Cera co-sponsors rape crisis program

COLUMBUS – The Ohio House of Representatives unanimously passed legislation this week that defines a rape crisis program in the state.

State Rep. Jack Cera, D-Bellaire, a co-sponsor of the measure, noted that rape crisis services for victims across the state of Ohio have been lax due to the shortage of statewide funding.

“House Bill 108 is the first step in rectifying the problem, as it appropriates $1,000,000 in Fiscal Year 2014 and 2015 to fund rape crisis centers. This is an important first step in assisting rape survivors by providing valuable and necessary services on their behalf,” said Cera.

The bill has moved to the Ohio Senate for consideration.

According to Cera, every state bordering Ohio already provides consistent, dedicated state level funding for rape crisis centers.

“Right now Ohio has 27 rape crisis programs which provide coverage for only 37 out of 88 counties. Rape survivors who had an advocate had a police report taken 59 percent of the time vs. 41percent for those who did not have an advocate. Survivors working with an advocate had their incident investigated 24 percent of the time vs. 8 percent for those without someone working on his or her behalf,” explained Cera.

Cera said information from the Ohio Alliance to End Sexual Violence indicated several rape crisis programs have closed over the last decade while the need for services has increased and funding levels have decreased.

“The well-being of survivors in need has been jeopardized because of the lack of a consistent, dedicated funding mechanism by the state.These facts are a huge indicator that the state needed to outline a program that included a funding mechanism for outreach and comprehensive services,” said Cera.

“Is it enough state dollars, probably not? However, it is certainly a stepping stone in the right direction,” he added.

“A rape crisis center can consist of a non-profit state sexual assault coalition, a victim witness assistance program operated by a prosecuting attorney, or a program operated by a government-based or non-profit entity that provides a full continuum of services to victims of sexual assault, including hotlines, victim advocacy and support services; however it doesn’t provide medical services, but may refer victims to physicians for medical care,” Cera remarked.

Cera said the proposal adds a representative of rape crisis programs as a member of the State Victims Assistance Advisory Council and requires registered sex offenders to pay a $100 fee that is deposited into the Rape Crisis Program Trust Fund.