We are coming to the end of another Domestic Violence Awareness Month (DVAM). Today, DVAM is overlapping with the start of early voting here in North Carolina. We hear a lot about domestic violence during DVAM, although not as much as we would like about how we as a society are part of what enables it to happen. And we certainly don’t hear people say they vote because they want to end domestic violence. But….many aspects of our efforts to stop DV – from funding of crisis services to support and resources for survivors as they leave the relationships – are aided (or hindered) by local, state and federal policies; and those policies are crafted by lawmakers, who are accountable to us, and are voted on by us. Some reasons why your vote matters in the campaign to stop DV:
- Unemployment insurance has been drastically cut in the state, and NC still has not expanded Medicaid to provide health care coverage to those who need it. Many DV victims who could have benefited from these safety net programs may instead stay with their abuser for financial assistance and/or health insurance coverage for themselves and/or their children.
- Some DV victims make their first connections to DV support services via the health care system. Whether the survivors are there due to abuse injuries or for a regular check-up, their providers may refer them to help based on conversations started in exam rooms. Reducing access to health care providers by arbitrarily closing down women’s health clinics, under-funding public health agencies and denying access to affordable insurance cuts off another path to safety for DV victims.
- While technology is a great tool for so many things, it has also made it easier for abusers and harassers to stalk their victims, and to continue to abuse them via actions like “revenge porn“. NC currently does not have adequate legal protections in place to address this increasingly common form of abuse.
- DV advocates in NC greatly increased protections by expanding protective orders to cover couples who were living together but not married, those not living together and those in casual dating relationships. However, there are still not adequate protections for teenage victims of domestic violence.
- Schools still need better programs in place to help teach students how to prevent domestic violence, and how to foster a more caring, welcoming climate in the schools (particularly with strong anti-bullying policies).
- Funding for programs helping women (and men) get back into the workforce has been cut, leaving those in abusive relationships fewer options for the economic security they may need to a ensure a successful break from the relationship.
- While funding for crisis services has remained stable over the past few years, it wasn’t enough to begin with. As the NC economy is still difficult for many families, and awareness of DV and support services grows, more and more victims are seeking out services. We need to consider increased funding for crisis services such as emergency shelter, support counseling, hotlines, and legal assistance.
These are just a few reasons why voting is part of the work we do to end DV. Policy solutions are part of the comprehensive solution we need to finally bring the epidemic of DV to an end. Use your voice, and make a plan to go vote.
Tara Romano, NCWU, President