Stigma Reflected in How Domestic and Sexual Violence Programs Were Overshadowed in Government Shutdown
By Christine Murray, See the Triumph Co-Founder
The US federal government shutdown has ended, but the threat to domestic violence programs has not. Deirdre Bannon explores the lingering effects in this article in The Crime Report.
One of Bannon’s more poignant quotes is that “The plight of domestic and sexual violence programs during the 16-day shutdown was eclipsed by public attention to the closing of national parks and monuments.”
Because we may very well be heading toward another government shutdown in the near future, it’s important for advocates and other involved professionals and community members to take a closer look at this issue so that we can begin advocating now for continued support for domestic and sexual violence programs whether the government is functioning or not.
Let’s pause for a moment and consider why domestic and sexual violence may have been overshadowed by other impacts of the shutdown. At the See the Triumph campaign, one of our main goals is eradicating the stigma surrounding abuse. Through the lens of stigma, we can see many possible reasons why it is easier for the wider population to own their concern for the national parks than it is for them to own the issues of domestic and sexual violence, such as the following two examples:
First, stereotypes are rampant surrounding domestic and sexual violence. Victims of domestic and sexual violence are often blamed and judged, and this can make it less likely that people will support them.
Second, stigma involves a sense of separation. When people stigmatize others, they create a barrier of separation between them, which can lead to attitudes like, “Domestic violence doesn’t happen to people like me.”
Unfortunately, the stigma surrounding domestic and sexual violence is alive and well, as we have heard from many of the survivors in our research studies. Because of this, advocates and supporters must be proactive in ensuring that domestic and sexual violence programs will continue to be supported, whether or not our country faces another shutdown.
I’d suggest the following two steps toward starting this proactive advocacy:
1. Staff of local programs and state and national advocacy groups can continue to inform their elected representatives about the impact of the shutdown on survivors in their areas. This information can include statistics about the impact of the lack of funding (e.g., decreased numbers of clients served, increased needs of clients, and the financial implications of the shutdown on individual programs), as well as anecdotal stories about how victims and their children were impacted.
2. Advocates and other supporters can work with media outlets to help ensure that the critical needs of domestic and sexual violence programs in their communities do not get overshadowed again. Public attention to these issues can help to increase the pressure on elected representatives to respond. In addition, increased awareness of needs in local communities can rally community members to provide additional support when local programs face shortfalls.
What other actions do you think could be taken to ensure that our government takes appropriate measures to protect the lives and wellbeing of people experiencing domestic and sexual violence?