The pandemic has been a challenge over the past year for everyone and the Domestic Violence Intervention Program (DVIP) is no different. DVIP saw our crisis line calls increase by 28% and our emergency hotel expenses increase 10x our previous year (we will top out at about $100,000 for emergency hotel stays in our eight-county service area due to the pandemic). The World Health Organization, in recognition of the significant impact of the pandemic, called domestic violence the “hidden pandemic” during the past 15 months. DVIP has learned a lot this past year, about our capacity to pivot and the critical importance of our mobile advocacy and emergency services. We learned that we could do our services in new ways, but we also learned this past year was lethal and dangerous for Iowa families.
Funding Cuts: Unfortunately, in the past two months, we have also learned that we are taking a significant cut in our federal funding. Across the country, and state of Iowa, Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) Funding will be cut 35% over the next two fiscal years. Clearly, this is significant. We have been working with our federal legislators for a fix to resolve this. A bill has passed the House but is waiting for Senate action. While this bill is very positive and will fix the VOCA cut moving forward, it will not change the current cuts we are facing over the next two years. Due to these cuts, we’ve made the difficult decision to close our offices in Mt. Pleasant, Burlington and Keokuk, to diminish our expenses and save services to rural communities most vulnerable. Services DVIP provides to victim-survivors will not be affected because we learned over the past year that our staff and our mobile advocacy services can function without having offices. We will continue to maintain Journey House (Burlington Transitional Shelter) and Serenity House (Keokuk Emergency Shelter) and our Wednesday walk-in hours in Keosauqua.
With all of this said, we understand having offices in our rural communities is an investment in rural services. Programs like DVIP’s provide life-saving support to victim-survivors. Every victim’s circumstances and needs are different which is why advocates work to build trust and provide trauma-informed care to meet victims where they are.
Even though DVIP advocates have learned they could work without offices through the pandemic, investing in space and resources in all of our communities is a commitment DVIP has made. Because of the changes we are making, we are working with a private donor to increase our rural services advertising budget, we’ve been able to increase the summer events we are attending to 20, we are continuing to increase our social media presence (we’ve seen an 11% increase in Lee County alone in the past 3 months!) and we are hoping to extend contracts on 3 billboards in Des Moines and Lee counties. These are local investments that help get the word out about services – our highest priority.
For over 40 years DVIP advocates have learned that the number one way that victim/survivors learn about domestic violence and sexual assault services is through word of mouth. DVIP’s Community Engagement Department specializes in reaching out to those most in need of services through traditional media, online resources, social media, and prevention/awareness education. All speaking engagements are provided free of charge and available to anyone regardless of gender, age, or affiliation. Those interested in hosting a DVIP staff person to attend a club, meeting, faith community gathering, or business can contact email@example.com or call 319.930.2030.
All services provided by DVIP are free and confidential, including a 24-hour hotline 800.373.1043, 24-hour safe shelter which includes the states’ only emergency pet shelter for victim-survivors pets, advocacy services, housing assistance, peer-based counseling, and prevention education. DVIP provides information and resources while victims and their families explore the impact of this violent crime and consider the alternatives for their safety and well-being. Finding support and refuge when you aren’t safe in your own home or intimate relationship can be a struggle.
To learn more about how DVIP is adapting to these funding cuts, check out this Radio Keokuk interview with Alta Medea-Peters, our Director of Community Engagement: https://www.radiokeokuk.com/wcezfm-dvip-93now-2021-06-30/