Domestic violence programs lose millions in funding, communities now left to fill the gap

Local News

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – A third of women and men in North Carolina will experience some form of domestic violence in their lifetime, according to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

The pandemic made it more difficult for victims.

Many were left isolated at home with their abuser. Now as they seek help, there are fewer resources for them.

The Orange County Rape Crisis Center is where survivors of rape and domestic violence go to find support. That support is often as simple as someone believing them.

“As a survivor, you typically already feel alone. You can feel alone and isolated,” said Rose Brown.

The OCRCC was where Brown found the support she needed after surviving a sexual assault.

“When you experience sexual assault, or violence, really of any kind, it’s not just that you experienced it for, those five or however many minutes, but essentially, you’re going to be healing long term,” said Brown.

But some of the programs that helped her heal are at risk after massive funding cuts.

OCRCC Executive Director Rachel Valentine showed CBS 17’s Judith Retana around the center’s new facility.

The center had to downsize its center, staff, and therapy program over the last few months. This came as a result of a 35 percent drop in funding to North Carolina Domestic Violence Centers.

“I think that it’s absolutely critical for survivors to know that there is a non-judgmental space that they can go to seek refuge,” said Valentine.

A dwindling pool of cash

More than 70 percent of OCRCC’s money comes from the Victims of Crime Act. That pot of cash is filled by fines from federal white collar or corporate prosecutions.

Over the past few years, prosecutors changed litigation strategy so fewer dollars filled that pot.

“It’s really stressful to know that victim services is not necessarily a priority for our government,” said Valentine.

It meant North Carolina’s fund went from the peak of $103 million in 2018 to $34 million in 2021.

It was an almost 80 percent drop.

CBS 17 wanted to find out why prosecutors changed their strategy. No one we reached out to at the federal court level or at domestic violence organizations could give a reason for the change.

“When you can plan for it, it’s something you can do but when you can’t plan for it, it’s definitely had an impact,” said Valentine.

The fix that came to late

The federal VOCA Fix Act passed this year. It widened the kinds of prosecutions that can fill the VOCA funding pot.

“It was too late for a lot of us. There were a lot of our organizations that were hit very hard because basically, the legislature kind of dragged their feet on making that very simple VOCA fix,” Valentine said.

Valentine anticipated it would take several years until enough money trickles back down.

OCRCC, like many organizations, is now leaning more heavily on community donations and fundraisers to fill the gap.

One of those efforts is its 34th Annual Holiday Auction happening next month. It’s virtual and tickets are available if you’d like to help.

Valentine said the organization has seen an outpouring of support.

They were able to get enough support to save their SafeTouch program. It teaches youth to recognize inappropriate behavior and react when someone makes them uncomfortable.

“I stay up at night worrying if we’re going to be able to keep everything going at the level that it’s going,” said Valentine.

She said no matter what survivors can always find refuge at OCRCC.

“There is and there always will be a place for you to go where you’re going to be believed and where you’re going to be supported,” said Valentine.

There will also always be a place to heal as Brown did.

“I feel all the more courageous, more resilient, more like a superhero,” Brown said.

Domestic and sexual violence resources

Orange County Rape Crisis Center (bilingual text/chat/phone, 24 hours a day)

Durham Crisis Response Center (24-hour help for sexual and domestic violence)

Stand Up Speak Out NC, ongoing wellness support and art therapy designed by and for Black women survivors and their children

KIRAN, domestic violence resource center focused on the needs of South Asian survivors

North Carolina Coalition Against Domestic Violence

North Carolina Coalition Against Sexual Assault

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