© 2024 WXPR
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

State legislature passes bill to increase funding for domestic violence and sexual assault services amid huge budget cuts

A purple ribbon wrapped around a tree outside the Oneida County Courthouse in honor of Domestic Violence Awareness Month.
Katie Thoresen
A purple ribbon wrapped around a tree outside the Oneida County Courthouse in honor of Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

The Tri-County Council on domestic violence and sexual assault has noted an increase in violence in the Northwoods.

Simultaneously, the center has been concerned about their funding after learning about a major cut to their main financial resource, VOCA or the Victims of Crimes Act.

In October, funding for the Victims of Crimes Act, or VOCA, will be cut by 70%.

That’s one of the Tri-County Council on domestic violence and sexual assault’s main forms of funding.

The cut could force them to lay off staff, reduce services, or even close their shelter doors.

In response, the Wisconsin State Legislature unanimously passed a new billthat would offset this slash in the budget by increasing funding.

Sara Carias is an Outreach Coordinator and a dual domestic violence and sexual assault advocate at Tri-County Council.

She’s been meeting with representatives around the state to fill the funding void.

“We were very appreciative of Representative Swearingen and Senator Felzkowski for supporting the bills, and they got that pushed through right before they went into, to end their session in March. So that was huge,” she said.

“We're still going to be needing extra funding, whether that's through other grants, new grants,” she explained.

This is all coming at a time when Tri-County Council has observed elevated levels of violence.

“Everyone would agree with this, that the amount of SANE calls we’re getting, it is disturbing,” she said.

SANE stands for Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner, and SANE exams are in hospitals after a sexual assault or rape.

People are given the option of calling an advocate from an organization like Tri-County Council for support.

One of the biggest funding issues clients at Tri-County Council face is affording legal aid.

The organization is working on ways to meet this need.

Carias says that at this point, the organization is often in reaction mode, but they want to work on prevention of violence in the community.

Advocates have met with middle and high school aged kids to talk about healthy relationships and boundaries.

“This middle school student has said to me, ‘well, my boyfriend one time tried to tell me he loves me too early. And I told him that that was too soon and you know, that I was not okay with that’. My mouth dropped to the floor. How many adults can communicate to their adult partner, ‘hey, you're moving too fast for me?’” said Carias.

“If we can get younger people understanding the red flags, the green flag, then the problem as they become an adult, then can start to go away because then people are gonna start to identify healthy relationships versus toxic relationships,” she said.

The new bill will appropriate $10 million for crime victim grants, with some of the funding going towards sexual assault victim service grants, some towards domestic abuse grants, and a portion towards child advocacy grants.

The Tri-County Council is holding a burn ceremony in Rhinelander at Hodag Park at 7pm on May 10th.

Hannah Davis-Reid is a WXPR Reporter.
Up North Updates
* indicates required
Related Content