Iowa is failing victims of domestic abuse

Come July 1, victims of some of the most traumatic crimes will have one less familiar place to turn. So will the law enforcement officers who work to assure those who report domestic violence or sexual assault have an advocate to help them. Women who were once able to seek shelter after making a decision to escape a violent and abusive home will now have one less option.

The Domestic Violence Alternatives Assault Center, based in Marshalltown, which has served Jasper, Poweshiek, Marshall and Tama counties for the past 30 years, is closing.

The highly trained staff at DVA/SAC provides services such as one-on-one counseling, court advocacy and shelter services.

Last year, the Crime Victim Assistance Division of the Iowa Attorney General’s Office introduced a restructuring plan which requires agencies to compete for funding. DVA/SAC was not funded this year, and the services it provides will soon be taken over by an Ames agency. Iowa’s system to aid crime victims was essentially diced into six regions, and shelter services are all but being brought to a halt.

We think it’s clear the state of Iowa and its lawmakers have failed some of our most vulnerable citizens. First, by underfunding critical services for years, and secondly by introducing a regionalization model that will hurt crime victims.

Domestic violence and sexual assault are serious problems in our community. Unfortunately, it’s a real problem in every community. Last year, DVA/SAC helped 562 clients with 3,934 instances of domestic abuse and sexual assault in Marshall County.

Because of the personal nature of these crimes, victims, mostly women and children, are reluctant to come forward with a report. Without the strong, reliable and life-saving services DVA/SAC has provided for decades, we’re afraid this will become even more common.

DVA/SAC refers to the victims of domestic assault and sexual abuse as “survivors.” Just think about that.

In its regionalization effort, Iowa is complicating services for survivors of brutal crimes. They deserve better.