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New budget eliminates domestic violence funding in California

Posted: January 20, 2010 12:38 p.m.
Updated: January 20, 2010 1:55 p.m.
 
Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's newly proposed budget for fiscal year 2010/11 completely ignores funding for California's domestic violence programs, directly impacting the residents of Santa Clarita.

Under the proposed budget, the Domestic Violence Center of the Santa Clarita Valley, which is the only agency providing comprehensive domestic violence services in the 200-square mile Santa Clarita Valley, will continue to experience significant losses in funding.

The center will also not receive its Department of Public Health contracted allocation of $207,222 for fiscal year 2010/2011, directly resulting in a loss of 46 percent of the local center's annual budget.

Last year, the Domestic Violence Center faced the devastating news that it had lost 100 percent of its state funding. On July 28, 2009, the governor utilized his line-item veto power to eliminate the entire $16.4 million budget for the Department of Public Health's domestic violence shelter based programs.

While the center was fortunate to have our local assembly member Cameron Smyth champion and steward the restoration of portions of state funding, the center was still forced to make drastic cuts. The elimination of the funding caused an immediate reduction in staff resulting in the loss of three employees. Most devastating, though, was the loss of the center's outreach center home of over a decade.

The Domestic Violence Center, no longer able to sustain the cost of rent, moved from its location in Newhall to a small office space in the Valencia industrial center. Among the many tragedies of this is the loss of accessibility and familiarity to our center location.

On many occasions, victims of domestic violence have knocked on the outreach center's door with bags in one hand and children in the other asking for help to find shelter. The absence of funding in the newly proposed budget may be fatal to domestic violence services for an entire community of more than 250,000 residents. 

The community saw its first domestic violence-related death of 2010 in Canyon Country last Thursday, Jan. 14. There were also four domestic violence-related deaths in 2009. Recognizing the importance of domestic violence centers and their services to families, both Senator George Runner and Assemblyman Cameron Smyth have agreed to support a line item in the state budget for domestic violence funding.

"Domestic violence is possibly the most pernicious and widespread social ill affecting not only physical health but also mental and emotional health of individuals throughout the entire community," said Nicole Shellcroft, Executive Director for the Domestic Violence Center of the Santa Clarita Valley.

"As the center's executive director, I think about every client who has come through our doors and their horrific stories of abuse," Shellcroft said. "The elimination of funding has set back the services for victims of domestic violence that will be felt for many years and it sends the message that victims often hear from their abusers - you are alone."

Domestic violence crosses all ethnic, religious, economic, and social boundaries, and is generational. Children who are abused or who witnessed abuse in the home are more likely to either be abused or to abuse their partners as adults.

The Domestic Violence Center of Santa Clarita Valley is asking for community and legislative support to keep its doors open. Without the support of the community, more victims will suffer in silence.

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