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Local group pushing to change benefits for victims of domestic violence

Posted at 10:54 PM, Apr 22, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-22 22:54:55-04

FORT MYERS, Fla. — Today, crime victims from across Florida joined an assembly to release the first-ever national crime victims agenda.

It’s a 10-point plan aimed at changing the way victims, regardless of race and gender, receive benefits. It’s an issue that is often not talked about, but is picking up steam in the state legislature.

“I think we’re still really waking up as a society to see and understand the toll it takes on someone after a trauma has occurred,” says Meg Dalabes, Director of Community Education & Development with ACT.

Dalabes is with Abuse Counseling and Treatment- or act. The group provide free, safe and confidential services for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault.

“There’s a lot of support that’s required that is beyond just what we first provide in that emergency counseling crisis aspect of it," said Dalabes.

Right now, there are particular barriers- or inequities- that exist, preventing some from receiving services. Barriers like race. According to the Racial and Economic Equity for Survivors Project, black women are disproportionately impacted by fatal domestic violence. More than twice the rate of white women murdered by men. The 10-point plan introduced Thursday by Crime Survivors for Safety and Justice is looking to curb that.

“There’s additional things that may be blocking their ability to access help or benefit from these services," says Dalabes. "Any package that is specifically addressing those unique needs, is really necessary for us to really level up our ability to provide care and support in the community.”

According to Dalabes, the decision for someone to come forward and ask for help is difficult. But having those options to better serve can help.

“When we as a society are saying, ‘Look- here are the different benefits available for a victim of a crime,’ here’s how this civilization, society, the community, is stepping up," said Dalabes. "We have these economic packages, these legal rights available- we’re encouraging people to feel more supported by the community and less alone in what they may have suffered. That is a great way to strengthen our community.”

There’s been plenty of work done already in adding additional support for victims of crimes, Dalabes says. But the work is only getting started.

“Making sure that someone is supported as an individual in their mental health, that their family’s needs are taken care of- that includes those different things like financial, economic, and legal considerations, different safety protections, housing," says Dalabes. "We do need to consider all of those elements and expand.”

If you are a victim of crime, you can call ACT's 24/7 hotline at (239) 939-3112.