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Government shutdown could put some domestic violence survivors at greater risk

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SEATTLE -- In Washington State, there is growing concern about the shutdown from domestic violence survivors and the groups that support them. Many organizations receive federal funding for the programs that survivors rely on to rebuild their lives.

“No one should have to choose between becoming homeless and returning to an abusive partner,” said Kelly Starr, Director of Public Affairs for the Washington State Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

It’s a tough position to be in, but that’s exactly what some survivors of domestic violence will face if the government shutdown drags on. Many survivors rely on federal programs like SNAP and housing choice vouchers to take care of themselves and their children.

“Do I stay with or return to an abusive partner in order to make ends meet and not become homeless and provide food for my kids? Or do I risk all of those things and not be with an abusive partner?" Starr said.

Starr says many domestic violence programs receive federal funding and those resources are already stretched. She says tribal domestic violence programs are almost exclusively funded by federal grants. Without the federal money, people’s lives could be at greater risk.

“For survivors, access to housing, access to food, access to money and resources are critical for their safety and stability,” Starr said.

In 2016, the National Census of Domestic Violence Services reported that in one day, over 700 requests for domestic violence services were turned down in Washington State due to a lack of funding. Eighty-seven percent of those requests were for housing.

“At the same time as people will be needing more services, the funding for those services will be in jeopardy. So it’s really a question of community safety for all of us," Starr said.

Starr says their main focus is always on helping domestic violence survivors get their lives back on track. But with the government shutdown still looming, she  says advocates are uncertain just how long some survivors can hold on to their independence and safety.

If you’d like more information about domestic violence services, you can go to hotline.org or call 800-799-SAFE (7233).

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