Sexual Assault Victims' Advocates Concerned About Cuts
At least one, People Against Rape of Charleston, will have to close its doors, officials said.
Gov. Nikki Haley’s recent vetoes, if not overridden this week, will cut the budgets of 15 sexual assault agencies across the state.
And some may have to close their doors, officials say.
On Facebook, Nikki Haley said that rape crisis centers are actually experiencing 6.4 percent budget increases, but directors of the crisis organizations are not comforted.
Sexualt assault and rape crisis centers across the state have experienced significant cuts in recent years, and People Against Rape of Charleston, said it will not survive if the funding vetoes stand.
“I feel like we’re just taking one hit after another,” said Melonea Marek, executive director of People Against Rape. “We think we’re gonna get ahead and then we take a hit.”
Marek said that another 37 percent cut in funding for the organization, which provides education, prevention, and care services to rape victims, will be detrimental.
“I’ve sent out letters to all our legislators,” she said of the effort to push for overrides.
“Of course we’re on Facebook and our website has info. We did an email blast to 1,200 people with info from press release.”
Marek said the confusion with the veto is a huge problem.
Unlike domestic violence and sexualt assault centers, her center is a stand-alone ripe crisis center, meaning the funding for the center comes strictly from the state’s Department of Health and Environmental Control, which is being directly cut about $450,000 in Haley’s Veto 51.
Other centers across the state, like those for domestic violence, receive funding elsewhere.
Marek said that in 2007-08, People Against Rape ran at a budget of about $90,000, but now works with $51,000. If the veto stands, the organization will run at $32,000.
“Thirty-seven percent will shut us down,” she said. “I can cover payroll, but barely any operating costs.”
Marek said all she can do now is hope that the legislators give her and other similar organizations a break.
Joyce Hart, executive director of Rape Crisis Center in Myrtle Beach, said that her organization, too, will experience deep negative effects from the cuts.
“We’ll have to stop doing any prevention education at all,” she said. “Most likely we’ll not be able to do awareness, and it’s going to affect our [emergency] contact line.”
Hart said she thinks this is only the beginning.
“Haley just keeps stumping for jobs, jobs, jobs,” she said. “I just wonder if she’s thinking about the potential that we could lose our jobs and direct services for women.”
Hart said that her organization is a service organization as well as a small business, and cannot sustain all of the cuts experienced in recent years.
Hart said Haley is not seeing the big picture and questions how the governor can defend cutting public healthcare when South Carolina ranks so high nationally for violence against women.
“It will certainly affect the centers in the state, there’s no question about that. We’re trying to make people aware.”
Hart said her organization has contacted legislators, too, and will continue getting information out and hoping for overrides.
Ginny Waller, executive director of Sexual Trauma Services of the Midlands and chair of Sexual Assault Interest Group, said STSM has been active in working for an override.
“I think that there might’ve just been some misinformation and not full education,” she said of the funding cuts affecting 15 agencies across the state.
“For us, it’s not pork because it’s obviously within the needs of the state,” she said of Haley’s comments that her vetoes cut “pork funding” in the budget.
Waller said the STSM will have to examine its budget and cut services to local regions. The services would “more than likely” be cut in certain areas, and full services would not be extended to sexual assault victims.
“Just based on her comments, I really do think that this was done in mistake. I have to believe it was a mistake,” Waller said.
The South Carolina Coalition Against Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault, which represents the 15 rape crisis centers in the state, was scheduled to hold a press conference this afternoon to generate additional support for veto overrides.