Ohio: Domestic-violence support: Not all calls for help are getting answered

Mary Schuermann Kuhlman

Ohio News Connection

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- During a single 24-hour period last September, more than 250 survivors of domestic violence in Ohio couldn't get help when they needed it.

According to the 15th annual National Census of Domestic Violence Services released Tuesday, those unmet requests included emergency shelter, transportation, childcare and legal representation, and 57% of the requests were for housing.

Micaela Deming, policy director and staff attorney for the Ohio Domestic Violence Network, explained funding is very limited and a bottleneck of survivors is waiting for safe-housing options.

"Our programs have faced catastrophic funding cuts, and you can only spread folks so thin," Deming asserted. "People are staying in shelters longer. Advocates are not able to do as much of a deep dive in helping families get all of the services that they need and process through the trauma."

The census found more than 2,600 survivors in Ohio were assisted in one day and advocates answered an average of 28 regional hotline calls each hour.

Deming noted the numbers are consistent with last year, and a testament to the need and effectiveness of Ohio's 75 domestic-violence programs.

Deming added people fleeing a violent situation need a safe space and support as they work to get back on their feet.

"Some of them ask for financial assistance," Deming observed. "We see folks who need a new birth certificate issued or a new driver's license because the abuser took those documents, or it was unsafe to get them out of the home that they fled. And without those, folks can't go out and get a job or register kids for school."

Deming emphasized domestic violence programs would ideally never have to turn away anyone seeking help.

"It is really going to take some dedication from the state of Ohio as well as our federal funders to get that number down to zero so that our programs that are there to serve are able to serve all of the requests that are coming in so that families can stay safe," Deming stated.

Ohio's budget includes $1 million annually for domestic-violence services, significantly less on a per capita basis than the 32 other states that provide general fund support. The General Assembly is working on the state budget now. Last month the House approved $2.5 million, and advocates are urging the Senate to support increasing the line item to five million dollars annually. The budget must be approved by July 1.

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