March 31, 2012
By D.W. Norris
Money would fund rape crisis centers
CARBONDALE — Illinois Lt. Gov. Sheila Simon went back to her roots Friday during an informational stop at The Women’s Center in Carbondale.
Simon previously served on The Women’s Center board of directors, and although she said it was good to be home again, her visit was more than a social occasion. Simon’s presentation focused on an Illinois Senate bill that would restore funding to sexual assault prevention agencies and rape crisis centers.
State funding for rape crisis centers has dropped 27 percent over the last five years while demand for services has risen.
Senate Bill 3348 would add a $5 fee to admission charges to strip clubs that either serve or allow alcohol on their premises. Simon said she did not know how much money would be raised if the bill becomes law, but there are more than 100 strip clubs in the state and many serve or allow alcohol.
“This is a common-sense, win-win measure for Illinois,” Simon told a crowd of more than two dozen.
Although located in Carbondale, The Women’s Center provided free and confidential services more than 1,200 adult and child survivors of sexual assault and domestic abuse in Jackson, Williamson, Perry, Union, Franklin, Johnson and Saline counties in fiscal year 2011. The number of people using The Women’s Center’s service rose 17 percent from 2009.
Unfortunately, Simon said, The Women’s Center saw its funding decrease by $136,000, which meant services to outlying counties had to be cut back.
Cathy McClanahan, The Women’s Center executive director, said the agency was forced to cut 2 1/2 positions, or about 10 percent of its staff.
One position cut was a full-time rape counselor. As a result, McClanahan said there is now a waiting list for rape victims seeking counseling.
“We can only stretch our limited resources so far to continue providing quality service to Southern Illinois victims,” McClanahan said.
Simon said the bipartisan senate bill, sponsored by four Democrats and four Republicans, is “picking up steam” and passed out of the senate committee.
Simon also said resistance to the bill has been mostly limited to an industry group representing strip club owners.
Simon said she could not give a timeline on when funding would arrive if the bill becomes law. The Illinois Department of Revenue would collect the fees and distribute them to facilities such as The Women’s Center, she said.