Domestic violence prevention needs support in wake of pandemic isolation

Small and large forms of support for survivors of domestic violence, such as help with a car repair or rent, go far beyond helping one person today. Since exposure to violence at an early age increases the chances of involvement in domestic violence later in life, helping domestic violence survivors and their children is also a way to prevent future domestic violence and change the trajectory for generations to come.

Unfortunately, the pandemic has pushed us in the wrong direction. University of California San Diego researchers found that 15 percent of Californians reported more partner violence against women and 11 percent reported an escalation in family violence against children during lockdowns. Increased family violence leads to future violence that, left unchecked, will ripple through generations. At the same time, federal Victims of Crime Act funds are declining, and it is these federal funds that support many state domestic violence organizations in meeting the needs of survivors and their families. This gap in funding needs to be filled to help survivors now while also supporting innovative prevention efforts that are crucial to a safe and healthy future.

In a recent survey, Californians told us they support a range of assistance for those who have experienced domestic violence, including help with child care, food, housing, and transportation. Breaking the cycle of domestic violence requires strategies that address poverty and homelessness, which are also root causes of domestic violence.

Private and public funds are needed to encourage forward-thinking prevention measures. Domestic Violence Housing First is one example. It helps survivors and their children get stable housing by providing flexible funding to meet individual needs. California was the first state to dedicate federal Victims of Crime Act funds to the housing-first approach and can capitalize on new federal funding to prevent homelessness.

The housing-first model not only helps people find a safe place to go, it also helps them keep their jobs and allows them to ward off financial instability, which is both a result of domestic violence and a factor that lets it to continue. A staggering 57 percent of women experiencing homelessness report domestic violence as the immediate cause of their homelessness.

Healing Together, a campaign by the Alliance for Boys and Men of Color, is taking another approach to preventing domestic violence. It works to build safe and accountable communities by focusing on healing, gender justice, and racial equity instead of punishment to address the root causes of harm and end intimate partner violence. Californians agree with this approach. In our survey, residents expressed strong support for alternatives to jail for those who cause domestic violence.

For the past 18 years, Blue Shield of California Foundation has been the state’s largest private funder of efforts like these to end domestic violence. We have invested over $130 million in the field, and many other non-profits are investing in tested and innovative solutions.

But that is not enough. Continuous and reliable private and public funding is essential to address the issues entrenched in society that allow domestic violence to continue.

A future without domestic violence can be a reality if we take a two-pronged approach. Intervene at every opportunity to protect and heal survivors, children, and those who do harm, and work to repair the root causes in our society that enable domestic violence. Together, we can finally break the multigenerational cycles for families coping with this intransigent issue.

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