Massive Budget Cut to Domestic Violence Organization Threatens Victims

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By Paul Bancroft

“The first time he hit me was on our one-year anniversary. That cycle of violence continued and escalated for 9 years. I was able to extract myself and my children after working with Sierra Community House’s advocates; they helped me create a safety plan for the short term and then together we started to address the term ‘healing.’ I am breaking the cycle.” – *Alexandra, Tahoe area resident

We hear stories like Alexandra’s almost every day. Last year, Sierra Community House helped 265 Truckee/North Tahoe residents access domestic violence and sexual violence services, including 90 community members fleeing violence and seeking shelter at our safe house and local hotels. This year, due to massive national cuts to Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) funding levels, Sierra Community House will experience a $440,000 decrease in funding, jeopardizing the very programs that help victims heal and rebuild their lives. This cut will impact our ability to serve victims of domestic and sexual violence and operate our safe house, and will affect staffing.

How did these budget cuts happen? VOCA uses non-taxpayer money from the Crime Victims Fund (CVF) for programs at 6,500-plus domestic violence shelters, rape crisis centers, and child abuse treatment organizations across the country, including Sierra Community House. Deposits to the CVF began shrinking considerably in the past few years and as a result, programs are seeing massive cuts in victim services funding. From FY23 to FY24, VOCA funds were reduced by around $600 million, a 30% cut. As a result, countless victims in crisis will not be able to find help.   

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How will this impact victims? The consequences of these cuts are far-reaching and deeply concerning for many reasons:

Decreased services: Organizations like ours will be forced to make tough decisions and ultimately reduce vital programs. This will leave many victims without access to the support they need.

Longer wait times: Already overburdened organizations will struggle to meet the demand, leading to longer wait times for essential services.

Outsized impact on the most vulnerable: Children, the elderly, and those in rural communities like Tahoe will be disproportionately affected by these cuts, in part because there can be resource deserts in rural areas. For example, even now, sexual assault victims must travel to Reno for a sexual assault forensic exam, crucial for legal proceedings.

Erosion of trust: These cuts send a message of indifference, which chips away at the promise that victims deserve support and justice.

We need your help. How can you support Sierra Community House? Domestic and sexual violence affects individuals regardless of age, gender, ethnicity, or socioeconomic background. Survivors are often making impossible choices of remaining in an abusive home or leaving and experiencing homelessness.

Here in Tahoe, we are all interconnected. We feel fortunate to be surrounded by generous and supportive community members who understand the value of our organization. Our services are foundational to building a safer community for everyone.

We are asking our community to consider donating to Sierra Community House to help fund our safe house, legal program, violence prevention program, and the holistic approach that helps us address domestic and sexual violence at the source. Become a one-time donor, a reoccurring donor, or explore our Giving Society. Any amount helps. Together we will continue making Tahoe safer for everyone.

Please visit sierracommunityhouse.org to learn more and donate.

*Name changed to protect her identity

~ Paul Bancroft was born and raised in North Lake Tahoe. He is the executive director at Sierra Community House, as well as the Area 2 president of the Sierra College Board of Trustees. He has a master’s in Latin American and Iberian studies from UC Santa Barbara and a bachelor’s in modern languages and literature from Montana State University. 

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