South Carolina lawmakers joined advocates for sexual assault victims Monday afternoon to urge the General Assembly to overturn Gov. Nikki Haley’s veto of nearly half a million dollars in funding for rape crisis centers.
Haley’s veto drew national criticism last week, with much of the outrage centering around the governor’s assertion that funding for rape victims represents a “distraction” from the state’s public health priorities.
“What planet is [Gov. Haley] living on?” asked state Sen. Joel Lourie (D-Richland). “I’ve not heard from one constituent who agrees with the governor on this.”
“This is a crime that impacts all of us — men and women, young and old, Republicans and Democrats,” commented victims advocate Pamela Jacobs. “Sexual assault is not only a public health issue; it’s a public health epidemic.”
Palmetto Public Record collected excerpts from the press conference into a video which you can watch below:
Rep. Joan Brady (R-Richland) said a person is raped every four hours and 46 minutes in South Carolina. While funding for the state’s 15 rape crisis centers has dropped by 57% over the past three years, the number of people helped by the centers has increased by 24 percent.
“Survivors, you are not mere distractions,” Rep. Brady told the crowd, many of whom were sexual assault survivors themselves. “You are valuable priorities.”
Brady also criticized Gov. Haley’s characterization of the rape crisis funding only helping a small percentage of South Carolinians. “If we only considered citizens in the majority, that would get rid of a lot of programs,” she commented. “Our responsibility is to take care of all citizens.”
Rep. Bakari Sellers (D-Denmark) commended the bipartisanship of a movement that has drawn support from Republicans and Democrats alike. ”We have a divisive climate, and it’s unfortunate the governor has tried to divide us again,” he said.
Still, lawmakers expect a quick override of the governor’s cuts when the General Assembly reconvenes on Tuesday. The House is expected to take up the veto tomorrow, and the Senate will vote on Wednesday. Palmetto Public Record will provide full online coverage of the session throughout the week, so look for updates as they become available.