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Victim services cuts protested

Citizen Staff Writer



One was raped by a Catholic priest 40 years ago. Another’s fiance was slain during a robbery attempt, leaving her alone and three months pregnant. Another survived an abusive relationship and was finally able to move away with her four children from her abuser.

These three Tucsonans – Jim Parker, who is in his 50s, Melissa Royce, 23, and Leslie Evans, 30 – joined about 70 others Friday at a rally against proposed budget cuts to victim services funds.

The rally, which included a speakers’ lineup of victims, law enforcement, city officials and victim services organizations, packed the yard at Las Familias, 3618 E. Pima St. The organization helps victims of childhood sexual abuse.

The proposed reductions would cut off the annual $2.8 million allocation for victim services, $400,000 of which goes to Pima County, said Pima County Attorney Barbara LaWall.

These funds are distributed through the Arizona Criminal Justice Commission and come from fines and penalties. The funds help pay for victim advocates, medical expenses, funeral and court costs.

The state Legislature is proposing to take the funds from the organizations that receive them, LaWall said, and offer federal stimulus funds in their place.

This endangers all the programs, she added, because federal funds for victim services are based on how much the state pays out.

If the state cuts off its funding for the services, there will be nothing for federal funds to match for the allotment in 2010.

“Cutting off services would be like cutting off life support,” said Parker, who finally sought help 40 years after he had been raped by a priest. He found solace and services at the Southern Arizona Center Against Sexual Assault.

Melissa Royce took the last name of her cab driver fiance Timothy Royce, who was slain last year. She said she would have been lost without Homicide Survivors.

“It was the only thing that gave me hope for the future,” she said. She was there with their child, 6-month-old Timothy Jr.

“It you take away the support, it silences the victims,” added Evans, a single mother of four who was only able to get away from her alleged abuser with help from Emerge!, a center that helps women victims of domestic abuse.

Those who were helped long ago remember how important those services were.

Marissa Cruz-Long, 36, attended the rally. Her father, Arizona Department of Public Safety Officer Juan Cruz, was killed 10 years ago at the age of 48 by a drunken driver.

She said the support her family received from M.A.D.D. advocates during the ordeal was invaluable.

“They held our hand and helped us through the whole thing,” she said. “They were like a rock. People need some kind of support through the trial, the whole process.

“It’s sad (the Legislature) is trying to cut out services people need at the most desperate times of their lives.”

Speakers urged everyone to call, e-mail or write to their state legislators and Gov. Jan Brewer, to stop the cuts.

Crime victims protest proposed cuts to victim services

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