CHICAGO (CBS) — Advocates who work with sexual assault survivors describe their current situation as the biggest funding crisis of the last 40 years.
As CBS 2 Political Investigator Dana Kozlov reported Monday night, rape crisis advocates are looking to Springfield for help in beefing up their funding – in part to make up for a federal funding shortfall.
But that money is not guaranteed.
The services provided by rape crisis advocates can change lives. Alice Hayes, 34, credits therapy services she received from the rape crisis center Resilience for helping her off a dark and self-destructive path.
"I wouldn’t be where I am today if it weren’t for these services," Hayes said. "I wouldn’t be able to help myself – let alone help others."
In 2012, a man began following Hayes after she got off a CTA Blue Line train in Logan Square. He forced her into an alley and raped her.
"I tried to fight back," Hayes said.
She called police, but did not seek any other help for a few years – until she took out a survivor’s packet given to her by an advocate in the hospital and made a call.
"It is as vital as any other emergency service that someone needs," said Carrie Ward, the chief executive officer of the Illinois Coalition Against Sexual Assault.
According to Ward, the demand for survivor services statewide is at its highest point since 2019 – and soon to surpass it.
There have been 22,000 survivors seeking services this year alone.
But Ward says services are on the brink of massive cuts unless they get another $12 million from the State of Illinois.
"It’s dire," Ward said. "It means that Illinois survivors will lose out on important services that they’ve had in place for the last several years."
Ward says a $9.5 million federal funding cut triggered this crisis. Those federal dollars were lost after money usually earmarked for the Victims of Crime Act were instead diverted to the National Treasury during the Trump administration.
Ward and other survivor advocates say they need the additional state money just to preserve the service status quo.
Renee Miranda-Beristain of the advocacy organization Resilience said the consequences of not getting the funding would be devastating.
Kozlov: "How worried are you personally about this funding situation?"
Miranda-Beristain: "Extremely worried. Extremely. I mean, if we can’t be here to help survivors, who is? Who’s going to help them? I mean, those services are free."
Ward says lawmakers have been sympathetic, but tell her a lot of different victims’ advocates’ groups are asking for increases right now.
She hopes the fact that ICASA’s state funding has not been increased much over 20 years will help.
Ward will be in Springfield on Tuesday, speaking to the Illinois House Appropriations Committee – as lawmakers continue to work through Gov. JB Pritzker’s budget proposal.
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April 24, 2023 at 10:47PM