Illinois rape crisis services, at risk of closure, wait on funding bill

The fate of services for thousands of sexual assault victims in Illinois rests in the hands of Gov. Bruce Rauner.

At stake is $700 million in emergency funding for human services programs around the state. It isn’t the full funding for this last fiscal year, but shelters like the Women’s Center in Carbondale say the money would keep their rape crisis services from closing.

Call after call comes into the rape crisis hotline at the Women’s Center in Carbondale. Evelin Bertran says the center fields calls from victims day in and day out.

Bertran says they get a lot of calls from victims of domestic violence and rape, often both.  

Women’s Center Development Specialist Lindsay Stockhecke says they’re down $188,000 so far without state funding. She says they’ve been receiving funding for the domestic violence programs but not sexual assault services. She says they and many other shelters offer both services, typically to the same client. She says without half of the promised state funding, they’re struggling to stay going. If they don’t get money soon, she says their rape crisis services may have to stop.

"You know, there wouldn’t be an advocate in the ER with them, there wouldn’t be an advocate in court with them. And that shouldn’t be happening. It’s not something these survivors should have to do deal with on top of the trauma they’ve already experienced," Stockhecke said. She says without their services, victims will be without a lifeline and those committing the rape or assault may go unchecked.

The center is worried that if the stopgap funding doesn’t pass in the state, that come July 1, these doors won’t be able to stay open.

The bill, SB2038, passed the House and Senate quickly. It’s now in Gov. Bruce Rauner’s hands. Stockhecke says if it’s vetoed, it’ll be hard not to take it personally.

"It sends a message to the victims that they’re not a priority and their healing process isn’t a priority," Stockhecke said.

"Whether it’s counseling or just somebody that’s there for you for support. And I think a lot of women need it," Bertran said.

Stockhecke says they’ll continue to fight to keep their hotline going and their rape crisis services going as long as they can for the people of Southern Illinois. She says they’re urging people to call Rauner’s office and ask him to sign the emergency funding bill.

Rep. John Bradley says if it’s vetoed, they’ll try to override it so human services like sexual assault services can keep going around the state. He says funding for these programs are vital for victims.

When asked about the future of Bill SB2038, the governor’s office released this statement: "The Administration remains focused on enacting a truly balanced budget alongside meaningful reforms – and the governor will continue negotiating in good faith toward a bipartisan agreement.”

For more information about the Women’s Center, click here

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