COLUMBIA, SC - Sexual Trauma Services of the Midlands (STSM) was dismayed to learn of Gov. Nikki Haley's decision to veto funding in the state budget for sexual assault advocacy programs across South Carolina. The governor reasoned that this funding is for the chronically ill and abused and is not being used to address a public health issue. Sexual violence is a public health issue. Sexual assault is a serious crime with lifelong consequences. In fact, the rate of sexual violence in South Carolina surpasses the national average, making it one of the most serious health epidemics in our state.
Cutting this funding will have costly consequences for the entire state. Every four hours and 46 minutes, someone is forcibly raped in South Carolina. Statistics show that only 39 percent of violence sex crimes are ever reported, yet those crimes result in nearly $4.1 billion in the direct costs of medical and mental health care and nearly $1.8 billion in the indirect costs of lost productivity. Teen pregnancy, juvenile delinquency and substance abuse increase dramatically in the devastating wake of sexual abuse.
STSM is a private nonprofit agency that receives the majority of its funding from other resources while continuing to serve the Midlands community. We are the largest of the 15 sexual assault agencies in the state and the only one serving every man, woman and child in Richland, Lexington, Newberry and Sumter counties.
If this veto stands, these 15 agencies will experience a 37 percent decrease in state funding from last year. That is in addition to the 54 percent cut that these programs have experienced since 2008. This fiscal year, sexual assault centers requested for a portion of these cuts to be reinstated. Instead, the cuts went much further. Meanwhile, these agencies have served 24 percent more victims of sexual violence since the cuts began about four years ago.
STSM alone faces a cut of more than $45,000, amounting to nearly 6% of the agency's budget. "With 90 cents of every dollar STSM receives going towards programs, we do not have operational costs to spare and may have to eliminate prevention programming and direct services," stated Ginny Waller, STSM's Executive Director.
To note: The item incorrectly says that the $453,680 cut is to the SC Coalition Against Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault. Veto 51 is in fact for the 15 sexual assault agencies that serve every county in South Carolina.