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In crisis: Tri-Counties non-profits which serve domestic violence, rape survivors face funding cuts

Priscilla du Preez

The federal government has slashed support. The state may help with the gap for the next year, but officials with the agencies say that isn't a long term solution.

The last few years have been terrifying for a Ventura woman.

She was the target of escalating emotional, and verbal abuse from her domestic partner. Speaking through an interpreter, she says the last three years have been especially rough.

"He had been emotionally, psychologically abusive most of that time, and it escalated really high, where I had to flee the home, because she didn't feel safe," she said.

The woman we’re calling Laura, to protect her identify, was connected by her doctor to a non-profit group in Ventura County called the Coalition for Family Harmony.

"We've been in Ventura County since 1976. We have a lot of experience serving the community, and families directly related to domestic violence and sexual assault," said Dr. Caroline Prijatel-Sutton.

She is Executive Director of the organization. One of their key roles is providing support for rape survivors.

"We're the only rape crisis center in Ventura County, and we've been doing that rape crisis work since 1982," said Prijatel-Sutton. "We are the only ones that go out on calls 24/7, and we meet with survivors one-on-one, and make sure they are advocated for, and supported."

The Coalition helped 5,000 people last year, including hundreds of sexual assault survivors.

But, it’s facing its own crisis. The majority of its funding comes from federal and state grants. The federal funding is beings slashed.

"VOCA, which is the Victims of Crimes Act, is being cut over 44%," said the Coalition official. "That means about $500,000 for our budget alone. The $500,000...that is about a third to a quarter of our budget."

It could mean a reduction of services, and staff layoffs.

Prijatel-Sutton says the VOCA money came from federal court case fines, but that apparently that resource has been drying up.

The situation is impacting rape crisis, child abuse, and other non-profit agencies which provide important help from coast to coast. So far, there’s been no move by Congress to replace the funding.

The State of California approved a $100 million stopgap measure, but there’s no word yet on how much help agencies in our region will receive.

The domestic abuse survivor who talked with KCLU News, Laura, said getting out of her home situation and into a shelter last November changed her life. How is she doing now?

"Well, well," she answered.

The non-profit helped find her a safe place to live, and she’s now back at work.

But, officials with the Ventura County non-profit worry they won’t have the resources to help someone like Laura in the future. They get grants from foundations and business, and donations from the community. But, that’s nowhere near enough to fill the financial hole.

They are hoping Congress will step up, and act to fill the funding gap, to allow them to continue to provide the key services needed by those in crisis.

Lance Orozco has been News Director of KCLU since 2001, providing award-winning coverage of some of the biggest news events in the region, including the Thomas and Woolsey brush fires, the deadly Montecito debris flow, the Borderline Bar and Grill attack, and Ronald Reagan's funeral.