Bad Veto: Rape Recovery; Veto Will Hurt Crime Victims

Article excerpt

Surely Rick Scott did not mean to deny needed services to Florida's victims of sexual assault by his veto last week.

Surely the governor received bad advice.

Scott demonstrated he is either out of touch or is remarkably insensitive to Florida's high number of rape victims when he vetoed $1.5 million in funding for the state's 30 rape crisis centers.

Almost $57,000 of the appropriation would have gone to the Rape Recovery Team at the Women's Center of Jacksonville where trained staff respond to between 350 and 400 calls annually to assist victims of sexual assault.

The center operates a rape crisis hotline 24 hours a day. Team members assist victims during examinations, in meetings with law enforcement and prosecutors, and they provide counseling. The center relies heavily on volunteers to staff the hotline because funding isn't sufficient to hire staff.

RAPE UP IN DUVAL

The $57,000 would have been used to hire an advocate to assist with the increased workload, said Shirley Webb, director of the Women's Center.

The need may be greater in Northeast Florida than in some other areas of the state.

Forcible rape increased by 13 percent in Duval County last year, moving from 331 cases in 2010 to 374 cases last year.

The number of rape cases dropped almost 2 percent statewide to more than 5,200 cases, according to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. Those numbers don't include many victims who go to rape crisis centers but not to the police.

BILL HAD SUPPORT

So why would Scott veto the measure that had broad bipartisan support when it was approved by the Legislature?

After Scott attended an event marking Crime Victims Rights Week, the governor was asked about the elimination of the money.

"It was in addition to what we're already doing," Scott said. "We've increased funding for domestic violence. …