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Simon advocates for The Women's Center in Carbondale 

Touts strip club surcharge to restore critical funding, protect jobs

CARBONDALE – March 30, 2012. An advocate for sexual and domestic violence survivors, Lt. Governor Sheila Simon made a visit today to The Women’s Center, Inc. in Carbondale. Simon was there to advocate for 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 The Women's Center, Inc., which was forced to cut staff by 10 percent last year as state funding decreased by almost $136,000.

“The need for sexual assault prevention services is consistent, even when state funding is not,” 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 responsible way to restore funding to agencies and protect jobs. Communities statewide depend on their services to protect women, educate children, and train law enforcement agencies.”

The Women's Center, Inc., which is one of the country’s first domestic violence centers, provided free and confidential services to more than 1,218 adult and child survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence in Jackson, Williamson, Franklin, Perry, Union, Johnson and Saline counties in fiscal year 2011. This represents an increase of over 17 percent since 2009.

“We can only stretch our limited resources so far to continue providing quality service to southern Illinois victims,” said The Women’s Center, Inc. Executive Director Cathy McClanahan. “I look forward to working with Lt. Governor Simon to ensure this center receives critical funding.”

The Women’s Center, Inc. also answered over 10,500 crisis hotline calls and provided prevention education and professional training to over 8,000 participants last year. The center refers their clients to the domestic violence clinic at the SIU School of Law.

The clinic provides free legal representation to victims of domestic violence who are trying to obtain Orders of Protection, which prohibit individuals from harassing or abusing a victim. Students in their final year at the SIU School of Law work under the direct supervision of an attorney to represent victims in Jackson, Williamson and Union Counties.

“Funding for victim services have been drastically cut for worthy organizations like the Women’s Center,” said Gail Thomas, clinical assistant professor at the SIU Legal Clinic. “No one views this bill as a panacea, but it is a tremendous start to recognize the importance of these organizations and the changes in victims’ lives they can facilitate. I’m proud our Lt. Governor is taking the lead in this effort.”

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. 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. 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.