Adopting a Holistic Approach to Addressing Intimate Partner Violence

June 10, 2021

Last week, the Legislature’s Budget Committees approved $15 million for sexual and domestic violence prevention efforts and $100 million for crime victim services in the 2021-22 budget.

The Little Hoover Commission emphasized the tragic prevalence and cost of intimate partner violence in its 2020 report Intimate Partner Violence: Getting the Money to Those on the Front Line and its 2021 report Beyond the Crisis: A Long-Term Approach to Reduce, Prevent, and Recover from Intimate Partner Violence. The Commission found that nearly all Californians know someone affected by intimate partner violence, with one-third of women and one-fourth of men experiencing intimate partner violence at least once in their lifetimes. The rates are even higher for people of color and those who are transgender. The ramifications of intimate partner violence are devastating:

  • Young women who experience intimate partner violence are more likely to drop out of school than their non-abused peers.
  • Abused women experience physical and mental health disorders at higher rates than non-abused women, and their health care costs are 42 percent higher than those of non-abused women.
  • Women who have lived in abuse-free situations for five years or longer still face health care costs that are 19 percent higher than their non-abused peers.

In the face of these tragic impacts, the Commission found that California suffers from critical gaps in services and funding. These gaps make it difficult for survivors to get access to the resources they need to escape their abuser and establish a life of their own. Additionally, the Commission found that the state’s response to intimate partner violence is focused on crisis invention. While crisis intervention is critical, when pursued alone, it will always be too little, too late.

In order to better support survivors before they are in crisis, the Commission called on the state to create and adequately fund prevention and early intervention programs, and ensure that these initiatives are included in all applicable statewide strategic plans ranging from early childhood education to reducing homelessness.

While the legislature’s increased investment in prevention efforts is a historic amount for California and a much-needed step in the right direction, the state has much more to do to fully fund and implement a more holistic response to intimate partner violence rooted in prevention and early intervention, as recommended in our reports.

Addressing intimate partner violence at the root will play a critical role in helping the state mitigate this abhorrent form of abuse. In Beyond the Crisis, the Commission outlined additional steps that policymakers can take to bolster the state’s response:

  • Better enforce its existing firearms laws to ensure that firearms immediately are removed from people prohibited from owning them.
  • Create effective batterer intervention programs that are available regardless of an offender’s ability to pay.
  • Develop a series of measures aimed at ensuring the economic independence of survivors.

To ensure the viability and efficacy of these actions, the Commission underscored the need for the state to fund their implementation and designate a leader who will be accountable for results.

As the state seeks to address the crippling impacts of intimate partner violence – both amid the pandemic and beyond – state policymakers should bear in mind these recommendations.

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