Bush priorites don't include victims of sexual abuse

Rockford Sexual Assault Counseling (RSAC) provides a 24-hour crisis hotline, group and individual counseling (for survivors of abuse and their families, male and female), legal advice, self-defense classes for women and children, advocacy in hospitals (24-hour), and education for schools and civil officials in recognizing, preventing, and handling cases of sexual assault.

Skilled counselors offer all of these services, (excluding self-defense classes) for free, although donations are accepted, and prices for self-defense classes are based on a sliding scale.

RSAC is part of the Illinois Coalition Against Sexual Assault (ICASA), which includes 33 crisis centers and 26 satellite locations throughout Illinois.

ICASA channels 75 percent of RSAC’s state and federal funding.

The Preventive Health and Health Services Block Grant (PHHS block grant), established in 1981 as a mandatory annual grant from Congress provides states with flexible funding for health purposes and is one source of revenue for these programs.

In 2004, ICASA received about $300,000 from this grant, allowing for 12,570 people to receive counseling as well as teaching 363,310 children how to recognize and respond to sexual abuse.

RSAC received $9,000 to provide care and support for 900 area people and give prevention education to 8,000-12,000 people.

In the 2006 fiscal budget, cutting of PHHS block grant funding is proposed. The amount of money doesn’t seem too great, but without this supposed “mandatory” grant, the RSAC will suffer.

RSAC Executive Director Maureen Mostacci says: “It’s really going to be a hardship…a lot of that money goes towards our counseling and our…crisis intervention. We run the hotline and provide our services free of charge, and so we don’t receive any income from insurance companies.”

Mostacci continues: “[if the grant is cut] … we will probably end up with increased waiting lists. A lot of time, people will come when there’s a crisis. That’s a prime time to get somebody engaged in the counseling process. What we have found in the past when we have had to have a waiting list, and fortunately it’s not been for more than two to three weeks, but even that short period of time…people either lose their nerve, or it doesn’t feel like such a crisis at the moment, and they don’t come to the counseling process. There’s a lot of long term-effects [of abuse including] depression … issues around relationships and intimacy, difficulty working because of anxiety and depression … a high rate of suicidal ideation … addiction becomes a way to cope that just becomes hurtful in the long run.”

Recent headlines of alleged sexual abuse involving Michael Jackson have urged survivors to come forward, making the need for counseling greater.

Mostacci says: “ Prevention actually increases people’s disclosure. We want to be able to meet that need. For so many, it’s such a difficult step to take … that you don’t want to have to close the door.”

Residents are urged to write to Senator Dick Durbin to encourage needed funding for the Preventive Health and Health Services Block Grant. Sexually abused individuals have enough to deal with; seeking help shouldn’t be a struggle.

Senator Richard Durbin, United States Senate, 525 S. Eighth St., Springfield, IL 62703; (217) 492-4062; (217) 492-4382 – fax

E-mail available at: www.durbin.senate.gov/contact.cfm#contact.

For more info on sexual abuse counseling, contact:

Rockford Sexual Assault Counseling, Inc.

Winnebago County- 815-636-9811; 4990 E. State St., Rockford, Ill. 61108

Boone County: 815-544-6821; 521 S. State St., Suite 9, Belvidere, Ill. 61008

Ogle County: 815-732-3219; PO Box 46, 1101 W. Pines Rd., Oregon, Ill. 61061.

From the Aug. 3-9, 2005, issue

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