Sexual assault help center needs student support

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Sexual assault help center needs student support

By Jessie Webster

Since the fiscal year began on July 1, 2015, Illinois has gone nearly eight months without a budget. As a result of such incompetence from our state government, social service agencies across Illinois are now without a penny of the funding they were contracted to receive.

Rape Advocacy, Counseling, and Education Services (RACES), located in Urbana, has been hit particularly hard by the budget crisis, as half of the rape crisis center’s funding is provided by the state.

For 45 years, RACES has provided medical and legal advocacy, as well as counseling and public education about rape and sexual assault to the University as well as Champaign, Douglas, Ford and Piatt counties. [http://www.cu-races.org/ourservices]

By assisting several counties in eastern Illinois, as well as the University, RACES has made an positive impact in the lives of thousands of survivors of one of our society’s most stigmatized crimes.

According to Stephanie Ames, RACES advocate and volunteer coordinator, the center provided assistance with medical and legal concerns to around 75 people in 2015. Ames estimates that anywhere from 120 to 150 individuals receive counseling services, and that the center’s educators spoke to over 36,000 children last year.

RACES also staffs a continuously running hotline that can provide victims with professional help.

“There is someone on the hotline 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and 365 days a year that will answer the phone and say ‘I believe you, I’m sorry that happened to you, how can I help you,’” Ames said.

Ames also added that RACES receives about 300 calls on their crisis hotline each year.

It’s hard to believe that even with the innumerable benefits RACES provides, the center still faces a legitimate risk of closing because Gov. Bruce Rauner and other Republican lawmakers have once again shown little interest in improving, or even maintaining, the quality of life of Illinois citizens unless there is a strong monetary incentive to do so.

According to Ames, RACES has yet to receive the $200,000 it was owed by Illinois at the start of the fiscal year, and as a result is operating on its reserve funds.

In a time of severe state financial crisis, the university community, and residents of the counties that RACES supports, have a moral responsibility to provide financial assistance to a center that has provided so many resources for almost five decades.

While Ames says the center is very thankful for the “outpouring of support” the center has received from individual donors and private organizations since going public with their request for money, the University and the community is still not doing enough.

Clearly, as at colleges nationwide, the University has a problem with sexual assault and rape on campus and off. If a clinic like RACES could provide additional support to victims, the University should be more receptive in making sure it stays around for the long run.

Jessie is a junior in Media.?

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