BALOG COLUMN: Veto hurts those who need help the most
If your household budget were cut by a third, you’d find it hard to make ends meet.
That’s the situation in which People Against Rape and other state rape crisis centers find themselves after Gov. Nikki Haley issued budget vetoes last week.
Executive Director Melonea Marek is uncertain about the group’s future as she awaits the Legislature’s chance to override the governor’s vetoes when it reconvenes on Tuesday.
“I’m not so sure we can survive it, honestly,” Marek said. Federal money for their operating budget is gone, and they would lose 37 percent of their state funding if the vetoes remain — about a third of their total budget. “We’re a tiny little office in North Charleston located near the bus lines, Marek said. “We are so frugal here.”
To call them a no-frills operation would be generous. The group’s wish list on its website is for cash donations, copy paper, and toilet paper and paper towels.
This is not some bloated bureaucracy. It’s people helping people who need it most.
PAR stats show a rape occurs every four hours and 46 minutes in South Carolina.
With eight full-time staffers, two part-time therapists, four backup staffers and a crew of volunteers that numbers about 15 (thanks to a recent training session), the crisis center is plenty busy.
The two therapists each see five clients a week. That doesn’t count the waiting list. Imagine finally deciding to talk about a case of abuse — because a good portion of the center’s clients are adults who were childhood victims of abuse — and being put on a waiting list.
With better funding they could have one full-time and one part-time therapist at the center. Something that may be surprising and is certainly sad is that about half of the crisis center’s clients are children. In fact, they have a full-time staffer at the Dee Norton Children’s Center.
Apparently shining the spotlight on the arrest and conviction of local child molester Skip ReVille did nothing to help anybody in Columbia reconsider their funding priorities. The center does a tremendous amount of education and prevention outreach, which would likely be the first thing to go in a budget crunch.
“In our opinion, bullying is the first form of sexual assault. That’s what rapists are — bullies,” Marek said. “We need to start teaching young boys it’s not OK to bully girls, not OK to abuse them, certainly not OK to rape them,” Marek said.
Another of Marek’s goals is to start a support group for teen girls. That’s also on hold without the necessary funding. It’s one thing to make a big show, a statement, take a stand for less government involvement in people’s lives. All those things are theoretically fine if that’s how you lean politically. But when it winds up hurting other people, that’s more like selfish grandstanding. And in this case, it’s downright cruel.
Regardless, People Against Rape could certainly use help, whether that means volunteering for a few hours, dropping off a case of toilet paper, or a cash donation. PAR’s website is www.peopleagainstrape.org, and the center’s phone number is 745-0144.
Reach Digital Editor Melanie Balog at firstname.lastname@example.org.