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.
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.
The US Department of Human Service’s Office on Women’s Health recent convened a conference,“Meeting the Reentry Needs of Women: Policies, Programs, and Practices” which highlighted the unique characteristics and challenges facing women with criminal records. While there have been a number similar conference on returning citizens, this was the first to focus on women.
A new report from the National Resource Center on Domestic Violence (NRCDV) and the University of Connecticut School of Social Work, Meeting Survivors’ Needs Through Non-Residential Domestic Violence Services & Supports: Results of a Multi-State Study, examines how well domestic violence programs meet the needs of survivors.
February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month. Sadly, teens and young women experience the highest rates of sexual assault, stalking and rape. The effects of teen dating violence go far beyond physical and emotional trauma. As a result of violence, teen survivors often experience higher rates of truancy, low academic achievement, social isolation and pregnancy, which can impact their future economic security.