Tallahassee, FL — Florida Republicans at both the state and federal level have marked National Sexual Assault Awareness month with an unprecedented level of attacks against women’s sexual safety, a new low in the GOP’s continued War on Women. Last week, Governor Rick Scott vetoed $1.5 million from the state’s budget for rape crisis prevention centers — and when pressed his office responded that “nobody was able to make it clear to [the governor] why rape crisis centers needed the new funding.” On the heels of Gov. Scott’s veto, yesterday Senator Marco Rubio voted against re-authorizing the Violence Against Women Act — a law that protects women and families from domestic abuse and sex crimes.
“Florida Republicans at both the state and federal level have demonstrated a shocking and dangerous disregard for the health and safety of Florida’s women,” said Florida Democratic Party Spokeswoman Brannon Jordan. “Governor Scott and Senator Rubio have chosen to commemorate National Sexual Assault Awareness month by striking at the very programs designed to protect women from rape and families from domestic abuse. It’s a tragedy that the GOP in Florida is willing to put politics ahead of the safety of our sisters and mothers.”
These attacks by the GOP come as sex crimes in Florida are on the rise. According to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement’s 2011 Semi-Annual Crime Report (the most recently updated crime statistics for the state), forcible sodomy in Florida has increased by almost 30-percent since 2010, while forcible rape increased by 1.1-percent during the same time period. Statistics show one-in-nine women in Florida are victims of rape, but less than 40-percent of those rapes are reported.
On April 17, Governor Rick Scott vetoed $1.5 million for rape crisis prevention centers. “On April 17, smack in the middle of Sexual Assault Awareness Month, Gov. Rick Scott vetoed $1.5 million for the Florida Council Against Sexual Violence. The Legislature allotted the funds to the organization in order to support 30 rape crisis centers as they face impending reductions in collections, which currently is the bulk of their budgets.” [The Florida Independent, 4/23/12]
Scott’s budget appropriated $22 million for the new Florida Polytechnic University, “JD-U.” “The 2012-13 budget approved by the Legislature last month includes more than $22 million for a new school that has no students, no faculty, no buildings and no academic accreditation. That is not a prudent use of public money when the same budget slashes spending on higher education for the fifth straight year and requires cuts of another $300 million.” [Tampa Bay Times editorial, 4/15/2012]
When asked about the veto, Gov. Scott’s office said they didn’t think rape crisis centers needed new funding. “Gov. Rick Scott’s office is claiming that the funding he vetoed for rape crisis centers was “duplicative” and that “nobody was able to make it clear to [the governor] why rape crisis centers needed the new funding.” [Florida Independent, 4/24/2012]
Loss of funding will reduce rape crisis center services in Florida. “According to her, ‘1.2 million women in Florida already have been victimized’ and the funding would have helped the centers ‘double’ the number of services they offer and the number of victims they serve.” [The Florida Independent, 4/23/12]
On April 26, Senator Marco Rubio voted against re-authorizing the Violence Against Women Act. “Florida’s senators split their votes on the Violence Against Women Act, with Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson voting to extend it, and Republican Sen. Marco Rubio voting against it…The 18-year-old federal law created a national strategy to prevent domestic violence against women and pours resources into efforts to help victims of domestic violence” [Miami Herald, 4/26/2012]
Forcible rape and forcible sodomy crimes in Florida have increased. According to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement’s 2011 Semi-Annual Report (the most recently available crime statistics for the state), forcible sex offenses have increased from 2010. Forcible sodomy has increased by nearly 30-percent (131 offenses in 2010 to 169 offenses in 2011) and forcible rape has increased by 1.1-percent (467 offenses to 472 offenses) [FDLE Semi-Annual Crime Report, January to June 2011]
Statistics show one in nine Florida women are victims of rape, but less than 40 percent of those are reported. [News4Jax, 4/12/2012]