On January 9, Gov. Kim Reynolds delivered her annual "Condition of the State" speech in Des Moines, where she said sexual harassment is a "stain on our culture, a destructive force—in politics, media and entertainment, in workplaces large and small—and in all facets of life. And," she noted, "it must stop."
However, in her budget proposal to state legislators, Gov. Reynolds has recommended a $45,000 cut to victim services for SFY18. If legislators adopt the suggested budget, this will mean a 26% cut with a proposed budget of $4.97 million for victim services in SFY19. This is down from a much-needed $6.7 million from the previous year. While legislators will have the final say on whether or not they decide to adopt Gov. Reynolds' suggested budget plan, it's nonetheless cause for concern.
Victim services funding helps fund programs to provide free and confidential counseling and resources to survivors of sexual violence and domestic abuse. Funding is critical for these programs to continue to operate and provide services to survivors in all 99 counties. Since the national reckoning on sexual violence has occurred, and in the wake of the #MeToo social media movement, crisis centers have received an influx of calls and clients seeking services. Limiting these crisis centers' funds means less survivors will be served.
"While Gov. Reynolds' speech was encouraging in addressing sexual violence, her budget tells another story," says Executive Director Beth Barnhill of the Iowa Coalition Against Sexual Assault. "This budget further cuts the supportive service that survivors depend on. Gov. Reynolds' ought to know that actions speak louder than words, and her budget cuts 1 out of ever 4 dollars for victim services. State funding is essential to Iowa's ability to adequately serve survivors, and we hope that Iowa legislators will step up to the plate and push for sustained funding of victim services. Furthermore, we call on the governor and on legislators to address sexual harassment in all arenas: government, businesses, schools, and more. To truly address sexual violence, it is going to take every last one of us. We need trainings, policies, and laws that will support survivors and hold those who cause harm accountable for their actions. Enough is enough. Survivors don't have time for any more lip service—it's time to act."
On February 21, IowaCASA supporters and anti-violence advocates will head to the Capitol to urge legislators to support victim services funding as part of its annual Day at the Capitol. It will be joined by its sister organization the Iowa Coalition Against Domestic Violence. For more information, click here.