BATON ROUGE, La. (BRPROUD) — From funding to restraining orders, Louisiana faces several hurdles in addressing domestic violence, according to a state auditor’s report.
“The COVID-19 pandemic didn’t create domestic violence out of nowhere, it didn’t suddenly make it worse, but it has really exacerbated existing circumstances,” said Louisiana Coalition Against Domestic Violence Director Mariah Wineski.
The state’s auditor’s office notices an unsettling trend — Louisiana has one of the highest female homicide rates in the country.
“This is not an easy fix. There’s so many entities that are involved throughout the process from when the abuse actually happens, through the investigations to the programs through the judicial system,” said Louisiana Legislative Audit Performance Audit Services Manager Emily Dixon.
The state’s research found many shortcomings when it comes to addressing domestic violence.
“For example, in central Louisiana and Rapides Parish there’s not actually a shelter there, there are shelter services that provide, you know, some other types of victim services, but not an actual shelter with beds,” Louisiana Legislative Audit Senior Performance Auditor Kristen Jacobs explained.
“The schools aren’t doing the training as required. I think with any kind of violence, to stop this and minimize it, it’s going to start with the kids in the schools,” added Dixon.
Auditors also found that intervention programs for perpetrators aren’t monitored and some protective orders aren’t being followed out.
“We’re not necessarily surprised by the findings, a lot of these have been issues that we’ve been dealing with on the ground for a long time,” said Wineski.
According to the state audit, only 10 percent of money given to domestic violence services comes from the state. The other 90 percent from the federal government is sometimes unpredictable and inflexible.
“Louisiana’s domestic violence providers have to turn away over 2,500 requests for shelter every year. And in a state like Louisiana, that’s a really scary number,” said Wineski. “It’s important to us and has been important to us that the victim service providers throughout the state have adequate funding and adequate resources to be able to do the lifesaving work that they are required to do.”
“We’re hoping that with the session starting in the next three months that it’ll get some attention,” Dixon said.
State lawmakers will gather at the Capitol in March.