Mayor Paul Soglin said cuts in federal funding will ultimately lead to decreases in local organizations that provide resources to victims of domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking.
The cuts in federal funding, known as the sequester, would cut $120,000 from the Stop Violence Against Women Project, Soglin said at a Monday press conference. The STOPVAW Project provides funding to train and provide resources for prosecutors, law enforcement officers, judges in the court system and victim service providers.
The Family Violence Prevention and Services Act, which provides direct services to victims of domestic violence and creates shelters for them, could also receive budget cuts if the sequester goes through, Tony Gibart, policy coordinator of the Wisconsin Coalition Against Domestic Violence, said. WCADV is an umbrella organization that works with the numerous organizations that provide direct services to domestic violence victims, such as Domestic Abuse Intervention Services in Madison.
Gibart said the resources provided to officials involved in the legal system help them to be supportive of domestic violence victims. He said organizations throughout the state of Wisconsin, including the City of Madison, receive funding from the STOPVAW Project and FVPSA, which are both federally-funded.
Gibart said 100,000 victims nationwide will lose funding if the sequester continues.
“Budgets for victim services organizations are very, very tight,” Gibart said. “There is nowhere they can cut but direct and basic services. Further cuts will have an impact on services that are available to victims throughout Wisconsin.”
Gibart said during the past five years, organizations that provide services to domestic violence victims have seen their funding stay the same or decrease, while the number of victims who come to the organizations for help has been increasing.
He said domestic violence is not necessarily increasing, but more people are learning about the services, which translates to more clients for the organizations that provide the services. He said the economic downturn has caused many organizations to leave areas or provide fewer resources, so more people go to the few organizations that are left.
Gibart also said organizations have begun to implement programs that work but require more resources and effort.
Wisconsin law enforcement receives 30,000 calls a year about domestic violence, but domestic violence is an under-reported crime, Gibart added. He said 40,000 men, women and children receive services each year in Wisconsin as a result of domestic violence.
A survey conducted in Wisconsin found that approximately 714,000 women have experienced domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking in their lives, Gibart said. He emphasized this figure is greater than the population of Milwaukee, Wisconsin’s largest city.
Sarah Van Orman, executive director of University Health Services at the University of Wisconsin, said UHS does not anticipate any immediate impact in terms of funding for student services. She said this is because funding for UHS programs come mostly from segregated fees, which are taken from students’ tuition.
She said UW’s program to end sexual assault, called End Violence on Campus, was started five years ago by a federal grant. She said EVOC relied on the grant for three years but has received its funding from UHS for the past two years.
Van Orman said UHS will know what grants it is going to receive in September. She said she hopes federal funding will be back to normal by then but added nothing is completely certain.
“I wish I knew,” Van Orman said. “I don’t see those types of grants as being a high priority for the sequester.”