There are over twenty programs specifically dedicated to providing services for survivors of sexual assault in the five boroughs. Such Rape Crisis Programs provide counseling, advocacy, and other invaluable resources to survivors. With an estimated roughly 7 million survivors of this heinous act living in New York State, these programs play a necessary role in the people of New York’s health.
Unfortunately, Rape Crisis Programs in New York are not getting nearly as much funding as they need to effectively carry out their important services. Rape is the second most expensive crime behind murder in NY, which oddly does not align with service-related statistics. For example, the number of survivors served by Rape Crisis Programs in New York State increased by 65% in the last two years. Meanwhile, statewide funding for such programs went down by 25% since 2007.
Right now, Rape Crisis Programs in the city are struggling to meet the needs of myriad survivors. Beth Israel’s (now in the process of merging with Mount Sinai) program, headed by Carol Sher, specifically voiced the need for at least one additional member to add to their currently overworked staff.
That’s about what the additional funding requested by a New York City Alliance Against Sexual Assault’s petition would allow. The petition asks for a statewide budget increase of $4 million, from the current $3.4 to $7.4 million. Spread throughout the entire state, the extra funding would amount to $55,000 per program in need. That means one more staff member to help in the program at the East Village B.I., which could go a long way.
A 2006 article by Rebecca Campbell, Rape Survivors’ Experience With the Legal and Medical Systems: Do Rape Victim Advocates Make a Difference?, showed just how much of an effect RCPs have on a survivor’s time in the hospital emergency department (where the majority of rape survivors first seek care after an assault). The study from the article took statistics from survivors’ experiences at two different hospitals, one that provided an advocate for the survivor through an RCP and one that did not. Survivors with provided advocates were more likely to have law enforcement take their cases seriously, receive information about STD prophylaxis, and get more information about follow-up medical services. Meanwhile, survivors without advocates expressed more feelings of guilt and depression than their advocate-assisted counterparts and ended up being 25% less likely to seek further help after their visit to the hospital.
Not much media buzz is generated in regards to funding for these kinds of programs in NYC, in spite of how often people in the city unfortunately have to use them. Statistics from 2008 show that over $1.7 million went towards almost 2,200 sexual assault forensic exams that year. Based on the increased number of survivors served by Rape Crisis Programs since 2012, it stands to reason that those numbers have grown, too.
The Office of Victim Services in the city (then known as the Crime Victim’s Board) covered those $1.7 million, since hospitals do not charge patients admitted for sexual assault for the forensic exam. However, the figure still helps provide a sense of the overall cost that must go into services for survivors, from medical to social and legal.
Though that particular figure is not equivalent to funding used by a Rape Crisis Program itself, it makes the extra $55k a year that Beth Israel and similar programs seek seem pretty modest. Sexual assault is certainly a reality in Manhattan, and the people who work to help survivors through a very traumatizing experience could always use an extra hand.
For the statistics cited in this article, visit the New York City Alliance Against Sexual Assault’s website.