mean lower social security benefits. This is very worrisome for the nearly 75% of single seniors who depend on Social Security for all or most of their income.

In total, these  lifetime costs are estimated to be $195,537 per victim, which is still a narrow look at the potential costs victims face. When considering the financial effects of unwanted or planned pregnancy and parenthood, post-traumatic stress disorder, and alcohol or drug abuse – all consequences of abuse and trauma – the resulting vulnerability can leave victims of CSA economically insecure across the lifespan. It is important that direct service providers, justice system professionals and policymakers recognize these economic barriers to safety and recovery, and respond with appropriate interventions and support to help survivors of CSA lead full and healthy lives free from the consequences of abuse.

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Job Loss Common for Survivors

The Economic Security for Survivors Project team kicked off 2015 with a training and technical assistance meeting in Forsyth, Georgia in partnership with the Georgia Criminal Justice Coordinating Council. Sarah Gonzalez Bocinski and Robin Thompson met with a group of law enforcement officers and advocates to discuss the economic impact intimate partner and sexual violence has on the ability of survivors to be safe, seek justice and recover. From a lack of adequate financial resources, to job loss, to crushing debt, participants shared examples in which they had seen these many economic barriers complicate a survivor’s ability to move forward.

One particular issue that was continually raised during the meeting was the impact abuse had on the ability of survivors to maintain or seek employment. Advocates and victims alike shared stories about job loss due to an abuser’s tactics and resulting trauma. They expressed frustration at how little recourse there is to address the loss of the very lifeline that could enable survivors to leave an abuse relationship. Georgia, like many states, offers few workplace protections and accommodations for victims of intimate partner violence, sexual assault or stalking. The ability to take time off to deal with abuse or violence without the threat of job loss or employer retaliation, accommodations that allow survivors to be safer at work, and access to Unemployment Insurance when survivors do lose their job are integral to their ability to be economically secure and free of violence.

A study in Maine found that 60% of survivors either quit or lost their jobs as a result of abuse. Reasons for termination included diminish productivity, emotional trauma, the need to seek safety, concerns for children or coworkers, and abuser interference at work. The study included the story of a survivor whose abuser –also a co-worker– broke her bone then went to work early to tell “his side of the story” to the employer before she arrived at work later because she needed medical care. She was fired on the spot. Unfortunately this story is not uncommon and the impact on survivor safety and their ability to achieve independence is devastating. Protections against employer discrimination and workplace policies that guarantee a survivor’s rights to address abuse without repercussions are necessary to make sure that survivors like the woman in Maine and those we encountered in Georgia can stay employed. This will give them a greater chance of having the financial resources and stability to escape and rebuild their lives.

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Building Capacity: The Economic Security for Survivors (ESS) Project in Action

This fall was full of product releases, travel and trainings, as well as some exciting news. On September 13th the ESS Project received a three-year technical assistance grant from the US Department of Justice, Office on Violence Against Women to continue to provide training and technical assistance to OVW grantees serving survivors of intimate partner violence, sexual assault and stalking around the issues of safety, economic security and sustainability of employment. We are thrilled by OVW’s commitment to addressing survivor economic security and are eager to build on the work we have already done across the country.

ESS recently introduced its two new tools for advocates, the Victim Advocate’s Guide to Safety and Economic Security for Victims of Violence Against Women and the Economic and Employment Advocacy E-Course. The Victim Advocate’s Guide offers practical recommendations that all advocates can use to reduce economic barriers to safety and justice, restore independence and foster collaboration across systems. Informed by WOW’s expertise in strengthening workforce development for women, the new e-course provides community-based advocates and case managers with a blueprint to help survivors rebuild their lives through career and economic counseling designed to empower survivors with options. The course also contains a number of handouts and worksheets that can easily be used in client services. Both these tools served as the foundation for trainings held with key stakeholders throughout the fall.

In September, Sarah and Malore met with the grantees of the Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services and the Longmont Ending (Domestic) Violence Initiative in Colorado to explore the intersections of intimate partner and sexual violence and economic security to provide a new framework to better respond to survivors. Using this economic lens, they explored the various tools that the criminal justice system and community service providers already have to address the economic insecurity many survivors face as a result of economic abuse and the cost of violence, such as securing economic relief through protection orders or providing employment support services.

On September 19th, Sarah joined other advocates and leaders at the White House where President Obama and Vice President Biden announced their newest efforts to combat sexual assault on campus. The “It’s On Us” campaign seeks to prevent sexual violence on campuses by engaging bystanders and making the case that every member of the community has a role to play in creating safer campuses where intellectual growth is accessible to every student.

At the end of September Malore and project consultant Robin Thompson participated in the Nebraska State Patrol’s annual conference where they led two workshops detailing how law enforcement can work independently and in collaboration with other justice and community sectors to address the economic dynamics of abuse and pursue economic justice. They shared best practices to integrating economic considerations into the existing activities of dispatchers, first responders and investigators with a goal of increasing survivor safety and offender accountability.

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Building on previous work in Oregon, Sarah and Malore returned to Portland in October to meet with direct service program directors at the Crime Victim Services Division’s Directors’ Day meeting. They were joined by the Jackson County Sexual Assault Response Team and the Attorney General’s Sexual Assault Taskforce who shared ways their work has changed to address economic security since the team’s last visit in early 2013. The Oregon Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence also shared the work of its member organizations towards promoting economic independence. Both the Victim Advocates Guide and the new curriculum were then introduced and shared as free tools to support advocates and case managers’ capacity to support the criminal justice systems and enhance economic support services. The meeting also served as a launching point for ongoing technical assistance to incorporate economic security into the criminal justice system response and community support services across the state over the next three years.

Interested in learning more about ESS project trainings and resources? Contact Sarah Gonzalez Bocinski, Director, Economic Security for Survivors Project at sbocinski@wowonline.org.

 

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Addressing Sexual Assault on Campus is a Matter of Gender Equity

Education is an important tool to achieving economic security. Eighty percent of college graduates with a four-year degree are economically secure. Yet this important opportunity is often accompanied by a troubling reality for women – 28.5% of college women reported an attempted or completed sexual assault before or since entering college.

The prevalence of sexual violence on campuses creates a hostile environment for female students, which undermines their ability to take advantage of the same educational opportunities as male students. The impacts of sexual assault can have life-long repercussions on the lives of survivors. This is exacerbated when colleges and universities fail to prevent and appropriately handle cases of sexual assault.

As a result of sexual assault, survivors are often faced with high healthcare costs including care for physical trauma, reproductive health care (if accessible at all) and counseling. Emotional trauma, fear of running into the person who raped them, and/or threats from their rapist result in diminished academic performance. Ultimately survivors may drop out of school, leaving them with debt and poor employment prospects. One study found that the lifetime cost of rape is $145,000 due to health costs, legal fees and lost wages. More information on the economic impacts of sexual violence facing college-aged women can be found in a 2013 brief released by the Economic Security for Survivors Project.

Addressing the prevalence of sexual assault among college aged women is a matter of gender equity. Women who are assaulted face life-long barriers to recovery and economic security. 

Last Friday, WOW joined dozens of advocates and leaders in the movement to combat violence against women in the East Wing of the White House where President Obama and Vice President Biden announced a new campaign to address sexual assault on campus as part of continued efforts in response to recent findings from the “Not Alone” report. The new campaign, “It’s On Us”, seeks to prevent sexual violence on campuses by engaging bystanders and making the case that every member of the community has a role to play in creating safer campuses where intellectual growth is accessible to every student. “It’s On Us” asks that everyone be a part of the solution by pledging to (1) recognize that non-consensual sex is sexual assault, (2)  identify situations in which sexual assault may occur, (3) intervene in situations where consent has not or cannot be given, and (4) create an environment in which sexual assault is unacceptable and survivors are supported.

We are glad to see that the administration is committed to ensuring the safety and equality of opportunity for women. We hope you join us in signing the pledge and becoming part of the solution. #ItsOnUs

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The Economics of Abuse: Lessons from #WhyIStayed

The new video of former Ravens football player Ray Rice brutally assaulting his then fiancée Janay Palmer has spurred a public debate around intimate partner violence. There was shock and disgust at Ray’s sickening actions. There was outrage at the National Football League for their abysmal response. And, of course, there was victim blaming. As an advocate, one of the first questions I hear when I describe my work is: “Why doesn’t she leave?”And it didn’t take long for some to raise questions of why she stayed.

It is important to understand the dynamics of intimate partner violence. Intimate partner violence is insidious. It is not about rage or hatred; it is about power and control over a person. Abusers do everything within their power to dominate the lives of their victims. They isolate them. Deprive them of the resources they would need to be independent. They use intimidation and threats, not only against the victim, but family members, pets and their livelihood – all with the goal of leaving them few options but to stay.

This lack of understanding of the reality victims face has generated a social media response under the hashtag #WhyIStayed in which survivors of violence share the myriad reasons they stayed in abusive relationships. Economic factors played into the stories of many victims. Abusers deliberately control financial resources that are necessary for victims to escape. Abusers hide car keys, slash tires or destroy cell phones so survivors cannot reach out for help. They financially cripple victims by maxing out credit cards and saddling them with debt. They disrupt their ability to work by making them late, or constantly calling and showing up at their workplace, ultimately resulting in job loss. Abusers can also prevent victims from attending or completing school which reduces their future employment prospects. Victims may rely on an abuser for health insurance to cover needed medications for illnesses or disease. Victims often have to choose between being unable to provide food and shelter for their children and their own personal safety. Finances strongly influence the decisions victims make.

WOW’s research underscores the impact economic insecurity has on the ability of victims to be independent. A single parent in America needs on average $2,624 per month to cover the average cost of their basic needs – housing, utilities, food, transportation, childcare and health insurance. Note that this doesn’t take into account taxes, necessary personal and household items such as hygiene or cleaning products, or debt. If a person earning minimum wage could only cover housing costs and some food and without the ability to pay for transportation or childcare, this individual would likely lose his or her job. This person wouldn’t be able to make it on their own.

BEST

But what about public assistance programs – can’t they help? In short, no. They often fail to make up the difference. These programs are underfunded and have waiting lists or have eligibility requirements that can prevent victims from accessing them – particularly those who are still married to their abuser. In those cases, spousal income is often taken into consideration when survivors apply for benefits thus making them ineligible for support. Support programs such as shelters and transitional housing programs, legal aid, childcare and transportation assistance are in high demand and have limited resources. A 2010 survey found that nearly 10,000 requests for assistance went unmet. Without some level of economic security to provide for their basic needs options are limited.

So aside from the practical complications and physical dangers of leaving, consider the math. How easy would it be for you to drop everything and leave your partner? Could you afford it? Would you be homeless, without a car or childcare? What other barriers would you face? If we are to help victims escape and recover from the physical, emotional and economic costs of abuse we need to break down the power and control abusers exercise over victims and empower victims with resources and opportunities to achieve independence. This requires a comprehensive systemic approach in which the government, businesses, community groups and citizens work in concert to respond to devastating epidemic that is intimate partner violence. We all have a role to play.

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On the Hill: Budget Conference Committee and the Reauthorization of the Older Americans Act

With the federal government once again open for business and the debt ceiling temporarily suspended, Congress returned somewhat to regular order with the House in session through Thursday and the Senate in recess for the week. Both chambers will be in session next week, when the newly formed Budget conference committee will meet Wednesday for its opening session. Before grappling over how to reconcile the starkly divergent fiscal blueprints passed by each chamber, conference members must first determine how the committee will operate. It’s not yet clear if the conference will meet regularly up to its Dec. 13 deadline or if committee leaders will negotiate behind closed doors and then present any agreement to the entire 29-member conference for adoption. Any agreement from the conference committee could move on a fast track, but it would require sign off from a majority of both the seven House conferees and of the 22 Senate negotiators to advance. Once adopted by the committee, the conference report would be protected against amendments and Senate filibusters. Republican-backed entitlement cuts and Democrat-backed tax hikes are sure to be on the table. But both parties have demurred on whether the final deal will contain any instructions for writing filibuster-proof reconciliation bills for carrying out a tax or entitlement overhaul. Both sides have already ruled out any further increase in the debt ceiling.  Both sides also have ruled out a “grand bargain” encompassing the range of spending issues that have separated the parties for the past few years.  This effort isn’t even be called a “mini bargain,” but rather is being characterized as a “micro bargain.”

Also on tap for next week will be the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee’s consideration of a reauthorization of the Older Americans Act. The measure, S.1562, introduced by independent Bernard Sanders of Vermont, would renew programs such as Meals on Wheels, as well as elder abuse protections and initiatives that help seniors stay in their homes. The last reauthorization expired Sept. 30, 2011, although programs have received funding through the annual appropriations process. Senator Richard Burr (R-NC), the top Republican on the Subcommittee on Primary Health and Aging, is withholding his support for the bill over concerns about the way funds for senior programs are distributed to states, saying the law’s funding formula should be fixed to allow states more flexibility. Burr in the past has noted that his state’s senior population was growing faster than in some other areas. The measure maintains language in current law that authorizes “such sums as may be necessary” for the programs. There is no House companion measure of the bill as of yet.

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Why Domestic Violence is a Community Issue

While details from the tragic events that took the lives of four individuals in the Brookfield, Wisconsin salon shooting still emerge, one can’t help but wonder what could have been done differently to prevent this loss of life. Recognizing that this story is still unfolding, it is all too familiar to those who work with or know someone who is a survivor of violence – jealous accusations of infidelity, promised threats of violence against the survivor and children, destroyed property and intimidation at the workplace.

Radcliffe Haughton had a history of domestic violence and numerous interactions with law enforcement. In 2011, Haughton was charged with disorderly contact after a 90 minute stand-off with police who were responding to a 911 call from his estranged wife, Zina, who thought she saw him with a gun outside her home. The charges against Haughton, however, were dropped when the officer failed to appear in court. On October 8th, after Haughton was arrested for slashing her tires, Zina secured a restraining order that required Haughton to stay-away and turn in all firearms – an important protective measure as more than two-thirds of intimate partner fatalities are from gun wounds. However, two days after the restraining order was issued, Haughton legally purchased a handgun from a private owner. The next morning, Haughton entered the salon in which Zina worked and killed her along with two of her coworkers before turning the gun on himself.

This case raises a number of questions. How could it have reach this point? Do we need to include 48 hour waiting periods for gun purchases from private owners? Did the restraining order include a stay-away provision for the work place? Did the salon have any policies around domestic violence in the workplace or security? One thing is very clear: domestic violence is not just a personal issue, it is a community issue and needs a community response. Violence does not only occur in the home, it reaches into the community and affects every facet of a survivor’s life. Domestic violence and sexual assault are not uncommon in the workplace – domestic homicide is the primary cause of death for women at work. Abusers interfere at a survivor’s place of work to undermine her ability to be economically secure and independent; a tactic that is all too often successful – survivors lose nearly 10 days of paid work each year and 24% of survivors were asked to quit or were fired because of workplace interruptions. Workplaces must to respond not only ensure that survivors can safely work but to prevent violence from occurring at the workplace.

It is not only the responsibility of law enforcement and advocates to protect the safety of survivors but that of employers, schools, neighbors, and the various institutions that constitute our communities. As we mourn those lost, we need to come together and break this cycle of violence. We need the policies, systems and protections that will enhance every community’s ability to prevent tragedies such as this.

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