Lawmakers Want Funding for Domestic, Sexual Assault Services

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Due to a funding shortfall, two out of three domestic violence victims in Virginia will not find shelter when they need it. But lawmakers in Richmond are on a mission to make necessary services available.

They want more funding for sexual and domestic violence services, and want to make it easier to access that funding, all to address an issue with potentially fatal consequences.

Four years after Lisette Johnson’s husband attacked her and turned the gun on himself, she says it's her responsibility to speak out.

“I almost died,” she said. “I lost two liters of blood. I still have a bullet in my liver.”

But Johnson says she doesn’t think the public is aware of how many people are affected by that kind of violence. One in three women will be directly affected by sexual or domestic violence, but local funding is tight, and prevents many from getting help.

“A lot of these agencies live grant to grant, and that's no way to survive when you're trying to help other people survive,” said 97th District Delegate Chris Peace (R).

That's where Virginia lawmakers are stepping in. House Republicans want to pump in $10.6 million for prevention, intervention, and crisis treatment. In the Charlottesville area, that funding would mean more services in more places.

“The outlying counties don't have as much of our attention as we would like for them to have,” said Cartie Lominack, executive director of Shelter for Help in Emergency.

If approved by the General Assembly, the proposal would also make it easier for agencies to access other resources, which Johnson says could literally mean the difference between life or death.

“If I had known that I didn't have to go to a shelter, that there were services available that could have helped me navigate out of my marriage safely, I certainly would have taken advantage of them,” she said.

The proposal is now before a House subcommittee. If you're in an abusive relationship and need help, call the free, confidential Virginia Family Violence and Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-838-8238.

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