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Shutdown could cut help to violence victims in Grand Forks

Grand Forks' Community Violence Intervention Center may have to cut services and staff by the end of the month if the ongoing federal government shutdown is not resolved.

In a week, the center is set to run out of money it receives as reimbursements from the federal agencies for services rendered.

"If things don't get straightened out, we'll have to borrow on our line of credit to get through the end of the month," executive director Kristi Hall-Jiran said.

The center provides services to prevent and resolve domestic violence situations within the city and Grand Forks County.

The shutdown has cut off the center's access to federal funding it receives at the end of each month.

According to the center's 2013 budget projections, federal money accounts for 55 percent of the center's funding -- about $1.6 million.

The most recent reimbursement and some spending from the center's reserves will keep things running until Oct. 15. After that, it would need to secure a loan to cover expenses.

Should the shutdown last longer than Oct. 31, clients of the center would see cuts to services and layoffs would begin.

Survivor's plea

Curtailing the center's programming and staff shouldn't have to happen, according to one former client.

The Herald granted the woman's request to speak anonymously as she feared discrimination directed at her and her family could result from the publication of her identity.

She said a reduction in the center's services would not only affect victims, but everyone in the community.

The center provides services that include victim support and counseling, group treatment for batterers, court advocacy and a safe visitation and exchange environment for parents and children.

The woman said she sought help from CVIC after an abusive relationship with a past partner became too much.

"It was like being held hostage. My life was threatened, my parents were threatened. I felt trapped," she said. "But when you love somebody, you want to believe they're going to change."

Crisis centers such as CVIC are vital to helping women and children escape violence by providing emergency shelter, support and counseling or help if victims believe they can't turn to law enforcement for assistance, she said.

"I have no faith in the justice system. It has failed me and my children several times," she added. "There were times when I called (the center's) crisis line before I called the police."

Statewide threat

If the shutdown continues, another crisis phone line abuse and sexual assault victims across the state depend on could go dead.

The National Domestic Violence Hotline has some operational funding left but no access to its 2014 money, according to Janelle Moos, executive director of the North Dakota Council on Abused Women's Services.

The council is a nonprofit organization advocating on behalf of the state's 20 domestic violence and sexual assault crisis centers.

Those seeking help are often referred by the council or other agencies to the national hotline, which could shut down if an agreement on the country's budget cannot be reached soon.

"There is no statewide crisis line in North Dakota, but each center has its own crisis line," Moos said.

This becomes a problem for people who may not know where the closest crisis center is located.

"We may lose that one opportunity when a victim reached out to get help," she said.

Staff and program reductions at crisis centers outside of Grand Forks also would be a consequence of a prolonged shutdown.

All of the crisis centers in the state rely on federal money to fund anywhere from 20 to 85 percent of their operations, according to Moos.

"If the government shutdown continues, it very well may disrupt services and decrease our ability to respond when a victim reaches out for help," she said.