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Featured Image for Action Alert: We need your help to protect legal aid for WI survivors!

As you may know, state budget deliberations are in full swing this month as the Joint Finance Committee (JFC), the committee tasked with making changes to the Governor’s state budget proposal, debates the entirety of the budget, agency by agency. Next week, the JFC will vote on a proposal regarding funding for civil legal aid, a critical service for survivors of domestic violence. It is important that we, as a unified coalition, raise our concerns to the Joint Finance members collectively so that our position will be considered while the debate is still ongoing.

We are asking that between now and Tuesday, you help us contact members of the Joint Finance Committee and urge them to support Sen. Darling’s motion regarding civil legal aid.

This is especially important if you are a constituent of one of the JFC member’s districts. However, you do not have to be a constituent in order to contact the JFC offices.

The list of Joint Finance Committee members can be found here. You can look up your state legislators to see if they are JFC members by typing your address into the search bar of this link. But again, you do not have to be a constituent in order to contact the JFC offices. The more contacts we can make collectively between now and Tuesday to as many JFC offices as possible, the more likely this motion is to pass, expanding legal aid for victims all across the state.

Here is a possible script for phone calls/emails to the JFC offices:

“Hi my name is YOUR NAME and I am calling/writing today on behalf of victims of domestic violence in Wisconsin and asking you to support Senator Darling’s motion regarding civil legal aid during the upcoming Joint Finance hearing on Tuesday, May 23rd. Senator Darling’s motion will retain and expand legal aid funding for Wisconsinites who need it most, including victims of domestic violence. These services are critical to the ability of victims to access stable housing and legal justice, and the expansion of these funds will have a direct, positive impact for survivors and who are struggling to live free of abuse and protect themselves and their children in our state. Please vote YES on Senator Darling’s legal aid motion on Tuesday, May 23rd.”


Here is a brief description of the history of this issue:

In the budget two years ago, the JFC unanimously agreed to allocate $1 million in Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) funds for legal services to TANF-eligible survivors of domestic violence & sexual assault. TANF dollars are administered by the Department of Children & Families (DCF). The Governor’s 2017-19 budget initially included a continuation of that funding, however, the grant program created in the 2015 budget was originally set to end in July of 2017. Although the Governor’s proposed 2017-19 budget included the funding, it failed to remove the ‘sunset’ provision which ends the program, meaning that legally the funding could not be continued after July of this year. The budget errata (the Governor’s corrections to his initial proposal) suggests removing these funds, rather than removing the sunset provision and continuing the funding, which would be a significant step backwards for Wisconsin’s efforts to ensure justice for survivors.

Thanks to our joint efforts to bring attention to this issue, Senator Alberta Darling (R - River Hills) has drafted a motion that will retain and expand civil legal aid funding in the 2017-19 biennium that will be voted on during the JFC hearing next week on Tuesday, May 23rd!


Again, please contact members of the JFC and urge them to support "Senator Darling’s motion to retain and expand legal aid funding for Wisconsinites who need it most, including victims of domestic violence."

Thank you for all that you do to support Wisconsin survivors!

Featured Image for Domestic Violence Counts

Today, our national partner, the National Network to End Domestic Violence (NNEDV) released the 11th annual Domestic Violence Counts census report. The 24-hour count of services provided to adult and child victims offers a unique glimpse into the untold story of our nation’s domestic violence shelters. The Domestic Violence Counts census report also includes information focused on domestic violence services right here in Wisconsin.

Nationally, 72,959 adults and children received help and support from domestic violence programs on census day. Of this number, more than 41,000 adults and children found refuge in emergency shelters or transitional housing. However, 11,991 requests for services could not be met due to a lack of resources. Of this number, 66 percent (or 7,914 requests) were for emergency or transitional shelter.

In Wisconsin, domestic violence victim service providers served 1,716 survivors on the census day, almost 1,000 of whom were living in an emergency shelter or transitional housing program. There were 486 crisis hotline calls answered, and over 500 Wisconsinites attended community education sessions to hear about prevention and early intervention strategies.

These numbers shed light on the heroic work of domestic violence programs and advocates across Wisconsin who help survivors accomplish amazing things every single day. The census also offers a glimpse into the unmet need in our state. Over 200 requests for housing could not be fulfilled on census day in Wisconsin.

End Domestic Abuse Wisconsin is proud support efforts of the local advocates and programs who participated in the census, and we join them in working towards the day when all survivors have the support they need in their communities to be safe, to heal and to thrive. 

Featured Image for May is Mental Health Awareness Month

Because ongoing exposure to abuse and trauma can have profound and lasting influences on mental health, End Domestic Abuse Wisconsin works to equip advocates at local domestic abuse programs with tools and resources to help survivors of abuse achieve mental and emotional wellness. For example, in 2015, we organized a statewide training on mental health, bringing together innovative programs and practices to better address the mental health and substance abuse issues that sometimes occur as the result of victimization. More recently, we collected a number of related resources and distributed them in an edition of Coalition Chronicles, an online publication for Wisconsin domestic abuse survivor advocates. That issue included interviews with practitioners who are engaged in promising work, a compilation of mental health resources, and articles on addiction and recovery.

Mental Health Awareness Month is an opportunity to reflect on the fact that mental health is key to everyone’s wellness and to remove the social stigma that has accompanied mental illness. Like the shame many survivors of domestic violence experience, stigma directed at people with mental illness is a harmful barrier to safety and wellness. End Domestic Abuse Wisconsin and advocates across the state are working to create responses to domestic abuse survivors that are inclusive, welcoming, destigmatizing and non-traumatizing, and that promote survivors’ emotional health and physical safety.

Featured Image for Request for Proposals: Domestic Violence Prevention Initiative Grants Available

REQUEST FOR PROPOSALS

Statewide Domestic Violence Prevention Initiative Sub-Grant

We are happy to share some exciting news for gender violence prevention in Wisconsin! The Statewide Domestic Violence Prevention Initiative Sub-Grant is a new opportunity being managed by End Abuse via the Wisconsin Department of Children and Families (DCF). This Request for Proposal (RFP) is seeking primary prevention of gender violence projects.

Information and updates about the grant application process will be posted at: http://www.endabusewi.org/2017GrantsInfo/.

Featured Image for New Resource: Domestic Abuse Guidebook for WI Guardians Ad Litem

End Domestic Abuse Wisconsin and the Wisconsin Governor's Council on Domestic Abuse have released the Domestic Abuse Guidebook for Wisconsin Guardians ad Litem: Addressing Custody, Placement, and Safety Issues. The Guidebook is a comprehensive, step-by-step manual for approaching the consequential issue of domestic abuse in child custody and placement actions. In Wisconsin, guardians ad litem (GALs) are attorneys who are charged with representing the best interest of children when child custody and placement is disputed. Therefore, when domestic abuse has occurred, GALs have a critical role to play in protecting the safety and well-being of domestic violence victims and their children.

The Guidebook offers easy access to important legal definitions and concepts, tools for understanding how domestic abuse affects children and practical guidance to make informed recommendations to the court. The Guidebook walks GALs through a four-step process when approaching a case, giving the GAL the knowledge to:

  • Identify whether or not domestic abuse has occurred;
  • Define the nature and context of domestic abuse;
  • Evaluate the implications of domestic abuse in the family; and
  • Make informed recommendations that account for domestic abuse.

At every step in the analysis, the Guidebook relates the applicable concepts to the Wisconsin State statutes, making it easier for GALs to harmonize appropriate concern for the safety of victims and children with the relevant legal standards. 

End Domestic Abuse Wisconsin encourages all GALs in the State of Wisconsin to read the Guidebook and use it in their practice. Reflecting the gravity of GALs' roles, the Guidebook concludes with this thank you note from a domestic violence survivor who was nearly killed by her abusive ex-husband: 

When I went through my divorce, I tried to get the guardian ad litem and judge to understand my ex-husband’s controlling and jealous behavior, his history of violence, and the continuing harm he was causing my family. I remember the guardian ad litem only interviewing my ex-husband once and the guardian ad litem coming away from that meeting convinced the man who would later try to kill me was a great person and deserved more time with his children. There was plenty of information available that would have allowed the guardian ad litem to identify the seriousness of the domestic abuse that was committed against me. There were many warning signs that could have been used to predict what could happen to me and my children. But, that information was not investigated and taken seriously. As a result, my ex-husband was given the opportunity to continue the abuse and ultimately attempt to kill me. If I hadn’t been ordered to have ongoing contact with him during exchange of our kids, I could have stayed away.

The work that you are doing as a guardian ad litem can help ensure that other victims of domestic abuse and their children are not put in the same position as my family. When you gather complete information, when you recognize controlling behavior and risks of lethality, when you make custody and placement recommendations that prioritize the safety of children and victims, you will be preventing continued abuse, and you will be giving children the best chance to be resilient and move past the abuse they experienced in their families. Thank you for taking on this life-changing and potentially life-saving work. Know that you can make all the difference for the children and families you encounter as a guardian ad litem. 

Featured Image for Consider Presenting at Our Statewide Conference in Green Bay, November 15-17!

End Domestic Abuse Wisconsin invites you to share your ideas, skills, experience and passion at its statewide conference, Collective Liberation: Movement Building for the Years Ahead. Our audience includes advocates and activists for survivors of domestic and sexual abuse and their communities, and stakeholders who work to end and prevent violence.

With a goal of radical movement building, this conference will feature more than 40 diverse workshops, two dynamic keynote speakers, and other related special events. It is our goal to embrace a radical message of unity with a racial justice framework, while maintaining intentional inclusion and radical healing at its core.

We seek a wide variety of presenters who can share knowledge and skills related to addressing root causes of domestic violence. We welcome presenters with lived experience or professional experience, who wish to share in traditional and non-traditional presentation formats, including workshops, seminars, panel or facilitated discussions and interactive activities. It is our main goal to bring historically marginalized voices to the forefront of discussion. Opportunities are available for 60-minute workshops in morning and afternoon sessions. 

Click here to learn more!

Featured Image for ACT NOW: Urge Congress to Vote No on the American Health Care Act
The American Health Care Act (AHCA) is bad for victims! Now is the time to make your voice heard!
 
This evening, the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives plan to vote on a bill (the ACHA) that would repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Loss of the ACA would threaten the healthcare of millions of people across our country, but victims of domestic violence would face particular harm. Please make sure your Congressional Representatives know that this is simply inexcusable.  
 
Call on your Representatives today and ask them to prioritize the health of victims across the country and vote NO to the AHCA.
 
The AHCA would make health insurance more expensive, and by putting coverage decisions in the hands of the insurance companies, far fewer services for victims will be covered. Coverage for many low-income survivors of domestic violence will be eliminated, and healthcare plans will no longer have to pay for screening or counseling related to domestic violence. Additionally, under the AHCA victims would no longer be able to access health care without their abuser's knowledge as they could under the ACA. Please contact your Representatives to urge them to oppose the repeal of the ACA and the enactment of the ACHA.

Please click to email and ask your Members of Congress to vote NO to the ACHA (American Health Care Act) or call their office directly and leave a message.
 
If you can make the time, telephone calls are a vital help on this important issue. You can look up your Congress members' names at the link below, and reach their office at the switchboard number. 
  • House: http://www.house.gov/representatives/find/
  • Capitol switchboard: 202-224-3121.  Ask for the staffer who handles Health Care issues, and say that you oppose repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act.

Sample telephone script: Hello, my name is [your name], and I am calling from [your city and/or organization].  I am calling to tell [your Representative's name] that Congress needs to halt the repeal of the Affordable Care Act in order to maintain victims and survivors of gender-based violence access to essential, life-saving services. The ACA has helped millions of women purchase health insurance, allowing them to get the services they need. Should the law be repealed, survivors could lose their autonomy and be penalized for wanting to access the same benefits at the same cost as their peers. 

Featured Image for End Abuse Attorney Authors Immigration Article

End Abuse Immigration and Poverty Attorney Megan Sprecher is encouraging law enforcement executives across the country to build better relationships with immigrant crime victims. Megan co-authored an article in the March issue of The Police Chief, which is the magazine of the International Association of the Chiefs of Police. The article describes successful partnerships between police departments, victim advocates and legal service providers to help undocumented victims access help from the police. Many undocumented victims are often too fearful of immigration enforcement to report crimes committed against them. U Visas and other forms of immigration relief can help ease some of these concerns and make it more likely that victims, their children and the community are protected. Megan’s article ends with this story about an undocumented woman who survived a gunshot to the back of her head:

The perpetrator was apprehended and charged….[W]ithout the women’s cooperation in the investigation and prosecution of the crime, the community would be less safe. The U Visa was a tool that helped the young woman gather the courage necessary to cooperate. She still is recovering from her traumatic brain injury, but she is happy to be able to watch her young son, who wants to serve in law enforcement, grow up.

Against waves of anti-immigration policies and rhetoric, End Abuse continues to advocate for sensible immigration policies that guarantee immigrant victims the ability to seek help and safety for themselves and their children.
Featured Image for End Domestic Abuse Wisconsin Statement on Immigration Executive Order

Madison—Patti Seger, executive director of End Domestic Abuse Wisconsin, issued the following statement on today's immigration executive orders:

On so-called sanctuary cities:

"Today's orders attempt to undermine effective local law enforcement strategies that serve to build trust and safety within communities all across the country. Local officers know that fostering trust with immigrant crime victims is the key to identifying and apprehending violent abusers. We oppose any attack on these commonsense strategies because when immigrant victims live in the shadow of fear, perpetrators of abuse are not reported and remain at large. As a result, victims and children suffer, and we are all less safe."

On the reported plans to stop or curtail refugee resettlement:

"Violence against women is extremely common in war-torn regions and areas of humanitarian crisis. Not only is religious discrimination fundamentally at odds with the core principles of this country; the proposal will also likely have the effect of denying refuge to victims of gender-based violence -- which is a further abandonment of our nation's long-standing commitments."

General comments:

"Like most Americans, I believe that the greatness of our country is not measured in the strength of walls, but through commitment to our values and concern for the vulnerable."

"We stand firmly opposed to these orders, which will only sow division, fear and insecurity in our communities."

"It will take time to understand the full consequences of these orders on immigrant victims of domestic violence. For instance, the priorities for removal are not focused onviolent convicted criminals. They are overly broad and will very likelyprevent many victimsfrom accessing protections and lead to the breaking apart of victims' families." 

Featured Image for Action Alert: Protect VAWA and LSC Funding
CONTACT YOUR ELECTED OFFICIALS AND TELL THEM TO SUPPORT VAWA AND LSC FUNDING!

Today, The Hill reported that the Trump team is considering cutting federal spending, including gutting all funding for the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) and the Legal Services Corporation (LSC). VAWA was passed in 1994 with bipartisan support to improve the law enforcement response to violence against women and create specialized victim services. VAWA has been incredibly effective in saving lives and money. LSC is the single largest funder of civil legal aid for low-income Americans in the nation.

 

Call or email Attorney General Brad SchimelGovernor Scott Walker and Speaker Paul Ryan today to thank them for their past support of our work to combat domestic violence and tell them that we are counting on them to publicly oppose any cuts to VAWA or LSC!

Tell them that:

  •     VAWA has saved the lives of countless women, children and men in this country.
  •     In its first six years alone, VAWA saved taxpayers at least $14.8 billion.
  •     The LSC supports legal representation to thousands of low-income survivors in Wisconsin alone.
  •     You are counting on them to publicly oppose any cuts to VAWA or LSC!

There are victims of domestic violence in every community, every workplace, and every church. Urge Paul Ryan, Brad Schimel and Scott Walker to stand in solidarity with survivors of domestic abuse and support the continued operation of programs funded by the Violence Against Women Act and Legal Services Corporation. You can find the contact information for Attorney General Schimel, Governor Walker and Speaker Ryan here:

Attorney General Brad Schimel - (608) 266-1221, schimelbd@doj.state.wi.us

Governor Scott Walker - (608) 266-1212, govgeneral@wisconsin.gov

Speaker Paul Ryan - (608) 752-4050, https://paulryan.house.gov/contact/email.htm


VAWA and LSC have made significant progress helping victims achieve justice and safety, but there is still much work to be done. Our nation’s improvements to the community-based response to these degrading and life-threatening crimes are made possible by federal funding, and it is imperative that this funding continues.

We refuse to allow this progress to be threatened. We urge you to act now to protect VAWA and LSC funding from these and any other proposed cuts.

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We envision communities fully engaged to provide safety and to give a voice to all affected by domestic abuse, while creating the social change necessary to address its root causes. We honor the wisdom and strength of domestic abuse survivors across the lifespan. Our mission is achievable through survivor-centered work that includes strategic partnerships and collaboration. As advocates for social justice, we embrace the voices of diverse communities.