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Simon advocates for rape crisis funding from strip clubs 

Points to jobs, critical services provided by Northwest center

ARLINGTON HEIGHTS – April 2, 2012. During a tour of a suburban rape crisis center today, Lt. Governor Sheila Simon said the state could protect critical services for sexual assault survivors and save jobs by approving an entrance fee at strip clubs.

Simon advocated for Senate Bill 3348 during the visit to Northwest Center Against Sexual Assault (Northwest CASA) in Arlington Heights. It would require all strip clubs that permit alcohol to pay a $5-per-patron fee to help fund community-based sexual assault prevention and response organizations such as Northwest CASA.

“Whenever a sexual assault survivor calls for help in Chicago or the suburbs, we need to know an advocate is ready to respond,” Simon said. “Budget cuts are putting these critical services and jobs at risk. That’s why I’m supporting a common sense way to fund rape crisis centers that will not affect most Illinoisans’ pocketbooks, but help many people receive the counseling and legal advocacy they need.”

Rape crisis centers statewide have seen their state funding drop 28 percent since Fiscal Year 2009, and Northwest CASA is no exception. Executive Director Jim Huenink said his agency’s state funding has dropped about $41,000 in recent years and is facing an additional 10 percent state cut in Fiscal Year 2013.

Northwest CASA provides free counseling, advocacy, education and crisis intervention services to 30 municipalities north and northwest of Chicago. Last year, it provided direct services to more than 500 victims of sexual violence and 114 hospital emergency room calls.

If the FY13 cuts are approved, Northwest CASA will need to cut two of its 9 positions: a bilingual counselor that serves the growing Latino population and an advocate who responds 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to victims at hospitals and police stations. About 25 percent of the victims served by Northwest CASA are Hispanic.

“Our agency has responded to the needs of sexual assault survivors for more than 35 years, but these cuts mean many survivors will not have access to the help they need during a crisis,” Huenink said.

Senate Bill 3348, sponsored by Sen. Toi Hutchinson (D-Chicago Heights), counts among its bipartisan co-sponsors Sen. John Millner (R-Carol Stream), the former Elmhurst police chief and a past president of the Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police. R.T. Finney, the current head of the association, 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’s visit to Northwest CASA came at the start of Sexual Assault Awareness Month. The Lt. Governor plans to visit a rape crisis center in the Quad Cities on Tuesday, and has advocated for the bill during stops at centers in Rockford, East St. Louis and Carbondale in recent weeks. Read Simon’s editorial on SB 3348 here.