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Advocates for VOCA Get Vocal on Capitol Hill

PHOTO: Teresa Huizar, National Children's Alliance, is in Washington, D.C., to ask members of Congress to support funding the Victims of Child Abuse Act. Courtesy of National Children's Alliance.
PHOTO: Teresa Huizar, National Children's Alliance, is in Washington, D.C., to ask members of Congress to support funding the Victims of Child Abuse Act. Courtesy of National Children's Alliance.
April 26, 2013

PHOENIX – Congress is getting visits from people concerned that funding for child abuse survivors and investigators is falling by the wayside in federal budget negotiations.

The Victims of Child Abuse Act, or VOCA, has been eliminated in President Barack Obama's 2014 budget proposal.

The same thing happened for the 2013 budget year, and the funding was restored only after an uproar from law enforcement and victims' advocates.

Teresa Huizar, executive director of the National Children's Alliance, says this is a battle that shouldn't have to be fought every year.

"When you think about the fact that child sexual abuse affects roughly 20 percent of the female population in this country,” she says, “and about one in eight men or boys, I think there are lots of people who have a reason to care about this issue and advocate on our behalf."

Young children are more likely to die of child abuse or neglect in metro Phoenix than any other major metropolitan area in the country.

Statewide, there have been 42,000 reports of abuse and neglect in the past year.

For 20 years now, VOCA has provided part of the funding for Children's Advocacy Centers, where victims of abuse and their families can receive coordinated medical, legal and mental health services.

Huizar says some of the money is also used to run four centers around the country where law enforcement officers, attorneys and investigators get special training to deal with child abuse cases.

"And if this money is eliminated, it doesn't represent some sort of small percentage cut to them,” she warns. “They'll go away entirely. It also provides funding for the National District Attorneys office and the work that they do directly with prosecutors, and helping them hold offenders accountable on these cases."

Huizar says the current administration has chosen to shift its focus and funding to services for juvenile offenders instead. And while she feels that cause is also important, she says it shouldn't be funded at the expense of child sexual abuse victims.


Doug Ramsey, Public News Service - AZ