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Government shutdown affects victims of domestic violence

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and as is traditional for Meriden-Wallingford Chrysalis, the agency participates in and hosts a variety of events throughout the month to bring attention to domestic violence. We honor those who have survived. We mourn those who lost their lives, and we talk about preventing this crime for future generations.

This October, however, is unlike others in a few critical ways. For one, we are seeing firsthand the impact of a government shutdown on the lives of those we serve. As I write this, the Senate and House are at the brink of a measure that would re-open the government until Jan. 15. By the time you read this, that decision will have been made. Here, however, is what cannot be changed because of time that has already passed.

One young gentleman fled his home without his official identification. He has no driver’s license and no Social Security card. He was offered a job. Guess what? He could not prove his eligibility to work because he wasn’t able to get a Social Security card reissued. He lost that job opportunity, and so after fleeing violence he is now facing prolonged poverty, and therefore more difficult choices.

A woman we serve left without her identification as well. Through her attempts to access benefits we learned how much not being able to get a Social Security card reissued impacted those who are fleeing. While WIC (Women, Infants and Children) remains open in Connecticut, gratefully, identification is needed to become a new client. For this mother, her poverty was compounded; her choices limited, her isolation enhanced because she cannot access even the support services that do remain open.

What is clear to me during Domestic Violence Awareness Month is that the shutdown has been yet one more way that the most vulnerable of us continue to be put in situations where they become more needy still. Ultimately, that worries me. We make it hard enough for victims to consider a life free of abuse when that “freedom” comes with uncertainty, risk, disclosure to friends, families, police and more. When you add to that “freedom” profound and devastating poverty the choice to leave is almost impossible to make. How can we come together, not just in October but always, to support families in the quest to live free from abuse?

Sharlene Kerelejza is executive director of Meriden-Wallingford Chrysalis Inc.



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