As of yesterday, it would appear that Florida Republicans at both the state and federal levels had marked National Sexual Assault and Awareness month with an unprecedented level of attacks against women’s sexual safety.
This perception began last week when Florida Governor Rick Scott vetoed $1.5 million for rape and crisis prevention centers. Shortly thereafter, Senator Marco Rubio (FL-Rep) vote against re-authorizing the Violence Against Women Act, which intends to protect women and families from domestic abuse and sex crimes.
“Florida Republicans at both the state and federal level have demonstrated a shocking and dangerous disregard for the health and safety of Florida’s women,” said Florida Democratic Party Spokeswoman Brannon Jordan. “Governor Scott and Senator Rubio have chosen to commemorate National Sexual Assault Awareness month by striking at the very programs designed to protect women from rape and families from domestic abuse. It’s a tragedy that the GOP in Florida is willing to put politics ahead of the safety of our sisters and mothers.”
Not so fast in criticizing Scott’s record on this one. Today, Scott signed legislation that will expand the protections available to victims of domestic and sexual violence. Florida currently provides nearly $6.5 million for rape prevention and sexual assault services which is in addition to $29 million available for domestic violence programs. Legislation signed today will provide an additional $1.5 million to pay for relocation services for women who are victims of sexual battery.
“While Florida has a 40-year low crime rate, we must continue to protect the rights of individuals affected by crime. This critical legislation I have signed into law shows the valuable steps Florida has made in protecting the rights of victims,” said Scott.
Legislation approved today will increase funding for female victims of abuse and is coupled with critical programmatic and legal changes that will help prevent incidents of abuse from occurring.
But Rubio is not off the hook. Yes, crime is down overall in the State of Florida, but sex crimes in Florida are on the rise. According to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement’s 2011 Semi-Annual Crime Report (the most recently updated crime statistics for the state), forcible sodomy in Florida has increased by almost 30-percent since 2010, while forcible rape increased by 1.1-percent during the same time period. Statistics show one-in-nine women in Florida are victims of rape, but less than 40-percent of those rapes are reported.
Yet, it is a fact that on April 26, Senator Marco Rubio voted against re-authorizing the Violence Against Women Act. As reported by the Miami Herald, “Florida’s senators split their votes on the Violence Against Women Act, with Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson voting to extend it, and Republican Sen. Marco Rubio voting against it…The 18-year-old federal law created a national strategy to prevent domestic violence against women and pours resources into efforts to help victims of domestic violence.”
Thank you Governor Scott for demonstrating that women’s safety is a priority in Florida. Senator Rubio, we hope to see this same leadership from you one day soon.