TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - While the GOP was opposing the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act in Washington, D.C., Florida's tea party governor slashed $1.5 million from the state budget for 30 rape crisis centers, and all of this during Sexual Assault Awareness month.
On April 23, 2012 Governor Scott vetoed the $1.5 million saying the state already funds sexual violence programs. In an article in the Huffington Post, Scott's press secretary Lane Wright wrote, "Governor Scott approved funding for many projects that have statewide impact and do not duplicate programs already funded by the state." Wright went on to say, "This new funding of $1.5 million would have been duplicative, since, as a state, we already fund sexual violence programs. There was no information suggesting any needs in this area weren't already being met. The state already provides about $6.5 million for rape prevention and sexual assault services. That is in addition to the funds available for domestic violence programs - $29 million to be specific. Many victims of sexual violence seek refuge at domestic violence shelters."
The director of the Florida Council Against Sexual Violence, Jennifer Dritt, told the Huffington Post, "We say 'here's the need, here's the need, here's the need,' and frankly, nobody's paying any attention. We gave them information about the number of new survivors we have and we showed them that these rape crisis centers have waiting lists."
Dritt continued, saying, "Survivors are having to wait weeks, sometimes six weeks, (and) in some programs three months to be seen. We included quotes from the programs about the waiting lists and what services they weren't able to offer because of a lack of money. There is clearly an unmet need."
The "unmet need" that Dritt is talking about mostly impacts staffing services, such as those necessary in meeting victims at hospitals, answering crisis hotlines, and counseling victims. According to an article in the journal Women & Criminal Justice, "When rape crisis centers/ programs experience reductions in funding, staff positions are eliminated, remaining staff and volunteers are over-worked, efforts to recruit and train volunteers are compromised, [and] services for victims are reduced [....]"
Florida is certain to hold onto its ranking of 47th in the nation for rape crisis programs with Governor Scott's veto.
Photo: Gov. Scott. AP Photo