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Snapshot Shows West Virginia Domestic Violence Programs Straining

PICTURE: A one-day snapshot of West Virginia domestic violence services taken last fall shows nine requests for help going unmet because of budget cuts. Photo courtesy of the Kentucky Coalition Against Domestic Violence.
PICTURE: A one-day snapshot of West Virginia domestic violence services taken last fall shows nine requests for help going unmet because of budget cuts. Photo courtesy of the Kentucky Coalition Against Domestic Violence.
June 11, 2015

CHARLESTON, W.Va. – A snapshot of West Virginia domestic violence services shows shelters straining under the pressure of budget cuts, and the need to lend life-or-death assistance to victims and survivors.

In a single day – September 10, 2014 – the state's domestic violence programs provided services in more than 300 instances.

But according to Tonia Thomas, team coordinator at the West Virginia Coalition Against Domestic Violence, their combined efforts still could not meet nine requests for help. She says state and federal budget cuts have put pressure on domestic violence programs.

"Emergency shelter, transitional housing, legal help. They had to eliminate staff so less services could be provided to victims and survivors," she says.

The snapshot results come from the ninth annual National Network to End Domestic Violence national one-day census. According to the West Virginia coalition, federal budget tightening and state cuts have left programs scrambling.

Despite the cuts and uncertainty, Thomas says they do their best to help and protect people who often are in dangerous and volatile family crisis situations.

"Try to seek other services in other areas, make referrals. They may be put on a waiting list," she says. "They do the best they can, but oftentimes it ends at maybe a referral."

According to Thomas, most domestic violence shelters "hate" turning people away. She says they know their services can be a matter of survival.

"The programs serve as the place for safety, as the place for people to figure out how to leave an abusive situation, or how to live safely in an abusive situation," she says. "They are often life-and-death services."

The national domestic violence hotline is 1-800-799-SAFE.

Dan Heyman, Public News Service - WV