State budget is a moral document | Letters
December 9, 2011 · Updated 4:12 PM
Our governor and state legislators are faced with the difficult task of preparing a balanced budget and are calling for extreme cuts in government services to match the income shortfall created by these tough economic times.
There are some services, like public safety, that our tax dollars must support. Services to victims of sexual assault and domestic violence are part of our public safety network and benefit all of us.
Community organizations which help sexual assault victims, such as King County Sexual Assault Resource Center (KCSARC), have a long history of providing services that increase public safety and save lives. Yet, the governor’s budget proposes a 20 percent reduction to state funding for sexual assault and domestic violence programs.
Do we want to live in a community, a state, which fails to meet these critical safety needs of our citizens? What does this say about our care and concern for our neighbors — if therapy and legal advocacy services for these victims of crime are not available? What if they were not available for your loved one?
63 percent of the victims of sexual assault and abuse KCSARC helps are under age 18. There has never been a greater need for services, and even with current funding KCSARC cannot assist all those who need help.
Criminal sexual assault cases in King County now take 18-24 months to be resolved (up from previously 12-18 months). This greatly increases the strain on victims and families.
Sexual assault and domestic violence services are a critical element in public safety. Mary Ellen Stone, executive director of KCSARC observes, “Without legal advocacy services, victims are less likely to participate in the criminal justice system and offenders are less likely to face prosecution.”
We know that untreated victims face huge hurdles in their future. A recent Washington state survey reported that 100 percent of women who had multiple sexual assaults as adults had been victimized as children. Problems with school performance, drug and alcohol abuse, depression, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and suicide are often results of untreated sexual assault. Treatment and healing are critical. Who will be there for victims if our agencies are starved for funding?
I have lived and worked in South King County for 44 years. King County Sexual Assault Resource Center has delivered quality services to victims of sexual assault for 35 of those years. Their record is outstanding and nationally recognized. Yet their service is in jeopardy and under threat. Here are some things you can do:
• Call or write your Olympia elected officials and urge that funding for sexual assault services be at least at the current 2011 budget level
• Remind our Legislature that a “cuts-only budget” will degrade the quality of our life
• Speak to your family members, neighbors, your church and friends and alert them to this serious funding crisis and ask them to join you in making your views known right now in Olympia.
Our state budget is a moral document. The human needs in our communities require continued and adequate funding. The time to speak out is now. The time to stand up is now. Please join me.
Rev. Marvin Eckfeldt, Kent (board of directors, King County Sexual Assault Resource Center)