Infographic: Domestic Violence Unmet Requests
This week’s Infographic Wednesday post is on the subject of unmet requests for domestic violence services, as per the National Network to End Domestic Violence’s (NNEDV) Domestic Violence (DV) Counts Census infographic and its corresponding report Domestic Violence 2013: A 24-Hour Census of Domestic Violence Shelters and Services, which are both supported by the Avon Foundation.
On September 17, 2013, the NNEDV performed for its “eighth consecutive year,” its “National Census of Domestic Violence Services (Census), a one-day, unduplicated snapshot of the number of individuals who accessed domestic violence services, the types of services they requested, and the stories and experiences of survivors and advocates.” The snapshot took into account 1,649 of the 1,905 “domestic violence programs and shelters identifiable” across the United States (including its territories) and found that on this date, 66,581 adults and children accessed “services from domestic violence programs.”
The NNEDV noted that on the Census Day:
- 98% of local programs offered “Individual Support or Advocacy” services.
- 84% of local programs offered “Children’s Support or Advocacy” services.
- 77% of local programs offered emergency shelter services.
- 58% of local programs offered “Court Advocacy/Legal Accompaniment” services.
- 58% of local programs offered transportation services (i.e. many victims fleeing domestic violence lack transportation, especially those residing in rural areas).
- 53% of local programs offered “Group Support or Advocacy” services.
While many survivors were able to get the assistance they required, 9,641 service requests regretfully went unmet (which were largely requests for shelter) “due to a lack of resources.”
NNEDV noted that:
- “42% of unmet requests were for emergency shelter.”
- “18% of unmet requests were for transitional housing.”
- “40% of unmet requests were for non-residential services.”
Typically, when survivors flee an abusive situation, finding safe refuge is the most immediate concern, and it continues to remain important as service users shift from first needing emergency shelters to requiring transitional housing, which the NNEDV explains as: “[T]emporary accommodation designed as a stepping stone between crisis and long-term safety and self-sufficiency.”
Unfortunately, since there exists a severe shortage of affordable housing, achieving long-term independent housing “can take 6 to 10 months or more,” meaning that in the absence of transitional housing and other supports (i.e. being able to stay with friends, family members, etc.), many survivors, especially those from “isolated or marginalized communities,” are left with two extreme and undesirable options: (1) Return to the abusive situation, risking further violence; or (2) Become homeless. In fact, the NNEDV’s Census report noted that “When asked what most often happens to survivors when programs are not able to meet their requests for services, 60% of local programs report that victims return to the abuser, and 27% said that they become homeless.” Additionally, 11% noted that “victims end up living in their car.”
Clearly there is a link between domestic violence and homelessness, so, why were there nearly 10,000 unmet domestic violence services requests? According to the participants in the Census:
- 27% believed unmet requests were due to “Reduced government funding.”
- 20% noted organizations being understaffed as a cause, given that “1,696 staff positions were eliminated in the past year,” of which most were “direct service providers, such as shelter staff or legal advocates.”
- 12% identified a decrease in private funding.
- 10% referenced declining individual donations, which covered costs such as hotel/motel stays when local shelters have reach capacity – due to funding cuts, “149 programs had to eliminate these services.”
Due to the reasons just stated, many programs have been left with no option but to reduce services, while some have even had to permanently close down. Even more troubling, perhaps, is that along with this decline is an increase in the demand for domestic violence supports in general. Essentially, if we are to combat the issue of unmet domestic violence service requests, a multifaceted approach involving “funders, policy makers, victim advocates, social service providers, law enforcement, courts, and communities” is needed – “don’t let the conversation end here”!
Alicia is an undergraduate student in Political Science and Psychology at York University. She is currently working with the Homeless Hub on a lived experience book and a research ethics guide for conducting research with Aboriginal participants who are experiencing homelessness. Her main research interests are Aboriginal homelessness and youth homelessness in Canada.
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