When Gov. Rick Scott vetoed $1.5 million in funding for 30 certified rape crisis centers operated by the Florida Council Against Sexual Violence (FCASV) in the state budget, the message was clear.
The estimated 1.3 million victims of rape in the state are not important.
Scotts contentions that no one could properly explain to him the need for funding rape crisis centers in the state falls flat. Maybe if the governor had paid attention to the fact that April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, he would have understood the importance of the funding.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 17 percent, or about one in six, Florida women have been victims of rape or sexual assault as of November 2011.
According to a press release from the Office of Rep. Lori Berman, D-Delray Beach, the FCASV centers have served more than 40,000 victims of sexual violence.
Keep in mind that more than half of all rapes go unreported.
But Scott spokesman Lane Wright said he already allocated about $6.5 million of the budget for rape prevention and sexual assault services and $29 million for domestic violence shelters, and the $1.5 million for the crisis centers seemed duplicative.
While domestic violence shelters are imperative and often provide women and children with legal support and counseling services, they are often not equipped to deal with the immediate and different trauma of rape, which often require immediate crisis counseling, confidential forensics and STD/HIV testing that rape crises centers are specifically designed to handle.
Many of the protections the state guarantees are not possible without the presence of rape crisis centers, including having people to help with everything from immediate medical care to long-term legal protection, according to Chapter 960 of the Florida Statutes, which addresses the rights of victims of sexual crime.
According to the FCASV, rape crisis centers in Florida are already struggling to provide rape victims with the services they are entitled to because of a lack of funding. Florida currently ranks 47th in the nation in terms of rape crisis programs per capita. Many victims of rape are already forced to drive two hours to the nearest rape crisis center in Florida, according to FCASV, as they serve multiple counties.
While other funding sources come from criminal charges placed upon sex offenders, the states hesitation to fund rape crisis centers speaks louder than the dollar figures that are vital to sustaining them.
Though Wright said the budget cut was not a move against women, the cuts reflect differently. Budget cuts should not afflict people, regardless of gender, at the most vulnerable points in their lives.
Divya Kumar is a sophomore majoring in mass communications and economics.