Iowa organizations that provide services to victims of sexual violence say they face potential funding cuts at the state and federal levels.
A cut to state funding for victim services is being discussed as a way to help make up for a budget deficit. Federal funding decreases may come as part of proposed budget reductions at the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Executive Director Adam Robinson of the Rape Victim Advocacy Program (RVAP) in Iowa City said these cuts would be catastrophic for victim services.
“In addition to sexual assault centers like ours, our partner centers and sister centers throughout the state that provide support and advocacy and prevention for survivors of domestic violence, as well as shelter services, are all right now facing a potential threat,” Robinson said.
Specific budget cuts have not been revealed, but similar programs throughout the state and country are bracing for the possibility.
That is why RVAP and a coalition of victim services organizations in Iowa are weaving more political activism into their events for Sexual Assault Awareness Month, which is this month.
“One of our activities this month is a postcard writing party," said Susan Junis, assistant director of prevention and outreach at RVAP. "That’s something anyone across the state of Iowa can do--host a postcard writing party to legislators or take five minutes out of your day to call or email decision-makers at any level.”
Junis said she hopes people take action to make sure the potential funding cuts do not materialize.
"With a mission as big as ending sexual violence, it can be hard to know where to start," Robinson said. "Part of what our current legislative, political and financial climate creates is an opportunity for people to tangibly get involved, and to reach out and make sure that the decisions our legislators are making aren’t made on the backs of survivors of sexual violence."
Robinson said he is worried that the political conversations surrounding budget cuts to victim services could be triggering for sexual assault survivors.
“It’s important for victim service centers like ours to make sure that the stories of sexual violence and domestic violence survivors are part of that narrative as well,” he said.
Anyone impacted by sexual violence can call the 24/7 Iowa Sexual Abuse Hotline at 1-800-284-7821.