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Funding For Domestic Violence Will Double Over Next Two Years
Updated March 5, 2015 10:48 AM | Filed under: Politics
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(INDIANAPOLIS) - Funding for domestic violence treatment and shelters would double over the next two years and rape crisis centers would get new money as well under legislation approved by a House committee.

The Family, Children and Human Affairs Committee passed House Bill 1007 unanimously and sent it to the budget-writing Ways and Means Committee for further review.

The bill would mean $5 million in Fiscal Year 2016 and another $5 million in 2017 for domestic violence programs. The current budget allocates $2.5 million each year, which was an increase from the previous budget.

Laura Berry, executive director of the Indiana Coalition Against Domestic Violence, told the committee Wednesday that the funding is important because more shelters are turning away victims because the resources aren't always available.

"We served 1,500 victims of domestic violence in a 24 hour period of time," Berry said. "The most disturbing part was that we turned away 150 of those victims because we didn't have bed space for them."

An amendment approved Wednesday adds $1 million annually to help fund rape crisis centers.

Rep. Woody Burton, R-Whiteland, shared his personal experience with domestic violence - and an event that made national headlines during his childhood - with the committee.

"My mom was 5' 1'' weighed about 100 pounds and my dad was 6' 8'' and weighed 240 pounds, and he used to knock her unconscious," Burton said. "He would also beat my brother and sister."

After his mother took out a restraining order against her husband, Burton said she took him and his brother and sister to his grandmother's home. He recalled that his mother had been awakened later that same night by her husband who was holding a gun to her head.

Burton said that although he was only 4 years old when his father went to prison on domestic violence charges, it still affected him throughout his childhood.

"I lived with that fear all my young life of this man because he was intimidating and he spent his whole life coming around harassing my mom, my stepdad, and myself, and my brother and sister," Burton said.

Burton said the only way he was able to overcome the memories of his father was to not be ashamed that it happened.

"There are so many people out there who are afraid and don't know what to do. They blame themselves for those horrible atrocities that happened to them," he said. "We've got to find ways to get people to talk about this."

Majority House Republicans have made domestic violence programs a priority for this session. Nearly 60 domestic violence shelters in Indiana receive state funding.

Berry told the committee that many of those shelters need not only more bed space but also more staff.

"We're operating 30-bed shelters with six full-time people that operate 24/7 and we're paying such low wages that most of them are eligible for public benefits," Berry said.

The bill passed the committee 10-0.

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