New Rules Require Data Collection on Battered Women in Shelters
Domestic violence groups are protesting new rules set in place by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). The rules, which went into effect October 1, require detailed personal information on battered women to be collected from all domestic violence shelters that receive HUD funding. Shelters for abused women are careful to protect the identities of the women and families they house, as abusers often hunt their victims down after they have escaped a violent situation.
HUD created the Homeless Management Information System (HIMS) in response to a Congressional mandate in order to estimate the number of homeless people in America. According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, the original mandate in July 2003 included an exemption for domestic violence programs. When the final mandate was released in July 2004, this exemption had been removed.
The database will be computerized, and HUD encourages the sharing of data between food and shelter providers in order to avoid duplication of records. Placing the database on centralized computers would make sensitive data accessible to a wide range of authorized users, as well as potentially unauthorized users, the New York Times reports. Stored information includes name, date of birth, Social Security number, and some medical information.
The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence reports that domestic violence victims are not required to provide personal data in order to receive service from a shelter. However, the mandate does require that service providers discuss the potential benefits of data sharing among agencies, without requiring them to inform domestic violence victims about all the potential risks.
Over 40,000 battered women utilize shelters financed by HUD each year, the New York Times reports. October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month.
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Media Resources: New York Times 10/8/04; National Coalition Against Domestic Violence