We strongly commend HHS’s work to address the reality that LGBT survivors of violence, including domestic violence, face many obstacles when seeking help from first responders. HHS’ recommendations will go a long way to ensuring that LGBT survivors will have access to competent, unbiased emergency services that are critical to ensuring safety.
A 2010 study coauthored by the National Center for Victims of Crime and NCAVP demonstrates significant barriers that LGBT people face in accessing necessary support and services in mainstream agencies, which may primarily or exclusively serve heterosexual, non-transgender women. Few victim-serving agencies are trained to work with LGBT victims and survivors of crime. This focus often translates into hetero-sexist service provision and may exclude or discriminate against LGBT survivors. Studies have shown that only one in five survivors of same gender sexual assault and intimate partner violence received victim services. These findings highlight the critical need for culturally competent support for LGBT survivors of domestic/intimate partner violence.
For too long, local AVPs have largely been denied access to the critical federal dollars that fund the vast majority of the government-funded anti-violence work done throughout the country. In 2009, NCAVP member programs, already small and under-funded, experienced an unprecedented degree of financial instability due to the fiscal crisis with many programs facing severe funding cuts. As 75% of NCAVP member programs have five or fewer staff, and 44% of member programs have fewer than three people on staff, such cuts are devastating.
In a membership survey in 2010, half of responding programs reported losing, on average, half their staff positions due to funding cuts between 2007 and 2009. Other organizations could not expand staff or program capacity to meet a demonstrated need for such growth. NCAVP member programs had less capacity to respond to and meet the needs of survivors because of the drastic reductions in direct services, outreach, and community organizing despite the demonstrated increase in demand from LGBT survivors for supportive, culturally-competent programming.
The recommendations of HHS are, long hoped for, most welcome, and hopefully a harbinger of things to come in addressing the equitable treatment of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans.
Sharon Stapel is Executive Director of The New York City Anti Violence Project and Coordinator of the National Coalition of Anti Violence Programs.