Local News

Evaporating Federal Money May Burn Domestic Violence Programs

Posted September 19, 2000

— The federal government vowed to help female victims of violent crimes six years ago. Lawmakers funded programs in many states, including North Carolina. But soon, the money will dry up, cutting off help to people who need it most.

The Violence Against Women Act has funneled more than $17 million in federal money into North Carolina, but the Act expires in 10 days. If Congress does not vote to re-activate it, many people fear that victims will pay the price.

Four years ago, Magdalena Hernandez was a victim of domestic violence. Today, she is on the other side of the table, helping victims take control of their lives.

"I want to help everybody that is a victim of domestic violence. I want to do something," Hernandez says. "Because I know it's not the way people should live -- I know that."

More women may continue to live that way if federal money is cut off to victim support groups across the state.

"This could mean $100,000 to our agency over five years," says Kari Christensen, the director of Harbor House. "We would not have that accessible to apply for."

Smithfield Police Lt. R.J. Cuddington was one of more than 200 Johnston County people trained in helping domestic violence victims. If the federal money evaporates, so will community training.

"Education is the key to understanding, and we have to understand how the victim is feeling at the time," he says.

The money also pays for court advocates who work closely with prosecutors and victims.

"Going through the court system is very scary, especially when they don't know anything about it, and they need someone to help guide them through it," says court advocate Tammy Byrd.

If the money dries up, Hernandez worries that there will be fewer success stories like hers.

"My life is different," she says. "I'm really happy. My children are happy."

Another program destined to be cut if the money disappears is free statewide training for nurses who work with rape victims in the hospital.

The bill is currently stalled in the House Commerce Committee.

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