A recent survey released by the Mary Kay Foundation shows that the persistent economic downturn has had a serious impact on domestic violence shelters. The “Mary Kay Truth About Abuse Survey” reveals that not only have shelters seen an increase in the number of domestic violence survivors seeking help nationwide, but the abuse is more severe and victims are staying in shelters for longer periods of time. The increased need for services is taking place at a time when many shelters have seen a decrease in funding, forcing many programs to scale back services or even close their doors.
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The fourth “Mary Kay Truth About Abuse Survey” polled more than 730 domestic violence shelter programs across the United States about domestic violence and the economy since 2008. This latest survey contains alarming statistics that shed light on the connection between domestic violence and the economic downturn. Among the most disturbing trends:
• 78 percent of domestic violence shelters nationwide (nearly eight out of 10) report an increase in women seeking assistance from abuse.
• 74 percent of survivors stayed with an abusive partner longer because of financial issues.
• 92 percent of shelters had to end or scale back specific programs and services.
The Center for Violence-Free Relationships, an El Dorado County domestic violence and sexual assault agency, has long recognized the connection between a down economy and the subsequent increase in victims seeking help. While economic hardship does not cause domestic violence, external stressors can increase the severity and frequency of violent incidents, leading to an increased demand for services.
Matt Huckabay, the center’s executive director, said, “The findings from the survey are indeed alarming. Even more concerning is the stark reality that funding for shelters that had been stable for decades will be eliminated beginning July 1, 2012. In order to offset these cuts, difficult decisions about which center services will need to be decreased or eliminated will have to be made. The thought that women and children in our community who are fleeing from abuse might not have a shelter to keep them safe is deeply troubling and life threatening.”
The Center for Violence Free Relationships is dedicated to building healthy relationships, families and communities free from domestic violence and sexual assault through education, advocacy and services in western El Dorado County.