Diane Mayfield - October 6

Macomb, IL – 8,760. That's the number of hours each year Victim Services provides assistance to victims of domestic violence and sexual assault. 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.

That's equal to 8,760 hours. Just like your police department, your fire department, your local hospital's emergency department. But, will Victim Services be able to do it this year? Can it really keep its doors open?

That was the thought on all the Victim Services' staffs' minds during the last two years of funding issues. Late last budget year we learned that money was being cut on the federal level through the Victim of Crime Act and Violence Against Women Act funding sources. As a result, one staff position was eliminated and two others were condensed into one, resulting in a loss of two staff.

During the current budget year we saw some of those monies returned. But there were more threats of mass reductions at the state level. 60% for the domestic violence program and 75% for the sexual assault program.

This truly caused much tossing and turning at night. Were staff members going to be laid off? How were we going to be able to provide services to people in each of our counties? How were we going to assist in providing emergency shelter, responding to late night hospital calls, going to outlying county courthouses for orders of protection? Were we going to have to deny emergency shelter to someone escaping a violent home?

So many questions, so many hours spent contacting friends, family, clients, and community members, encouraging them to contact legislators to go back to Springfield. Some of us even stood on street corners with signs on Saturday mornings or went to the State Capitol to protest.

We did see funds returned. Not 100%, but enough to keep us open. Not enough was reinstated to help with all clients' needs once we provided the emergency safe shelter for a few days, not enough to help with long-term housing, medical, educational, or other financial assistance as in years past.

If you're interested in helping Victim Services help those escaping violence, consider donating items such as gas cards so people can get to counseling or court appointments. Donate items for children's support groups or donate gift cards to purchase clothing items such as underwear, socks, and pajamas. You could provide shelter supplies such as non-perishable food, hygiene products, paper goods, and cleaning supplies. Money is needed for rent and utility deposits in safer homes away from abusers.

Or, volunteer to help with outreach efforts, fundraisers, and educational events. Talk about the issues of domestic violence and sexual assault. Don't keep silent.

8,760. We're here...for now.

Diane Mayfield is the Victim Services Director for the Western Illinois Regional Council's Community Action Agency.