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Simon: Restore funding to Urbana rape crisis center 

Strip club fee common sense way to fund sexual assault prevention

URBANA – April 19, 2012. Lt. Governor Sheila Simon visited a local rape crisis center today as advocates prepared for its annual Take Back the Night rally. Simon 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.”

Like rape crisis centers statewide, Urbana’s Rape, Advocacy, Counseling & Education Services (RACES) has seen its state funding drop by almost $50,000 in recent years. Once staffed by nine counselors, legal-medical advocates and educators, RACES is now down to six employees. In the past three years, the agency has provided counseling to 300 people and received 500 crisis calls from people in Champaign, Douglas, Ford and Piatt counties.

“While we’ve watched our funding drop and staff decline, we’ve seen our wait list grow,” said RACES Director Kerri True-Funk. “When a survivor of sexual assault seeks our counseling services, they are on a wait list for four to six weeks. If SB 3348 passes and our funding is restored, we could rehire a counselor and wipe the wait list clean.”

Senate Bill 3348 unanimously passed the Senate Public Health committee in March and should be before the Senate next week. It is sponsored by Sen. Toi Hutchinson of Chicago Heights and counts among its bipartisan co-sponsors Sen. Tim Bivins, 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 Urbana follows stops at rape crisis centers in Rockford, East St. Louis, Carbondale, Arlington Heights, Moline and Charleston. Read Simon’s editorial on SB 3348 here.