LeeAnn Blanche should have been celebrating her 10-year-old daughter’s birthday the night of Nov. 6, 2010, but instead, she was at MUSC having a post-rape exam. “They kept saying something about calling a PAR representative,” Blanche remembers.
At the time she did not know what PAR meant. Soon after, she had a PAR (People Against Rape) advocate holding her hand for the rest of the night. The advocate was even there for her until her final court date one year later when the verdict was decided in her favor. “This is more than just an advocacy program,” Blanche says. She also received free counseling for her and her family, self-defense classes, and a representative helping her through every step in and out of the courtroom. Needless to say, she was shocked when among Gov. Nikki Haley’s extensive list of 81 budget cuts (affecting education, healthcare, and the arts), PAR lost $19,000.
“I don’t know how we’re going to survive,” Melonea Marek, director of PAR says. “If this veto goes, we will have to cut all our services, our whole education program … which we are mandated to do.”
Haley cut almost $1.5 million in healthcare (vetoes 50-55) from organizations that deal with sexual abuse, kidney disease, domestic violence, and more. “I’m trying to understand where she got the justification,” Blanche says. She points out that the person who put her in the hospital is in prison, and her tax money is paying for it. “We’re paying for prisoners to get three meals a day and have a TV to watch, but cutting the programs that people actually need.”
With a little empathy Marek says, “I understand Gov. Haley has to stroke with a broad pen.” In other words, PAR is one of many health organizations that lost funding, and Haley couldn’t strike just one. “But I have to fight for the people we serve.”
For Blanche to recover, it was important for her to have support outside of her family and friends. “When something like this happens, you’re looking at your mom or your daughter and thinking, ‘How do I explain?’”
PAR is the oldest of four rape centers in South Carolina. No money or insurance is required to receive full-time treatment. “That’s a big deal,” Blanche says, “to shut the doors on something like that for so many people across the state.”
The relationships in PAR, like Blanche’s, last years. Marek knows from experience, “It takes as long as it takes to get over something like this.” PAR saw over 700 clients in 2011.
Haley’s explanation of the healthcare cuts is that each of these organizations “attempts to serve a portion of our population for which we extend our sympathy and encouragement, but nevertheless, it is only a small portion of South Carolina’s chronically ill or abused.”
About 60 percent of rape victims report the incident. “You can’t just look at numbers on paper,” Blanche says.
Last week PAR received six hospital calls from Sunday to Wednesday, and Marek is wondering how many calls will get them funding. “What’s the number they need to be impressed by this?”
The Senate will meet Tuesday July 18 and the House will meet Wednesday July 19 to discuss whether to override any vetoes.