I love having good news instead of bad news to pass along, and it’s not incredibly often that I get it. Connecticut has recently passed a large package of anti-domestic violence laws. One of the portions of the package going into effect today is an increase in funding for domestic violence shelters — specifically, almost $3 million in funding from the state and federal government combined for domestic violence shelters that will allow them to stay open 24/7, rather than being closed at night.
Reportedly, Connecticut is among only five states — the others being Wyoming, Nevada, New Hampshire, and Maine — that do not currently provide 24/7 coverage through domestic violence shelters. Without that coverage, intimate partner violence victims, usually women and children, are left without a safety net during certain hours. The fact is, when a victim decides that it’s time to leave, that’s when it’s time to leave. If she makes an immediate decision at night to leave right that moment, she can’t be expected to go back home when she gets to the shelter and finds it closed. But some undoubtedly will be forced to do just that. If a victim decides that night is simply the safest time to leave, she needs resources available to her at that time. Otherwise, she may leave at a more dangerous time, or find herself put at other risks. One victim who testified in favor of the bill, and who for her protection goes only by the name Sonia, told one such story about sleeping in her car overnight while waiting for a shelter to open.
But it’s not just the inadequate response to intimate partner violence that the Connecticut legislature has decided to address — they’re also looking into primary prevention. This law requires schools to provide information to instructors and counselors on domestic violence and teen dating violence as a part of training. As abusive behavior is learned and tends to start young — and as dating violence is on the rise, at least in some places — this is really important, and it’s good to see prevention being addressed for a change.
It’s also especially pleasantly surprising to see these issues being addressed right now, during a time where governments are struggling to balance their budgets (emphasis mine):
Rep. Mike Lawlor (East Haven) said in the past 30 years—since the brutal attempted murder of Tracy Thurman by her husband, Buck, in Torrington, put the issue front and center in Connecticut and led to the first major changes in how domestic violence cases are treated—he’s seen small changes in the way the state deals with domestic violence. He said this year’s laws mark major progress.
“This required some heavy lifting,” he told reporters facing him across the small conference room. “Imagine in this budget crisis trying to find money to dedicate to staffing shelters for victims of domestic violence around the clock. But that was done. All of this came from the front line professionals— the prosecutors, the police officers, the victim advocates, the probation and parole officers—telling us what was missing.”
A lot of places, such as California and New York City, are responding to budget crises by cutting or considering cutting funding for domestic violence and sexual violence prevention and response. These services are being generally treated as non-vital and disposable, and shelters and programs are closing down as we speak. The reason they’re being considered optional, I believe, is because they largely address violence against women in a patriarchal culture, and because we’re still struggling to get sexual violence and domestic violence perceived as “real” violence and “real” crimes worthy of public attention. When push comes to shove, it seems, women’s safety usually just doesn’t count.
To see Connecticut not only recognize the problems as serious, but also maintain that conviction to do something about them through financial problems, is reassuring and should be inspiring to other states. Good job on the legislators who championed the bills and voted for them, and a huge congratulations to the survivors and advocates for survivors who have undoubtedly worked very hard to promote them and get them passed.