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Simon to open 2012 National Sexual Assault Conference 

 
CHICAGO – A longtime advocate for survivors of violence, Lt. Governor Sheila Simon will open the 2012 National Sexual Assault Conference on Wednesday by discussing trends in rape crisis center funding. More than 1,000 sexual assault counselors and advocates from across the country are expected to attend.

Joining Texas and Utah, Illinois is the latest state to enact legislation to help fund rape crisis centers through fees based on profits or admissions at strip clubs that permit alcohol. Representatives from the Illinois and Texas Coalitions Against Sexual Assault will be on hand to present information at the conference about their respective fees and the importance of sexual assault services.

“State budget constraints can pinch funding for crisis centers and limit services available to victims of sexual assault,” said Simon, a former Jackson county prosecutor. “This conference will allow advocates from across the country to share ways states can preserve around-the-clock service to victims.”

The new Illinois law goes into effect on January 1, 2013 and is projected to raise up to $1 million per year, or roughly one-sixth of what the state spends on sexual assault prevention and response annually. Over the past five years, crisis centers have seen their budgets cut by 28 percent.

Despite such cuts, crisis centers provide a wide range of services to sexual assault survivors, including 24/7 crisis response, legal and medical advocacy, and community education programs. In fiscal year 2011, rape crisis centers in Illinois served more than 18,000 clients and reached nearly 475,000 people with prevention education.

“Across the country, we need to understand the realities surrounding sexual assault, the need for trained responders, and urgency for funding. Recent politically motivated discourse demonstrates the need for accurate, effective education on sexual assault,” Simon said.