When the Hand That Feeds You Becomes the Hand That Guides You: Governmental Funding of Local Rape Crisis Centers

Tuesday, 17 July 2018: 11:45
Oral Presentation
Misty LUMINAIS, Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, OH, USA
Rachel LOVELL, Case Western Reserve University, USA
Gunnur KARAKURT, Case Western Reserve University, USA
Recently in the United States, federal and local governments have increased funding for community-based rape crisis centers, a potential boon which does not come without strings. Some of the funding is funneled through the Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) , which essentializes sexual violence as, first and foremost, a crime. Government funding has allowed many rape crisis centers to remain open, or in this particular case study, expand. By accepting these funds, centers have to be responsive to the priorities of the agency providing funds - by expanding their engagement with the criminal justice system. Speaking with both survivors who have used the services of a Midwestern rape crisis center and victim advocates who provide some of those services, we discovered some tension between what survivors found valuable in their experience with the rape crisis center and how advocates defined success for survivors. Specifically, we noted several instances where the advocates identified a criminal justice resolution as one of the most important outcomes for a survivor over their course of interaction with the center. In this paper, we explore how State funding, however well-intentioned, shifts the focus of community based rape crisis centers towards the only remedies provided by the State - legal ones. Sexual violence disrupts a person’s life in many ways, not all of which can be framed in terms of the crime committed or punishing an offender. Offering support to those people willing to participate in the criminal justice system is an important service but it is possible that funding streams are placing an overemphasis on this aspect of a rape crisis center when survivors define other services as of equal or greater value.