It’s hard to imagine news more distressing than cuts to Mississippi’s domestic violence shelters. In addition to emergency housing, shelters provide vital financial, educational, employment, and counseling services to vulnerable women and chidlren escaping dangerous and oppressive domestic conditions.
But federal funding has sharply declined for years now, forcing staff and program reductions even as demand for services grows. What gives? Principally responsible is the same dismal drama that’s been playing out on the federal stage ever since the financial meltdown of 2008. A fixation on deficits – combined with hostility toward revenue-generating taxes – drives down spending on social services, while partisan gridlock subverts even those compromise agreements that ought to be “no-brainers.” At present, reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act – largely routine since first passage in 1994 – is hung up in committee wrangling over House (Republican) and Senate (Democratic) versions of the law.
It’s not hyperbole to suggest that the physical and mental health and welfare of hundreds of thousands of victimized women and children across the U.S. hangs in the balance.