Georgia could eliminate all funding to fight domestic violence

If there weren’t enough reasons for me to loathe the policies of our governor Nathan Deal, here’s one more. In his proposed budget, Georgia Governor Nathan Deal is planning to cut all state funding for domestic violence shelters.

Officials with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services have raised questions about the proposal from Gov. Nathan Deal to use some $4.4 million in federal welfare money — Temporary Assistance for Needy Families or TANF — to fund domestic violence shelters, according to memos and e-mails obtained by The Associated Press through an open records request.

The TANF funds, according to critics, “would not provide assistance for a number of victims and does not cover many of the shelters’ operating costs,” according to an article in WABE. 

This is nothing short of alarming as there were 130 people in Georgia last year who lost their lives due to domestic violence, according to the Georgia Commission on Family Violence’s Domestic Violence Fatality Review Annual Report. That’s an increase from 123 people in 2009. While that may not seem like a big jump to many people, that’s still seven people too many…

Other findings:

  • between 2003 and 2010, at least 962 Georgians lost their lives due to domestic violence
  • in 43% of the cases studied through the report, children were present during the domestic violence killing;
  • firearms were the cause of death in 76% of domestic violence cases in 2009 and 2010;
  • in 2010, there were 71,212 crisis calls placed to Georgia certified domestic violence agencies;
  • in 2009, law enforcement agencies responded to 62,156 domestic violence calls; 
  • there were 23,013 protective orders issued in 2010 throughout the state;
  • in 2010, there were 7,544 victims and children who were provided refuge in a domestic violence shelter;
  • in 2010, there were 2,636 victims turned away from domestic violence shelter due to the lack of space;

Georgia currently ranks 10th in the nation for the number of women murdered by men in single victim/single offender homicide in 2008, according to a study by the Violence Policy Center. There were 82 female homicide victims in Georgia that same year and the homicide rate per 100,000 people was 1.66. The study further breaks down the Peach State’s stats:

  • Age: For homicides in which the age of the victim was reported (79 homicides), 8 female homicide victims (10 percent) were less than 18 years old and 3 victims (4 percent) were 65 years of age or older.  The average age was 33 years old.
  • Race: Out of 82 female homicide victims, 1 was Asian or Pacific Islander, 53 were black, and 28 were white. 
  • Victim-offender relationship: For homicides in which the victim to offender relationship could be identified, 95 percent of female victims (72 out of 76) were murdered by someone they knew.  Four female victims were killed by strangers.  Of the victims who knew their offenders, 63 percent (45 victims) were wives, common-law wives, ex-wives, or girlfriends of the offenders.  Among the female intimates who were murdered, 56 percent (25 victims) were killed with guns; 84 percent of these (21 victims) were shot and killed with handguns. 
  • Most common weapons used: For homicides in which the weapon used could be identified, 59 percent of female victims (40 out of 68) were shot and killed with guns.  Of these, 83 percent (33 victims) were killed with handguns.  There were 14 females killed with knives or other cutting instruments, 5 females killed by a blunt object, and 1 female killed by bodily force.
  • Circumstance: For homicides in which the circumstances could be identified, 89 percent (70 out of 79) were not related to the commission of any other felony.  Of these, 47 percent (33 homicides) involved arguments between the victim and the offender.
I’d hate to imply anything here, but it appears Nathan Deal could care less about the plight of domestic violence victims? Along with balancing the budget on the backs of poor college bound students who depend on the HOPE scholarship to attend post-secondary institutions, it’s clear our esteemed governor has no shame in letting the state–and the nation–how he feels about the importance of funding domestic violence shelters. 

Georgia residents should not sit idly by and watch our legislators cut funding for these all-too-important shelters. Frequently these shelters are the last place victims and children can turn to as they have been isolated from their families and friends by their perpetrators. 

I hope advocates for victims of domestic violence will stand up to the budgetary tyranny Gov. Deal is about to wield upon shelter operations. I also hope Gov. Deal would come to his senses and understand that cuts to these services will hurt victims and children of all stripes.