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CEASE restructures after grant loss

For nearly four decades, CEASE has remained a touchstone for women and children who are desperately trying to escape domestic abuse or move beyond sexual trauma.

Despite the loss of funding from one major grant, the nonprofit organization is continuing its war against violence. CEASE is currently undergoing a restructuring effort to alleviate some of the strain brought about by the loss of the grant money. Part of the revamping has resulted in the layoff of 18 of its advocates from across its six-county service area.

Rumors began to circulate that the nonprofit would be shutting down. Those rumors were recently addressed by CEASE administration.

“We are not closing our doors. We have numerous grants and local sources of support for our program. Our board of directors and leadership are working diligently to make sure that our program will continue to serve our communities for a long time to come. We have shifted our focus to caring for the survivors in our shelters and fulfilling all current commitments during this holiday season,” reads the CEASE Facebook post, in part.

News of the loss of grant funding has created one positive. According to the post, volunteers are lining up to meet survivor needs in Hamblen and Claiborne counties – where the two shelters are located.

Apparently, partner agencies and the general public have reached out in moral support of the nonprofit as well.

Meanwhile, a critical piece of legislation is being scrutinized by the U.S. Senate, who has yet to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). The U.S. House of Representatives passed the Act earlier this year over objections from the National Rifle Association.

The NRA apparently objected to a provision eliminating the so-called “boyfriend loophole” by expanding a current ban on firearm purchases by spouses or “exes” who were convicted of abuse. The expanded provision also covers those under a restraining order, whether legally married to the survivor or considered a dating partner.

Reauthorization of the Act bogged down in the Senate despite efforts to have the legislation in place by the end of the year. California Senator Dianne Feinstein suggested allowing both sides to present their versions of an amendment.

“This bill is not a Democratic bill. It’s not a Republican bill. This bill is a survivors’ bill. It’s written with the help of survivors who know what’s needed in the real world,” said Feinstein during the arguments.

However Iowa Senator Joni Ernst objected to setting the vote, arguing that the legislation, as adopted by the House, could not pass the GOP-controlled Senate.

Ernst was in the process of introducing a VAWA reauthorization bill of her own.

“Why on earth would we introduce a piece of legislation that will not make it through this body? Shouldn’t we be working together to find a path forward? We should continue to work on that, and I sincerely hope that by the end of this year, we can come together,” said Ernst.

It seems that, under the amendment proposed by Feinstein, the Ernst version could have been used as a substitute amendment. If successful, the Ernst amendment would have become a part of the bill receiving the final vote in the Senate.

A couple other “sticking points” in garnering a bipartisan agreement seem to center on the gun-related issues and LGBT and tribal sovereignty provisions.

The Violence Against Women Act lapsed on Feb. 15 when left out of a funding bill ending the partial government shutdown. The Act initially expired on Sept. 20 of last year and was temporarily extended as part of the short-term spending bill.

The Act provides grants to states for programs that prevent violence against women or provide services for victims of violence.

The House version of the VAWA, adopted on April 4, includes provisions for protection of transgender victims. The final vote was 263 to 158, with 33 Republicans joining Democrats in favor of the bill. If adopted by the Senate, the bill will extend the VAWA for five years.

Wife beating became illegal in all states in 1920.

If you would like to help CEASE during its restructuring period, call 423-581-7029.

The Hotline number is: 800-303-2220. CEASE covers Claiborne, Hamblen, Hancock, Hawkins, Grainer and Union counties.