President Donald Trump’s executive orders and budget cuts are sparking a lot of national conversation, but for local organizations like The Haven Shelter and Services in Warsaw it could mean more than political debate. According to both New York Magazine and The Hill, President Trump’s budget plan is based on a “Blueprint for Balance” created by The Heritage Foundation. This blueprint includes cutting federal grants to the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), from which the Haven receives nearly $44,000.
The VAWA was passed in 1994 with bipartisan support to improve law enforcement response to violence against women and create specialized victim services. It administers 25 grant programs through the Department of Justice that are “designed to develop the nation’s capacity to reduce domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking by strengthening services to victims and holding offenders accountable,” stated on the department’s website. Reports from the Bureau of Justice Statistics show a significant decline in the overall rate of intimate partner violence after the VAWA passed.
The Haven was originally founded in 1986 and its primary focus is to provide advocacy and shelter for individuals who experience intimate partner and sexual violence, as well as to provide support services to individuals and their families, according to their mission statement. Their service area includes Westmoreland, Richmond, Essex, Lancaster and Northumberland Counties.
According to the Haven’s Director of Development, Sarah Weakley, in a press release, the shelter receives VAWA support through their Virginia Services, Training, Officers, Prosecution (VSTOP) and Sexual Assault Services Program (SASP) grants.
It also helps funds partial salaries for three of their staff members, according to Weakley.
Kim Gandy, the President and CEO of the National Network to End Domestic Violence (NNEDV), stated in a press release, “Victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking, and dating violence rely on federally-funded direct services such as shelter, rape crisis services, legal assistance, direct counseling, and more.” Gandy continued, “Cuts to these programs endanger survivors’ lives.”
According to Weakley, the Haven offered 53 adults and 56 children shelter for 4,712 total nights in 2016. In addition, 274 adult and 50 child family violence and sexual assault victims were offered advocacy services, including hospital and legal accompaniment, safety planning, and information and referral services totaling 2,929 hours of staff support. Over 1,850 calls were answered on their 24-hr crisis hotline, according to Weakley.
It is still unclear whether President Trump officially supports the plan that would cut this funding and it would need to pass through Congress before being enforced. However, Weakley encourages citizens who want to help take action and show their support to send an automatically formulated message through the NNEDV website to their Congress representative.
Taylor O’Bier is a Northern Neck News correspondent.