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[PROVIDENCE – April 15, 2014] Domestic violence can be prevented—with increased resources and community involvement. Domestic violence advocates, survivors and others from the community will testify and voice this message during the House Judiciary Committee hearing scheduled for today, Tuesday, April 15. Rhode Island is one step closer to receiving the vital funding it needs to enhance the capacity and sustainability of the few prevention programs that do currently exist and to create other robust programs that will have a far-reaching impact.
The Domestic Violence Prevention Fund (H-7188) was introduced in the House by steadfast champion in the movement to end domestic violence Rep. Elaine Coderre (D-Dist. 60, Pawtucket), Democratic Caucus Chair, as well as Rep. Eileen S. Naughton (D-Dist. 21, Warwick), Deputy Chairwoman; Rep. Joy Hearn (D-Dist. 66, Barrington, East Providence); Rep. Katherine Kazarian (D-Dist.63, East Providence); and Rep. Teresa A. Tanzi (D-Dist. 34, South Kingstown, Narragansett).
If passed, the bill would – for the first time – create a steady stream of state funding for domestic violence prevention programs by increasing the cost of a RI marriage license to $70. These resources would help alleviate the burden on local agencies born out of the consistent, comprehensive cuts to federal and state funding, which have limited their ability to invest in prevention. A $46 marriage license cost increase would constitute less than a 0.1% increase in cost for the average wedding in RI. Rhode Island has not increased this one-time fee since 1990. It is one of the lowest in the U.S., and the majority of other states already use marriage license fees to fund essential domestic violence programs. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recognizes domestic violence as a serious public health issue, one that community members must play a role in preventing. This bill proposes a simple, cost-effective way that Rhode Islanders can be a part of the solution to a problem that affects every community in the state.
"Our goal is to prevent and end domestic violence in Rhode Island by cultivating connected, peaceful communities. This goal is not impossible, but in order to make it a reality, we need to take steps toward violence-free futures right now, and that requires an investment of our time and money. The funds generated by the passing of this bill into law would be used to stop domestic before it starts. Crisis intervention services provide invaluable lifelines to those impacted by domestic violence, and we must continue to supply them, but we must also focus on primary prevention if we wish to end domestic violence," said Deborah DeBare, Executive Director of the RICADV.
Prevention work supports strong, healthy communities and is instrumental in decreasing the risk factors for domestic violence. Rhode Island's domestic violence advocacy community has seen the benefits of primary prevention first-hand and is helping to set the stage nationally for the development of promising programs and best practices. Nearly 10,000 Rhode Islanders sought multiple crisis services for domestic violence in 2013, and 13 lives were lost. Allocating state funds to prevention programming is not optional; it's imperative.
Many different sectors of the Rhode Island community already support this issue. Domestic violence advocates, supporters, concerned community members and local press joined the RICADV, its six member agencies* and its task force of domestic violence survivors, SOAR - Sisters Overcoming Abusive Relationships, for a gathering at the State House on March 11, 2014, which both bodies of the Rhode Island General Assembly declared as NO MORE Day. Their collective presence challenged RI lawmakers to proactively confront domestic violence before yet another tragic loss of a family member, neighbor, colleague, classmate or friend. "NO MORE inaction or passivity around finding solutions to prevent domestic violence" was the message felt and heard by everyone wearing the teal symbols of the campaign.
"We can change the attitudes and beliefs that breed violence. Emerging research shows that primary prevention programs are working to decrease violence in our communities. By addressing the root causes of domestic violence and not only its symptoms, we are moving forward, toward a Rhode Island in which our families no longer suffer and our communities are safe. Through programs such as the Primary Prevention Institute and Ten Men, male allies in the movement to end domestic violence, we are coming together to address this community health issue and create a world where domestic violence doesn't exist—our children deserve this freedom, and imparting it can be our legacy," added DeBare.
The message is clear. Together we can PREVENT and END domestic violence. Support the Domestic Violence Prevention Fund on April 15. It's time to say NO MORE.
The complete text of the Domestic Violence Prevention Fund (H-7188) can be found on the Rhode Island General Assembly's website.
About the RICADV: The Rhode Island Coalition Against Domestic Violence (RICADV) is an organization dedicated to ending domestic violence. The RICADV was formed in 1979 to support and assist the six domestic violence prevention agencies in Rhode Island. The organization also provides leadership to its six member agencies (*Blackstone Valley Advocacy Center, Domestic Violence Resource Center of South County, Elizabeth Buffum Chace Center, Sojourner House, the Women's Center of Rhode Island, and the Women's Resource Center), strives to create justice for victims, and raises awareness on the issue of domestic violence in Rhode Island.
The RICADV's member agencies provide a wide array of services for victims – including 24 hour hotline support, emergency shelter, support groups, counseling services, and assistance with the legal system. For more information about these organizations and services, call the statewide Helpline at 800-494-8100. And if you hear or see someone being hurt, call 911 immediately.