In response to Gov. Rick Scott’s line item veto stripping funding for 30 rape crisis centers around the state, a Tampa Bay center issued an open invitation to Scott yesterday.
Scott’s veto had particular sting because the governor eliminated the funding right in the middle of Sexual Assault Awareness Month.
The governor’s office has said that the $1.5 million allotted to Florida Council Against Sexual Violence was “duplicative” and that “nobody was able to make it clear to [the governor] why rape crisis centers needed the new funding.”
Michele Wykes, who has been an activist with the Crisis Center of Tampa Bay for the past eight years, announced on Tampa Bay’s WTSP 10 News that she would be willing to personally show Scott why the centers need the additional funding. Currently, the centers rely on fine collections from convicted offenders, which has been decreasing as the state’s economy worsens.
After seeing the faces of women and men who suffer, Michele says she can’t imagine what the governor was thinking. “We had no idea that he would not understand the need for this money. So, when we received the news today, it was almost a punch to the stomach and we were shocked,” she said.
But, what really shocked Michele and her staff at the Crisis Center of Tampa Bay the most is that the governor would call for this veto during Sexual Assault Awareness Month, a time when rape victims are empowered and honored.
Michele says there’s only one thing left to do.
She is officially going on record and making a public plea to Governor Rick Scott to change his mind by paying a visit to the Crisis Center of Tampa Bay.
“I would sit him down very calmly and really, truly try to educate him,” Michele said.
Jennifer Dritt, the executive director of the Council Against Sexual Violence, said that “1.2 million women in Florida already have been victimized” and the vetoed funding would have helped the centers “double” the number of services they offer and the number of victims they serve.
Dritt also explained that the program was “thoroughly vetted” in the Legislature and had “met the criteria” set forth by the governor for member projects. She also said she sent an email to the governor’s office explaining the need for the program.
“We are disappointed,” Dritt told me earlier this week. “We are really surprised and frankly stunned — [and] are trying to figure out what the heck happened.”
State Rep. Lori Berman, D-Delray Beach, said yesterday that Scott’s failure to “ensure victims of rape are afforded appropriate counseling and needed support simply highlights the Governor’s lack of understanding.”