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Federal funding for rape crisis centers, other social service programs in Tri-Counties in jeopardy

Rosie Sun

Staff and program cuts are a possibility unless funding is restored or added from other sources.

It was supposed to be a night of celebration. But, for a Santa Barbara County woman, it turned into a nightmare. She was sexually assaulted in her own home.

"I was celebrating graduation from a program, and I had invited coworkers to my home. I was in bed, when he came up, and he sexually assaulted me," said Sharon.
We’re calling her Sharon, to protect her identity. "It was somebody I knew, a friend and co-worker. You know, when it happened, my whole world turned upside down."

It happened six years ago, but the memories are still vivid for the now 49-year-old woman. "I was embarrassed. I was scared. I thought that nobody would believe me. I thought they would take his side, and not my side. It was pretty scary," said Sharon. "The night that it happened, there were friends there at my house. They were the ones that reported it. He did get arrested that evening."

She got support. Someone from the North County Rape Crisis and Child Protection Center has been there through the whole process. Sharon says that support has been critical. It took about four years for the case to go to trial. The man was eventually convicted.

"It put me in a deep depression. That's how bad I was, what a dark place he had taken me to. I'm doing much better, with the help of the center. I went in a victim, but came out a survivor."

Now, the center which helps her, and more than 600 others a year in northern Santa Barbara County needs some help itself.

"Beginning in October, funding that is fed into the State of California is being cut by 44.7%. For us, here at the Rape Crisis Center in North County, it's to the tune of about $182,000," said Ann McCarty, who is Executive Director of the North County Rape Crisis and Child Protection Center.

She says they get about half of their $900,000 a year budget through a federal fund. The Victim of Crime Act funding comes from fines and penalties. But, fewer court cases have cut that funding, and so far the federal government hasn’t moved to replace it.

Rape crisis centers, as well as other social services groups like CASA and CALM throughout the Tri-Counties, and around the country could be forced to cut programs, and services.

"Many rape crisis centers are saying alright, we're laying off this person or that person, or we're not going to be able to do this program, or that program," said McCarty. "They all want to figure out how they are going to maintain direct services." 

Sexual assault survivors like Sharon say they don’t know what they’d do without the support. She says they were there for her during the trial, and conviction of her attacker.

"There was the advocate from the rape crisis center that was actually there. She is to this day still my guardian angel."

If the federal government fails to plug the funding gap, it would take about $200 million dollars at the state level to make up the shortfall. But, with the state also facing a funding crisis, there’s no sign of that happening either.

The non-profits have a buffer of a few months before they would have to make cuts. But, their leaders are hopeful staff, and program reductions won't be the end result.


Lance Orozco has been News Director of KCLU since 2001, providing award-winning coverage of some of the biggest news events in the region, including the Thomas and Woolsey brush fires, the deadly Montecito debris flow, the Borderline Bar and Grill attack, and Ronald Reagan's funeral.