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February 18, 2009


[Washington, DC -- FEBRUARY, 18 2009] Today, the University of Connecticut released a groundbreaking national study of domestic violence shelters entitled Meeting Survivors' Needs: A Multi-State Study of Domestic Violence Shelter Experiences. This study captured the experiences of 3,410 shelter residents in 215 programs across 8 states, and overwhelmingly indicates that domestic violence survivors' most pressing needs are met by shelters.

Meeting Survivors' Needs reveals the positive impact of shelters on survivors' lives. Survivors reported that their shelter experience increased their access to safety (91%), their knowledge of options and choices (91%) as well as community resources (85%). Importantly, these particular changes have been associated with longer-term improved safety and well-being in experimental, longitudinal studies of domestic violence victims. Survivors who had children with them at the shelter also reported that they received help with their children's safety (98%) and that their children felt more supported (84%) as a result of staying at the shelter.

According to the lead researcher, Eleanor Lyon, "This study shows that shelters are able to address the urgent and compelling needs of those experiencing domestic violence, and to assist diverse survivors with diverse needs. Without the shelter, most say they would have stayed with an abuser, become homeless, lost everything or risked death."

Domestic violence advocates say that the study reflects their experiences serving victims.

"This study sheds light on a world that most people do not know much about," said Sue Else, President of the National Network to End Domestic Violence (NNEDV). "Victims of domestic violence flee from life-threatening danger and are met with the effective services they need to rebuild their shattered lives."

Unfortunately, many victims who take the courageous first step to seek services are unable to find help. In a single day, according the newly released National Domestic Violence Census 1,553 domestic violence programs served more than 60,000 adults and children. However, a significant number of requests--more than 8,900 across the country -- went unmet due to a lack of resources.

"Domestic violence advocates are devastated when they cannot provide the services victims need because they know how dire the consequences can be," said Else.

The economic downturn has widened the gap between the demand for and the delivery of services. State and federal budget cuts have forced domestic violence programs to reduce services, cut staff and ultimately serve fewer victims in need. In harsh economic times, more and more victims come forward for services because they themselves have fewer resources. Together, these factors create a dangerous environment in which victims in crisis cannot find safety.

As economic conditions cause the demand for services to soar, advocates across the country are urging Congress to fully fund and reauthorize the Family Violence Prevention and Services Act (FVPSA). FVPSA is the only dedicated federal funding source for domestic violence shelters and programs but it expired in September 2008. While FVPSA remains unauthorized and critically underfunded, victims' ability to flee violent homes and find safety is in jeopardy. In fiscal year 2008, FVPSA was funded at $122.6 million, which was a devastating $2.1 million cut from the previous year and a full $50 million under its authorized funding level of $175 million.

"Domestic violence programs provide essential emergency services upon which every community relies, so it is critical that we invest in these programs," said Else.