State funding nixed for Fort Myers rape crisis center
Governor Rick Scott announces funding cuts to 30 rape crisis centers across the state. One of those programs is right here in southwest Florida. Video by fox4now.comvideo
FORT MYERS - Abuse Counseling and Treatment, Inc. in Fort Myers is the only one serving Lee, Hendry and Glades counties. Staff tells Fox 4, they can't bear to think about where to start cutting now that even less state money will help support them.
Across Florida, even services for sexual assault victims are in jeopardy.
"That was shocking," said CEO Jennifer Benton. "I really thought maybe he wouldn't cut the whole thing."
This legislative session, $1.5 million in approved funding for rape crisis centers was nixed by Governor Rick Scott.
"It's too many people," said Scott at a recent press conference. "One in 3 women are going to be subject to some domestic violence and so your heart goes out to them."
That tremor felt right here at Abuse Counseling and Treatment, Inc., where nearly 20-percent, or $74,000 of its $398,000 budget for rape services, comes from the state.
"As our community grows, sexual violence statistics grow as well," said Benton. "So it's really important money."
The governor says he already covers more than $6 million for rape prevention services. New funding would be redundant.
"We have money that goes into the rape crisis centers already," said Scott. "So it was money that we, money we already funded."
But it's money Benton says covers forensic exams and counseling for rape victims. Eight were treated last month. The most recent on Sunday morning.
"Just how important is every dollar your center gets?" asked Fox 4 reporter Gabrielle Sarann to Benton. "Every dollar is so important," she replied. "We provide shelter, we provide a 24-hour hot line, we're always here for our clients. We don't charge them."
The center finds out at the end of May just how much funding they'll lose from the state.