Survivors of domestic violence and human trafficking cried out on the steps of San Francisco’s City Hall this afternoon against possibly losing up to $800,000 of city funding.
In order to close the city’s $306 million deficit, a draft budget proposal includes a 15 or 28 percent cut to the Department on the Status of Women, and the 34 different organizations it funds, said Beverly Upton, executive director of the Domestic Violence Consortium.
Workers and clients from the 17 different agencies represented by the consortium gathered at City Hall to rally support to save funding affecting emergency shelters, transitional housing, crisis lines, counseling, abuse prevention programs, education, and legal assistance.
The organizations gain the majority of their funds–an estimated 85 percent–from money allocated by the city, and cuts would be devastating to the $25,000 individuals who use services annually, Upton said.
APA Family Support Services is one of the organizations that rely on the $71,000 it receives from the city, executive director Amor Santiago said.
The money is used to help APA Family Support Services provide its clients, mainly Asian women and children who do not speak English, with in-home visits that are focused on preventing domestic abuse, Santiago said.
“Many clients feel isolated by their batterers and are kept from integrating with society,” Santiago said.
Lily, a survivor of human trafficking, said the abuse she endured is still painful to talk about.
“For three years and eight months, I was forced to work almost 24 hours a day, everyday. I was abused verbally, mentally and physically. My salary was never given to me and I was not allowed to communicate with anyone, not even my family in Indonesia,” Lily said.
After she escaped her abusive employer, Lily sought the services of Asian Women’s Shelter, or AWS, in 2006.
“When I came to AWS, my life changed. They treated me like family and gave me emotional support. They helped me find housing and a job and connected me to City College. I don’t know how to thank AWS for everything they gave to me. I started out with nothing, but AWS helped me reach all of my goals,” she said.
Survivors such as Lily are proof that the money for the Department on the Status of Women is necessary, California Attorney General Kamala Harris said.
“I just want to profess my unconditional and profound support for the work of the Domestic Violence Consortium. As a career prosecutor, I have seen the work they do everyday. The work they do is personal. The work they do is about lifting up a whole community. We can not ever allow the resources that they need to do this good work be diminished,” Harris said.
Harris joined San Francisco Supervisors Ross Mirkarimi, David Campos, and John Avalos in offering support to save funding at the rally.
Upton said that Board of Supervisors President David Chiu is also committed to preventing cuts, although he was not in attendance.
Cuts to domestic violence programs were on the chopping block last year, but former Mayor Gavin Newsom made the final decision to maintain the funding, Upton said.
While the board is scheduled to approve San Francisco’s budget in July, Upton said she is optimistic that Mayor Ed Lee’s proposed budget, released by the end of April, will not reflect the cuts.
With the domestic violence homicide rate down 80 percent in the past 10 years, the work performed by consortium agencies is largely preventative, she said.
“We’re headed in the right direction,” said Upton, who is also a survivor of domestic abuse.
Santiago said he hopes the rally brings attention to the taboo subject of domestic violence.
“This is a priority, just like fire, just like safety. This is about safety for women and children. We want our funding to stay stable and level, if not increase, that would be even better,” Santiago said.
Rachel Purdy, Bay City News