Sexual assault survivors will have their resources slashed under this government plan

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January 20, 2017

One of Donald Trump's first actions as president could be cutting federal funding for violence against women programs. The Hill reported January 20 that Trump has modeled his budget proposals off the Heritage Foundation's "Blueprint for Balance: A Federal Budget for 2017."

The conservative think tank's budget proposal aims to shrink government spending and reduce the federal deficit. To do so, it also needs to cut government programs. Along with cutting the National Endowment for the Arts and National Endowment for the Humanities, the proposal suggests cutting all funding for Violence Against Women grants.

The Violence Against Women grants were established by the 1994 Violence Against Women Act (VAWA)—a landmark piece of women's rights legislation, and pet project of former vice president Joe Biden.

Among other things, VAWA made interstate domestic violence a federal crime, and established the federal Office of Violence against Women. Since VAWA's passage, domestic violence rates in the U.S. have dropped 64%.

VAWA also has 25 different anti-violence grants, which provide legal assistance for abuse survivors, housing for victims of domestic violence, and other crucial services.The Office of Violence Against Women has provided more than $4.7 billion in grants since 1995. According to attorney Lynn Hecht Schafran, senior vice president at Legal Momentum, these grants are responsible for everything from teaching judges about the effects of trauma on rape victims to providing services for sight- or hearing-impaired victims.

Asked what would happen if funding for the VAWA grants was pulled, Schafran responded:

"I don't think it is extreme if I say to you that women will die. Over the years of VAWA, we have brought down the number of women killed in this situation because, by having programs and safety procedures and transitional housing, we've made it possible for victims to leave these dangerous situations and make new lives. But if we do not have programs that are actively seeking ways to prevent this kind of violence, and are providing ways for endangered women and their children to be safe, women will die."

Meanwhile, The Heritage Foundation argues that such programs are better left to the states. In its budget proposal, the foundation states that all VAWA grants should be "terminated" because their services should be funded and implemented on a local level. The budget proposal calls federal funding for anti-violence programs a "misuse of federal resources” and a "distraction from concerns that are truly the province of the federal government."

Trump has not yet put forward his preferred budget, and it may well differ from what the Heritage Foundation proposed. But The Hill reports the foundation helped staff the Trump transition team, and that two Trump staffers were already discussing their budget plans with White House staff before the inauguration.