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Black Lives Matters Support Divides Idaho Domestic Violence Coalitions And Law Enforcement Agencies

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As more people stay home during the pandemic, reports show domestic violence is on the rise. Now, a rift between some domestic violence coalitions and law enforcement is adding another challenge to getting survivors the help they need.

In June, the Idaho Coalition Against Sexual and Domestic Violence joined several groups from other states and signed a statement titled “Moment of Truth” supporting the Black Lives Matter movement and, among other things, calling for police funding to go to community organizations instead.

Soon after, some Idaho law enforcement groups sent letters cutting ties with the nonprofit. Kelly Miller, executive director of the coalition, said that move has consequences.

“If these associations are stepping aside and no longer participating in these kinds of state-level endeavors, we all lose,” Miller said. “And the most important folks that lose are people who are directly impacted by domestic and sexual violence. To that end, we really hope that they reconsider.”

The Idaho Sheriffs Association said in a letter that the statement was “offensive” and goes against “supporting all victims of sexual and domestic abuse.” That organization withdrew its support along with the Idaho Chiefs of Police Association and Idaho Prosecuting Attorneys Association.

But Miller said signing onto the statement “was just like a consolidation of the work that we've been doing for the last five or six years and and really focusing on communities most impacted and disproportionately impacted by gender based violence.”

These tensions are not limited to Idaho. In Wisconsin, a group of domestic violence shelters recently lost funding and partnershipswith local law enforcement after putting up Black Lives Matter posters.

But these strained relationships remain the exception, not the rule. A spokesperson for the Ada County Sheriff's Office said their teamdoesn’t see any tension with community partners.

And Grant Loebs, the Twin Falls County Prosecuting Attorney and a member of the board of directors for the Idaho Prosecuting Attorneys Association, said he hasn’t seen this friction either — at least not with groups working directly with survivors.

Bea Black, CEO of the Women’s and Children’s Alliance, says their shelters continue to work closely with local law enforcement.

“Relationships take a level of understanding and willingness to work together,” Black said. “We continue to have great relationships with our law enforcement.”

According to Black, the Alliance has been careful to avoid statements that could be considered political, statements like Black Lives Matter.

“To me, what is really important is I don't want anybody to ever feel like they are being judged or not welcome,” Black said.

To serve our communities better, Black said organizations need to have more room for open discussion. And Miller of the Idaho Coalition hopes all domestic violence stakeholders can work together to “build understanding and really create solutions that work for all communities.”

Copyright 2020 Boise State Public Radio

Audrey Regan is a newsroom intern at Boise State Public Radio. Audrey is returning to their hometown of Boise after completing a year of national service with AmeriCorps St. Louis and graduating from the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, Washington. During that time, Audrey worked for both their university's student newspaper and radio station, and now they're excited to fuse those skills and to reconnect with the Boise community along the way.

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