Ohio's Stop Violence Against Women program, rape crisis centers impacted by funding cuts

CLEVELAND - Cameron is a survivor of childhood sex abuse. She reached out for help from the Cleveland Rape Crisis Center 10 years ago.

"I underestimated the far reaching impact of the abuse," she said, "the pain, the nightmares, symptoms of PTSD."

The Cleveland Rape Crisis Center serves 20,000 survivors like Cameron each year.  But government support for the center has been cut by almost half over the last five years. And it could get worse.

Sondra Miller, the interim executive director, said the agency is preparing for an 8 percent cut next year from the Victims of Crime Act due to sequestration, the automatic federal government spending cuts.

The White House estimates sequestration will also mean $245,000 in cuts to the Stop Violence Against Women Program in Ohio, which includes rape crisis and domestic violence programs as well as law enforcement  training and investigation.

"Violence against women is a public health epidemic and it is very under resourced and very under the radar," Miller said.

She said one in five Ohio women will experience rape in her lifetime. However, many rape crisis centers across Ohio have closed while others struggle financially to keep their doors open.

A bill currently in the Ohio General Assembly would provide $1 million a year for two years for rape crisis programs in Ohio.

"What we need from the public is to call your public officials and let them that this is important to you," Miller said, "and advocate that funding goes to rape crisis centers and other organizations that provide help to women who have experienced trauma or violence in their life."

With the help of the Cleveland Rape Crisis Center, Cameron is now a wife, the mother of three happy and well-adjusted children, and she has been able to heal.

"It's very important that we know we're not alone and that it's not our fault," she said.

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