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April 7, 2022

Domestic violence fatalities reach highest level in decade  

Funding cuts, ongoing pandemic continue to affect available services for victims 

DES MOINES — Twenty people lost their lives as a result of domestic violence in Iowa in 2021, marking the highest number of domestic violence-related deaths in the state in a decade, while three deaths have already occurred in the first three months of 2022.  

“The loss of 20 lives to domestic violence is tragic. Adding seven additional deaths to the report in just the final four months of 2021 spotlights the devastating effects that domestic violence has for victims and families across Iowa,” said Sandi Tibbetts Murphy, CVAD director.  

In all, 14 women, four men, and two bystanders were killed as a result of domestic violence in 2021, according to the most recent Domestic Violence Fatality Chronicle. So far in 2022, three women have been killed in domestic violence-related cases.  

The Domestic Violence Fatality Chronicle, issued twice a year since 1995 by the Iowa Attorney General’s Crime Victim Assistance Division, details the lives lost to domestic violence in the state. The report’s spring release coincides with National Crime Victims’ Rights Week, which takes place April 24 to 30.  

Since 1995, 365 women, men and bystanders, including minors, have been killed as a result of domestic violence in Iowa. The stories of these victims can be found on the Iowa Attorney General’s website under publications.  

Tibbetts Murphy also pointed out that the rising number of domestic violence deaths coincides with significant decreases in federal funding for victim services.  

Last year, CVAD announced that it had received $12.76 million in federal funds for victim assistance and victim compensation programs in Iowa. The award, which applies to federal fiscal year 2022, represented a 33.5% decrease in funding from the $17.91 million awarded last fiscal year. CVAD estimates that the continued decrease in funding could result in 23,500 fewer victims assisted this fiscal year. 

The federal funds come from the Crime Victims Fund, which is made up solely of federal criminal fines, penalties and bond forfeitures, not taxpayer dollars. The fund was established by the Victims of Crime Act of 1984 (VOCA). Over the years, VOCA funding decreased as a result of changes in the way the U.S. Department of Justice resolved cases. In July 2021, Congress passed the so-called VOCA fix in an effort to sustain funding.  

However, Tibbetts Murphy notes that it will take several years before funding for crime victim programs in Iowa and other states see the results of the fix.  

Funding cuts have further exacerbated the strain many victim service organizations have felt during the COVID-19 pandemic, as they have faced increased operating costs related to housing, cleaning, and other mitigation efforts. “Our ability to serve victims has continued to be limited by funding cuts and the ongoing pandemic,” she said. “We must do all we can to ensure that Iowans are able to reach available services to address not only domestic violence, but other crime victim needs.”  

There are several domestic violence resources available to Iowans, including:   

Iowa Domestic Violence Helpline - 800-770-1650  

  • Is free and confidential   
  • Answers calls 24 hours a day, 365 days a year   
  • Can connect to nearest Iowa programs, which:  
  • Offer crisis counseling and safety planning  
  • Refer to shelter and housing assistance  
  • Provide legal advocacy  
  • Provide access to community resources  

National Domestic Violence Hotline - 800-799-SAFE or 799-7233; TTY 800-787-3224; Text Line – Text “START” to 88788  

  • Free and confidential, available 24/7  
  • Can connect to local resources and programs  

 Love is Respect Teen Dating Violence Hotline - 866-331-9474; Text Line – Text “LOVEIS” to 22522  

  • Free and confidential   
  • Can connect to local resources, provides information about personal safety and healthy relationships 


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