Simon: Restore Funding to Metro East Crisis Center

Advocates back strip club surcharge to restore critical funding, protect jobs

EAST ST. LOUIS–(ENEWSPF)–March 29, 2012.  Advocating for survivors of domestic and sexual violence, Lt. Governor Sheila Simon visited an East St. Louis crisis center on Thursday afternoon to support legislation that would restore funding to sexual assault prevention agencies.

Simon said Senate Bill 3348 would require all strip clubs that permit alcohol to pay a $5-per-patron fee. The funds would be distributed to community-based sexual assault prevention and response organizations, such as Call For Help, Inc., which is facing a 10 percent cut in state funding in Fiscal Year 2013, after sustaining a 29 percent in state funding between 2009-12.

“We never want to see a day when a rape victim with the courage to visit a hospital is left to navigate the legal and medical system alone,” said Simon, a former Jackson County prosecutor and founder of the Southern Illinois University School of Law’s domestic violence legal clinic. “Senate Bill 3348 is a reasonable way to generate revenue for agencies that provide critical services to women, children and law enforcement agencies.”

Call For Help’s Sexual Assault Victims Care Unit provides 24-hour response to victims of sexual assault and sexual abuse in St. Clair, Madison, Monroe, and Randolph counties. Trained advocates assist victims at hospitals or police stations to offer support and guidance through the medical and legal systems, while counseling, therapy and community education are provided free of charge to youths, adults and professionals. In Fiscal Year 2011, 21,500 people were reached through community education, while 311 children and adults received direct services and 101 sexual assault victims were assisted at police stations and hospitals.

“We are just barely hanging on, and a 10 percent cut would be devastating,” said Cheryl Compton, the center’s executive director. “Senate Bill 3348 would restore this funding and allow us to keep our small program of 10 counselors, educators and medical-legal advocates on staff and serving the community.”

The legislation, sponsored by Sen. Toi Hutchinson (D-Chicago Heights) with bipartisan co-sponsorship, has received support from more than 30 rape crisis centers; R.T. Finney, President of the Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police; the Illinois Department of Human Services; and Dr. Richard McCleary, a University of California-Irvine professor and leading adult entertainment business researcher. Testimony on SB 3348 from Finney, McCleary and Simon can be found here.

Last year, the Texas Supreme Court upheld legislation that funded crisis centers through a $5 entrance fee at strip clubs that permit alcohol. 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.