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KY domestic violence programs struggle to meet demand

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Thursday, October 5, 2023   

October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and state data show in Kentucky, more than 45% and around 35% of men have experienced intimate partner violence.

According to the group ZeroV, in the past five years, its regional shelter programs have provided safe havens and resources for more than 10,000 women and 6,000 children.

Christy Burch, CEO of the Ion Center for Violence Prevention, one of ZeroV's member programs in Northeastern Kentucky, said her center is seeing more extreme violence cases, but federal Victims of Crime Act budget cuts have forced her staff to do more with less.

"It has really put a stressor on how we continue to maintain these basic needs of survivors, if I'm going from 36 staff, on this VOCA funding, to 14," Burch explained.

The federal fund collects millions of dollars from criminal cases and funnels the money into programs for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault, but the amount of money coming into the fund has decreased over the past decade. Now, Congress is proposing further cuts, of up to 40%.

Burch pointed out centers rely on federal funding to provide direct services like crisis intervention, counseling and legal assistance to survivors.

"We've got two emergency shelters, we provide and respond to every hospital emergency room in our region," Burch outlined. "Folks who present with partner violence as well as sexual violence, because we're a dual-designated program."

Brittny O'Bryan, a domestic violence survivor and Graves County resident, said she when brought her kids to a shelter, Merryman House and ZeroV's Housing Program helped her forge a new, independent life.

"They helped me with housing, they put me in an apartment and I lived there for two years," O'Bryan recounted. "It was based off my income, so I was able to steadily pay the bills and get up on my feet."

Gov. Andy Beshear will sign a proclamation for Domestic Violence Awareness Month in Frankfort on Oct. 18. In recent years, the state has announced millions of dollars in additional grant funding to help reduce the effects of federal cuts.

Disclosure: ZeroV contributes to our fund for reporting on Domestic Violence/Sexual Assault, Gun Violence Prevention, Housing/Homelessness, and Women's Issues. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.


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