A PROPOSED GRANT of $625,000 to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence is, unfortunately, in trouble. The award, recommended by the Justice Department's Office of Justice Programs, is one of a series of grants directed at victim assistance. The attorney general is holding up final approval because a group of conservative Republican House members protest that the coalition is a "pro-lesbian, pro-abortion, anti-Reagan, radical feminist group."
There is an unhappy irony here. One of the large achievements of the Reagan administration has been its emphasis on the rights and needs of crime victims. Task force reports have increased public awareness and spurred legislation to help this group. The proposed grant to the coalition, a nationwide, grass-roots organization of almost 900 shelters, was intended for training police and other professionals who work with family violence victims, developing model shelters and setting up an information and referral clearinghouse.
Assistant Attorney General Lois Herrington, who supports the grant, gave critics on the Hill a humane and intelligent response. Twenty percent of all murders, she reminded the congressmen, are family related, and one-third of all female homicide victims are killed by their husbands or partners. It would be fine if, as the legislators suggested, the abuser could always be removed from the home so the victims would not have to seek shelter, but that is not always possible, especially on an emergency basis. Are the shelter proponents undermining the family? Of course not, said Mrs. Herrington. Shelters are not anti-family; abuse is anti-family. If a family falls apart, it is not because of the refuge offered to battered members, but because of the deteriorating home conditions that forced victims to leave.
As for the people who are involved in the shelter movement, some may be gay, but most are not. The coalition, which represents 90 percent of all the nation's shelters, is composed of men and women, homemakers and professionals, clergy and atheists. Their political affiliations reflect their diversity and have no bearing on the important work they are doing. In the past, the coalition's work has been supported by private contributions, including grants from the Ford Foundation, the Rockefeller Family Associates, the United Methodist Church and the Atlantic Richfield Foundation. More can be done for the victims of family violence -- women, children and the aged -- with federal assistance. Attorney General Edwin Meese can reinforce the administration's concern for these victims by approving the coalition grant.