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Victims’ program faces critical budget cuts

Victims’ program faces critical budget cuts
The shrill of the ringing phone slices through the silence of the early morning hours of April Hall’s home. Groggily, she turns to see the bright red numbers of the clock beside her bed letting her know that it is 3 a.m. Before she answers, Hall has a feeling in her gut the person on the other end of the line is in dire need. The woman on the phone gathers enough strength to plead for help in a whispered tone to Hall. A child’s soft cry can be heard over the phone. Hall’s mind races as she processes the events that led to the victimization of yet another local family plagued with domestic abuse. Late night phone calls, or crisis calls, are all too frequent for the program director of the Outback Victim’s Assistance Program. The epidemic known as domestic abuse has catapulted in numbers of cases since the program’s inception in 1994. In July 2008 alone, Hall reported 300 victims in the Outback’s caseload since June of 2007. “The number of cases have almost doubled in one year,” Hall said. It is a common occurrence in Weakley County alone, to scan the Weakley County Sheriff’s reports or General Sessions court report and find at least two to three reports of domestic violence a week. Without a feasible way to alleviate domestic violence, money was invested into a regional program that focused on the victims of such abuse. Slashes in federal and state funding, however, are trickling down impacting manpower for the local program. “My case manager, Judy Minga, had to leave her spot. We only had enough funding for her to work until December. We were cut in funding by $22,000,” Hall explained. The Outback director said they received news of a budget cut in July of this year. Minga’s salary was only a portion of the budget cut felt by the Outback program. Hall reported it had become more difficult to find money in the budget to support victims in need. “It has been so hard. There was a victim recently who needed to get out of the house immediately. She needed to be moved, but there was no money to give her for a new place. I took my personal money and used it take that victim to a safer place,” Hall said. The reality of the slash in funds will rear its head once again in January of next year when Hall said she would be the only person working for the Outback if they are unable to raise enough money to hire additional staff members. “We were told if we could raise $10,000 by December, we would be able to hire someone part-time,” Hall added. Thus far, the Outback has seen almost $7,500 in private donations and with the help of an area church. As a fundraiser, Hall has been selling t-shirts to help offset the rest of the money needed to put back into the victims advocacy program. Finding a safe haven for victims is only a fraction of what the Outback provides. The program offers support group meetings, safety planning, legal referrals and an on-call emergency line 24 hours a day, seven days a week. For victims who are misplaced from their homes or who choose to leave on their own, the Outback offers a food bank, clothes, household items and furniture for victims looking to rebuild their lives after abuse. Statistics show the number of domestic cases is on the rise. Since 1993, there has been an increase in cases nationwide from four million to almost 10 million. It is reported that 50 to 70 percent of men who abuse women also abuse children. On average, more than three women are murdered by a spouse or boyfriend every day in this country. Property damage, medical costs and prosecution of domestic abuse cases are estimated to cost at least $67 billion a year. The top two reasons women do not try to escape an abusive partner are because of fear or children. “I can always find another job. What bothers me is that there will always be somebody out there who needs me and needs my help. If this program shuts down, where are these victims going to go? Who is going to help them?” Hall commented. In the hope of not having to close the doors to victims of abuse, fundraisers are being coordinated for the Outback program. Hall announced Laura Carson, a local singer with ties to popular musicians, will perform at the BDX Café in Union City on Dec. 5. T-shirts can also be purchased to help the program. Hall added they are always in need of non-perishable food items and donations of furniture, clothing or household items. Call the Outback Victim’s Assistance Program at 364-3228 to help or for more information. The Outback serves Henry, Weakley and Carroll counties in Northwest Tennessee.

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