Indiana may slash funds for domestic violence victims

September 18, 2014

Advocates for domestic violence victims and the administration of Gov. Mike Pence clashed Wednesday over whether it's seeking to slash funding for services when demand is surging after a video showed suspended NFL player Ray Rice hitting his future wife.

Laura Berry, executive director of the Indiana Coalition Against Domestic Violence told The Indianapolis Star the trustees of the Indiana Criminal Justice Institute are due to vote Friday on cutting $1.25 million from the $3.5 million the state has appropriated for domestic violence programs.

A Criminal Justice Institute spokesman and Kara Brooks, a spokeswoman for Pence, disputed Berry's claims.

"It's total fabrication that Gov. Pence is proposing or considering cuts to the domestic violence fund," Brooks said.

Indiana Criminal Justice Institute spokesman Gary Abell said its victim services subcommittee has proposed maintaining last year's more than $2 million in funding and adding nearly $827,000 more once agencies provide details on how they would spend the additional funds.

However, the Star reported Berry provided it with an email from the Criminal Justice Institute saying that of $3.5 million allocated for domestic violence prevention, the governor's office was seeking $160,395 returned to the state's coffers.

Berry said any money that's been appropriated by the Legislature but goes unspent could be used to address the problem of domestic violence.

"We're playing with lives," she said, "because we're having to say, 'Are you at risk of being killed tonight? If not, call us back tomorrow.'"

The Rice video first released by TMZ on Sept. 8 has prompted more women to seek help from agencies serving domestic violence victims, Berry said. Middle Way House in Bloomington has seen a 77 percent increase in demand, she said.

Funding for the Julian Center, an Indianapolis domestic violence shelter and service provider, would fall from a recommended $125,000 to about $30,000 under the state's current spending proposal, said Betsy Whaley, vice president of programs and community collaboration. The lost funds would pay for the center's 24-hour crisis hotline and other services, she said.

Whaley said calls to the hotline have increased since the video became public, triggering a national debate about domestic violence.

The NFL has indefinitely suspended Rice.


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