The government shutdown may have very real consequences for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault in New Orleans.
With all of the focus on the shutdown, the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) was allowed to expire, putting programs for sexual assault and domestic violence victims in jeopardy. In New Orleans, many victims’ services programs rely on grants provided through the VAWA.
In a press release on Saturday, Councilmember-At-Large Helena Moreno urged the public to contact their Congress members to push for an immediate resolution, saying,
“If this issue isn’t resolved soon, I predict there will be a devastating impact to victims in New Orleans and all around our state. These programs provide life-saving services. Throughout my legislative career, on the state and local level, I’ve worked to help and protect victims of sexual assault and domestic violence. This is gut-wrenching to those of us who understand how critical these services are. I’ve been in frequent contact with Congressman Cedric Richmond, and I appreciate his tenacious leadership to find a solution.”
U.S. Representative Cedric Richmond also issued a statement, saying,
“This is an unfortunate example of how crucial programs and extraordinary providers that offer essential services get hurt in an unnecessary and immature shutdown. This is all over a wall that the President said Mexico was going to pay for. VAWA needs a long-term reauthorization and the Republican-controlled House, Senate, and White House need to reopen government immediately.”
According to Mary Claire Landry, Executive Director of the New Orleans Family Justice Center,
“the President is putting all services to domestic violence and sexual assault victims at risk of closing across the country. Once again he is showing his lack of support to women and vulnerable victims by letting the VAWA expire without reauthorization. This is shameful for our country.”
Rachel Hebert, President and CEO of Sexual Trauma Awareness and Response (STAR) says that their program receives 55% of their funding through VAWA grants. Without those, STAR may not be able to continue providing their free counseling, advocacy, and legal services.
Currently, Louisiana has one of the worst rates of domestic violence in the country and ranks second-highest for the number of women murdered by men.