(WOMENSENEWS)–At the end of April, as Sexual Assault Awareness Month was winding down, the Massachusetts’ House Ways and Means Committee proposed eliminating the funding of rape-crisis and domestic-violence centers in the state, according to Jane Doe Inc., the Massachusetts Coalition Against Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence.

If a push to restore these funds fails, the budgetary ax would fall on these centers for underserved communities in fiscal year 2004 as part of an $11 million chopping of funds from the Department of Health’s Bureau of Family and Community Health.

According to a release by Jane Doe Inc., rape-crisis centers and programs exclusively funded by the state’s Department of Public Health–around 20 in number–responded to 13,397 hotline calls and provided 13,498 sessions of counseling and advocacy to 2,726 individuals during fiscal year 2001. Of these individuals, 549 were having forensic evidence collected, a 90 percent increase over the previous year.

The programs in that same year also increased their legal advocacy efforts by 70 percent. The centers, according to Jane Doe Inc., “have served many of the hundreds of victims of clergy sexual abuse who have come forward this year and are working with clergy abuse survivor groups to provide assistance to others who are still in need.”

“It is unconscionable that the House would propose entirely eliminating the funding for rape crisis centers in Massachusetts–not only turning its back on survivors of sexual assault, incest and child abuse but also exposing our communities to further risk of harm,” said Catherine Greene, interim executive director of Jane Doe Inc., which includes more than 60 community-based sexual assault and domestic violence service programs in the state.

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