Illinois survivor advocacy groups call for more funding for services

The Illinois Coalition Against Domestic Violence and other survivor advocacy groups spoke with...
The Illinois Coalition Against Domestic Violence and other survivor advocacy groups spoke with state lawmakers Friday.(Mike Miletich)
Published: Feb. 4, 2022 at 6:07 PM CST
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SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (WGEM) - An Illinois House task force has met with community organizations and law enforcement over the last few weeks to discuss new ways to prevent violence and increase public safety. Friday, that group heard suggestions from survivor advocacy groups across the state.

A frequent Republican talking point during discussions about the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus criminal justice law, known as the SAFE-T Act, was that voices of survivors weren’t considered. However, advocates say that’s not the case, and they’re happy with the protections included in that law.

The Illinois Coalition Against Sexual Assault says there’s always a lot of work to do, but the organization is glad Illinois is a leader in responding to sexual violence. ICASA Executive Director Carrie Ward says her organization continues to work with lawmakers to make protection laws stronger.

She stressed it’s important that laws are more than just words and that they are used and enforced properly.

“Survivors are hesitant to come forward if they don’t have faith that their safety and their rights will be protected and honored,” Ward said. “So, we have to work to ensure that these laws are fully implemented and that there’s excellent and ongoing training for those who are carrying them out.”

Ward also said rape crisis centers need additional funding for prevention efforts. She noted that ICASA has received the same flat amount of funding dedicated to prevention for 25 years. ICASA and older advocacy groups argue lawmakers need to push for more funding in the Fiscal Year 2023 budget to address this type of violence as well.

The Network: Advocating Against Domestic Violence operates the Illinois domestic violence hotline. They are the option available to direct people to the right resources. The Network works alongside partners like the Illinois Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

Executive Director Amanda Pyron explained domestic violence shootings in Chicago reached an all-time high last year. She says that hotline employees worked 2,485 hours of overtime to answer the highest call volume in history.

Pryon argues providers need more resources as domestic violence shootings are already outpacing the rate of 2021.

“The crisis response, counseling, emergency financial assistance and shelter provided by domestic violence agencies is the safety net survivors expect to catch them. Illinois must ensure the safety net is strong,” Pyron said.

The Network received just over $20 million in the Fiscal Year 2022 budget. Although, Pyron explained her organization asked for an additional $50 million from the state last year to address unmet needs and worker overtime. The Network only received an additional $400,000.

Pyron said the organization also has an emergency response fund for survivors of domestic violence. However, that money comes from private fundraising since there isn’t enough money coming from the state. She argues there is not enough state funding right now to continue their quality of work without proper state investments.

The Illinois Coalition Against Domestic Violence has five regions to help people across the state. Policy Director Christine Raffaele said there are five members who serve more than 35 counties in the southern region. Raffaele said ICADV is at risk of losing those workers and their ability to provide services due to a lack of funding during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I think we need to think that domestic violence prevention programs are violence prevention programs,” Raffaele said. “We have to stop thinking the two are separate. Domestic violence programs have been operating at the same funding levels since 2009 and cannot continue to operate at those levels without losing services, staff and serving fewer people.”

Raffaele also emphasized that domestic violence prevention staff were left out of the essential worker wage increase even though the state considered them essential workers throughout the pandemic. She says violence is going up, but funding has remained stagnant. Each of the advocates stressed Illinois leaders must do better and provide the necessary funding.

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