The funding awarded through the Ohio Attorney General’s Office to the Ohio’s Rape Crisis Trust Fund will nearly triple compared to what it has received in its first three years.

Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost announced that grant awards documents would be sent Aug. 22 to the 32 rape crisis centers and agencies throughout the state.

“Women who have lived through the horrific act of rape will now have access to expanded services in every corner of our state,” Yost said. “This massive increase in funding to our local partners will improve lives moving forward.”

The $4.16 million in grant dollars is a huge jump from the $1.43 million awarded for the past three years.

According to Michelle Carpenter, executive director of Haven of Hope, a victim advocacy center in Cambridge, the Rape Trust Fund started in 2014 and she was asked to go to the State House and testify as to the need for funding to get the Rape Trust Fund started. The fund was the first time that a line item was included in the state budget for rape victims.

Carpenter was contacted again this year and asked to request community members sign letters requesting the need for an increase in rape funding. Carpenter met with Prosecutor Joel Blue, Sheriff Jeffrey Paden, Judge Daniel Padden, Cambridge Mayor Tom Orr and all three Guernsey County commissioners. Each sent a letter attesting to the needs for for the additional funding.

They originally planned to request the $1.5 million be increased to $3 million but the House saw such a need that they increased it themselves, Carpenter said.

Funding for rape crisis center had been about $1 million in fiscal years 2014 and 2015 with an increase to $1.43 million in fiscal years 2016, 2017 and 2018.

“The Alliance to End Sexual Violence (OAESV) the statewide coalition that supports the rape crisis centers around Ohio, reports that over those same years the number of counties providing rape crisis services increased and so did reports of sexual violence,” Yost’s new release stated.

“This funding increase is critical to helping rape survivors in Ohio,” said Rep. Laura Lanes (R-Grove City), a co-sponsor of the the budget amendment that provided the increased funding. “All women should have access to the help they need regardless of where they live.”

With the increase in the funding, all 31 rape crisis centers in Ohio will each receive a grant of $120,774.

Additionally, the OAESV will now receive an award of $416,000 for training and technical assistance. This is a huge increase over the $142,500 they were awarded last year.

“This is significant. It happened very quickly. We don’t have the award letter yet,” Carpenter said. “So the funds are not earmarked for anything special, but we do have to use them to provide direct trauma and informed services to victims in our community. So, we will use it to provide the services to victims of sexual assault and rape.”

For agencies like Tri-County Help Center (TCHC) in St. Clairsville which provides services to sexual abuse survivors and their families in Belmont County and surrounding areas, the grant money allowed them to enhance the services they offer.

TCHC has been providing services to sexual assault survivors since 1979, but due to lack of funding these services were provided by trained volunteers. The Rape Crisis funding has allowed them to employ a full-time sexual assault services facilitator, develop ongoing prevention programming, provide training and supervision to sexual assault advocates, engage the community in awareness events and enhance their emergency on-call services.

Additionally, according to Cathy Campbell, executive director for TCHC, the center has been able to develop community collaborative boards, engaging other agencies and service providers as well as the development and maintenance of a sexual assault response team which is designed to evaluate ad improve survivor experience.

Through the services offered, survivors of sexual assault as well as other service providers can contact a trained rape crisis advocate 24 hours a day. The TCHC can also provide presentations to community organizations on a variety of topics including awareness of sexual assault and how if impacts the victim, how to assist a friend or family member who has been assaulted and available resource within their communities.

“We are extremely grateful to the office of AG Yost for acknowledging the importance of funding this work and are excited about the increased services this will allow TCHC,” Campbell said.

“This increase will change the landscape of rape crisis services in our state and positively impact the lives of thousands of Ohioans,” Rosa Beltre, executive director of the OAESV said. “We are so thankful that the Ohio Legislature and the Ohio Attorney General’s Office have made this decision to support survivors in Ohio and the advocates who serve them and to help put an end to sexual violence in our state.”