Parisa Saddiqi was murdered last month as she worked at a mall in Thousand Oaks. Authorities reported that Kevin Crane, her ex-husband, shot her at the busy shopping center. Saddiqi’s life mattered to her children, her friends and her community. According to her co-workers, she “brought her creativity to work every day” and “led with her heart and her joy was contagious.”
As I write this, news broke of yet another reported domestic violence homicide in Chino.
With the constant stream of tragedies stemming from domestic violence people often ask, “What could have been done to prevent this from happening?”
The reality is that a staggering 5.78 million Californians experience domestic violence every year. This represents millions of victims feeling unsafe at work or school, facing long-term poverty and homelessness because of financial abuse, and suffering in silence. Domestic violence homicides in public places put entire communities at risk of harm. And yet, we know much can be done to prevent these deaths which devastate families and communities.
Despite the destructive statewide consequences of abusive relationships, California has never allocated funds for domestic violence prevention in the state budget. This spring, legislators and Gov. Jerry Brown have a chance to change that. Representing over a thousand advocates, organizations, survivors and allied individuals across the state, the California Partnership to End Domestic Violence and the California Coalition Against Sexual Assault (CALCASA) are requesting $50 million to end sexual and domestic violence.
We are asking that half of this funding be invested in prevention—community-based strategies that create a culture of healthy relationships. Local groups are doing innovative work in this area, not only mobilizing community members to address domestic violence, but supporting the leadership of those most affected by violence.
One creative example of community-centered prevention efforts is in Orange County, where Human Options’ Ambassador program provides an opportunity for six high school students to complete service learning projects—all to bring awareness of teen dating violence to their communities. There have been tangible results: One student started a teen dating violence club on campus. Others hosted school-wide assemblies on domestic violence.
The Ambassadors estimate that their awareness activities have reached nearly 1,000 people in Orange County. The program has had such a high demand that Human Options has more than doubled the number of youth participation this year. Prevention works—but it cannot reach its full potential and effect widespread change without a deep investment from the state.
In addition to engaging youth, we must listen more closely to survivors who have already experienced domestic violence. This means addressing their needs beyond an initial crisis.
Two years ago, the Partnership went on a listening tour across the state, and we heard loud and clear that survivors want more than temporary solutions for their whole families. For victims who choose to leave an abusive relationship, it is essential for them to find safe and permanent housing. However, the reality of California’s expensive housing market leaves many survivors and their families cycling from crisis to crisis. To support survivors as they rebuild their lives, the state budget must include funding for holistic services tailored to the victims needs, such as flexible funding for housing.
Importantly, our budget package also proposes allocations for research and innovation—specifically on an expanded set of accountability strategies including restorative justice. This is a request from many survivors who want real change from the person who harmed them.
Almost nine in 10 Californians see domestic violence as a serious problem. State resources are largely allocated to emergency services—and while those services are essential, they only begin to scratch the surface of what survivors, their families and communities need to prevent and end domestic violence. In addition to supporting survivors and families more holistically, we can get at the root causes of violence to make all of our communities safer.
We call on the California legislature and Gov. Brown to envision healthy relationships and thriving communities with us. We urge them to include $50 million in new state funding to end sexual and domestic violence.
Kathy Moore is the executive director of the California Partnership to End Domestic Violence.