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Florida Gov. Rick Scott
(Caricature by DonkeyHotey)
The Florida legislature approved $1.5 million to fund 30 rape crisis centers this fiscal year. But last Tuesday, in the middle of Sexual Assault Awareness Month, Gov. Rick Scott vetoed the budget line item. A spokesperson for the governor said the allocation is "duplicative" because sexual violence programs are already covered in the $70 billion budget.

Jennifer Dritt, the executive director of the Florida Council Against Sexual Violence, doesn't see things that way at all. She said information she provided the governor’s office “showed them that these rape crisis centers have waiting lists.”

“Survivors are having to wait weeks, sometimes six weeks, in some programs three months to be seen,” she said. “We included quotes from the programs about the waiting lists and what services they weren’t able to offer because of a lack of money.”
According to the council's website, staffing shortages plague the state's rape crisis programs and fewer than 10 percent of them have enough financial resources to provide services most needed by rape victims. Florida ranks 47th in the nation in the number of rape crisis programs per capita. Based on a statewide survey that used a conservative definition of rape, one of nine Florida women have been rape victims. That means one crisis program exists for every 18,000 adult, female survivors.

Most of the existing programs the governor's office claims to be duplications are education-oriented and do not deal with rape survivors' needs.

Dritt says the program was “thoroughly vetted” in the Legislature and had the support of state Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto, R-Fort Myers, and Rep. Chris Dorworth, R-Heathrow. According to her, the program “met the criteria” set forth by the governor for member projects.

“We are disappointed,” Dritt says. “We are really surprised and frankly stunned — [and] are trying to figure out what the heck happened.”

What the heck happened is that awareness of sexual assault seems not to have gained a foothold in the governor's office. Consequently, Florida will remain, for yet another year, on the bottom of the list of states for whom dealing with this crime is a high priority. And they keep telling us there is no war on women.

Originally posted to Meteor Blades on Tue Apr 24, 2012 at 08:09 AM PDT.

Also republished by RaceGender DiscrimiNATION, House of LIGHTS, Rape and Domestic Violence, and Daily Kos.

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