The Center for Tax & Budget Accountability has just released a report showing how Illinois’ budget cuts have disproportionately affected women and youth. Gender Disparity in Human Services sets out clear information on cutbacks in domestic violence services, sexual assault services, services to teen parents, youth services, family planning services and homeless services. Those of us working in the field will recognize in the statistics facts that we are all too aware of. For example, the impact on sexual assault services:
…due to the state’s significant revenue shortfall, the General Fund appropriations for DHS sexual assault services will be 18% less in FY2011 than a mere two years ago, in FY2009. This will make it impossible for Illinois to maintain existing levels of support or to meet the needs of sexually abused women and their families.
And the impact on domestic violence services:
Viewed over time, it is clear that Illinois has increasingly moved away from funding services targeted to victims of domestic violence…..[I]n both nominal and inflation adjusted dollars, Illinois funding of services for victims of domestic violence has declined precipitously.
And the impact on teen parent services:
… FY2011 appropriations for programs designed to serve teen mothers are over 20% less than in FY2009,21 in nominal, non-inflation adjusted dollars. Teen Parent Services (TPS) helps parents who are under age 21 receive or apply for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF); or receive All Kids22, Women, Infants and Children (WIC)23, Family Case Management (FCM)24 or food stamps. Basically, recipients are young, poor to low income high school dropouts.
These statistics reflect the reality that organizations are facing every day — a steady cut in funding to support the important day-to-day work around these life and death issues.
For girls and young women, this reality is devastating. Girls and young women are impacted by every one of these funding cutbacks. Looking at the statistics, it’s immediately apparent that services to teen parents and children’s services will impact girls & young women. But because young women live at the intersection of all of these issues, the impact on them goes beyond these youth-focused budget cuts. At a time when we are increasingly recognizing the need for domestic violence services geared towards youth, funding cutbacks to domestic violence providers overall make this even more difficult. The risk of rape is significantly higher for young women, making sexual assault services crucial to young women’s well-being.
As advocates, activists, survivors and allies, our response needs to be twofold.
First, we need to oppose cutbacks to these crucial, life-saving services. Check out the Responsible Budget Coalition for more information on how you can get involved in organizing efforts to save these services.
Second, we need to develop innovative, community-based responses to these issues to supplement programs that are inundated with client requests, and to build community support for survivors. Now is the time to develop innovative approaches that better engage our communities. The Taskforce has been gathering information on projects both here and beyond Chicago that are engaging communities to change systems, to support young women, and to intervene in cases of violence through restorative and transformative justice practices. We will be sharing this information early next year on our new website. If you are engaged in this work and want to share the info with us, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org – we look forward to hearing from you!