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April 12, 2012

Simon: Restore funding to Charleston rape crisis center
Strip club fee common sense way to fund sexual assault prevention

CHARLESTON – In recognition of Sexual Assault Awareness Month, Lt. Governor Sheila Simon visited a local rape crisis center today and urged lawmakers to restore funding to the center through a $5 entrance fee at strip clubs with alcohol.

“When a sexual abuse survivor calls a hotline or seeks counseling, we need to know that an advocate is available to respond immediately,” Simon said. “We cannot put their crisis on hold. Senate Bill 3348 is a common sense way to fund these critical jobs and services. I urge Illinois lawmakers to take swift action and pass this bill.”

Rape crisis centers statewide have seen a 28 percent decline in state funding since 2009. Charleston’s Sexual Assault Counseling & Information Service (SACIS) along with its satellite office, Counseling and Information for Sexual Assault/Abuse (CAISA) in Robinson, have been forced to cut more than two positions, reduce legal advocacy services and, at times, create a waiting list for counseling services due to the funding losses, said executive director Erin Walters. "While we do not have a waiting list at the present time, we are constantly being asked to provide the same level of services with fewer and fewer resources, which cannot always be done."

With a staff of just nine people, SACIS and CAISA provided counseling and legal/medical advocacy at courthouses and hospitals to more than 330 victims and their significant others last year. More than 17,500 youths and adults received prevention education, while 445 professionals received training. SACIS serves Coles, Cumberland, Crawford, Jasper, Lawrence, Richland and part of Clark counties with its 24-hour crisis hotline and response team.

“We reach a lot of people across our seven counties, but it isn’t easy to do with dwindling funds and late payments,” Walters said. “We hope Senate Bill 3348 goes through to generate a consistent funding stream for our services.”

Senate Bill 3348 unanimously passed the Senate Public Health committee in March and should be before the Senate later this month. It is sponsored by Sen. Toi Hutchinson of Chicago Heights and counts among its bipartisan co-sponsors Sen. Tim Bivens, who served as the Lee County sheriff for 20 years and is a past president of the Illinois Sheriff's Association, and Sen. John Millner, a former police chief in suburban Elmhurst.

R.T. Finney, president of the Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police, supports the bill as do more than 30 rape crisis centers and Dr. Richard McCleary, a University of California-Irvine professor and leading adult entertainment business researcher. Read testimony on SB 3348 from Finney, McCleary and Simon here.

Last year, the Texas Supreme Court upheld legislation that funded crisis centers through a $5 entrance fee at strip clubs that permit alcohol based on the correlation between alcohol, live nude dancing and negative secondary effects, such as sexual assault. The U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear a challenge of that decision, effectively opening the door for other cities and states to purse similar measures. California is among the states seeking legislation; it is considering a $10-per-patron fee.

Simon is marking Sexual Assault Awareness Month by visiting rape crisis centers across the state. Her visit to Charleston follows stops at rape crisis centers in Rockford, East St. Louis, Carbondale, Arlington Heights, and Moline. Read Simon’s op-ed on SB 3348 here.


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