Today my friend Rachel shared a Feministing post (do you know Feministing? highly worth checking out) with me that reports how Governor Schwarzenegger eliminated 100 percent of state funding for domestic violence shelters and services in California in his budget cuts. Unreal. Incredibly disturbing.

Starting Point

Starting Point: Services for Victims of Domestic and Sexual Violence

Having spent a year serving as an AmeriCorps victim advocate at Starting Point: Services for Victims of Domestic and Sexual Violence in northern New Hampshire the year after college, I can tell you that state funding is absolutely critical for the operation of DV services throughout the country. Crisis centers—which provide a range of services that can include 24-hour crisis lines, emergency shelter, court advocacy, support groups, assistance navigating social services, community outreach and education—are underfunded as it is. I don’t even want to imagine the impact that a complete withdrawal of state funds will create in California. Especially because, in addition to working against financial strains and understaffing, crisis centers are working against the massive social silence that surrounds the issues of domestic and sexual violence. Less money means less outreach, more silence, and more people without options in the face of the very real violence—physical, mental, and emotional—they experience every day. And keep in mind that incidents of domestic violence often rise and intensify in times of economic hardship.

AmeriCorps: Getting Things Done

Seven months into my AmeriCorps service term, I spoke to the Volunteer NH! Board of Directors about my experiences as an AmeriCorps Victim Assistance Program victim advocate. I spoke about the range of work that I did, from helping people with restraining orders to talking about dating violence at the local teen health clinic; the challenges of the work; the amazing support of the program staff and the crisis center staff; and how much I was learning every single day. Most importantly, I spoke of one of the main reasons that I was doing what I was doing:

Ultimately, I’m doing this program because of the feeling you get when a client looks you in the eye and says, “Thank you,” or when a client hugs you just because you helped them with some paperwork and sat next to them during a hearing. Because it’s great to see a mother and two kids who you’ve worked with in shelter for three months move out of the shelter to move into a new home where they feel safe. Because as broken down and scared as a client might be when I first speak to them, I can see how strong they are just for the fact that they are talking to me.

If you live in California or know anyone that does, check out the action alert from Stop Family Violence. And if you don’t live in California, even just finding out where your local crisis center is, what services they offer, and how to get in touch with them is a great first step in supporting the work they do.