State Rep. Kirk Schuring, R-Jackson Township, said Wednesday he will sponsor legislation to provide more help to sexual assault victims throughout Ohio.
In the wake of the Steubenville rape trial, State Rep. Kirk Schuring, R-Jackson Township, introduced a bill that would impose $100 fees on sex offenders to pay for services such as rape crisis centers to help sexual assault victims.
“We need to make sure that when individuals are confronted with these heinous crimes that they have some place to go where there’s a safe harbor and there can be healing,” Schuring said at a news conference Wednesday in Columbus with Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine.
“I think just as importantly that they would know that there is a clear and supported path to justice because that’s an integral path of what we’re trying to do here.”
Schuring said sex offenders would be charged the fee when they first register their address with their sheriff’s office after their incarceration. And they would have to pay the fee every time they change their address, but they would not be charged the fee for registrations before the bill would take effect. He said about 2,000 sex offenders register each year.
State Rep. Nan Baker, R-Westlake, is a joint sponsor of the legislation, House Bill 108. She introduced a similar bill last year, that Schuring as chairman of the House Criminal Justice Committee worked on. He said the bill, which would have imposed the fee in sex offender cases through court costs, did not advance because some court officials were concerned about the mandate that they collect the fee.
DeWine announced his support for the bill, citing a study his office conducted that found that about 52 counties in Ohio lack comprehensive services for sexual assault victims.
Stark County is not on that list. But of the bordering counties, Carroll, Columbiana and Holmes counties were determined to have only “some sexual assault-specific services.”
“What happened in Steubenville is not an isolated event,” said DeWine, who cited “sobering” statistics that said nearly 20 percent of women have been sexually assaulted.
A statement from DeWine’s office said the Ohio Alliance to End Sexual Violence defines “comprehensive” services as including a “24-hour crisis hotline, criminal justice advocacy, community outreach, crisis intervention services, referral services, and agency collaboration.”
Schuring said he would ask House Finance Committee Chairman Ron Amstutz, R-Wooster, to include in the state’s biennial budget bill a $2 million appropriation so DeWine can immediately begin expanding services for sexual assault victims in underserved rural counties.
DeWine said he would also seek federal grant funding for the program, and he would seek funding for efforts to prevent sexual assaults through an educational campaign.
“Rape is not a recreational activity. We have a cultural problem in the country,” said DeWine. “Amongst some people, many of them young people, there’s a very cavalier, casual attitude about rape and about sex, sexual assault. We as a society have an obligation to try and change that. Rape is not OK. Sexual assault is not OK. We have to stand up as a people in society and say, ‘No, this is enough!’”
Page 2 of 2 - DeWine said he will have regional sexual assault service coordinators recruit and train local volunteers to help victims, try to prevent duplication of services and work with hospitals, local criminal justice officials, mental health professionals and local organizations to meet victims’ needs.
The attorney general said his goal is to have comprehensive services in all 88 Ohio counties within five years.
Schuring said the Legislative Service Commission estimates the fees would raise about $200,000 a year.
On whether sex offenders could afford the fee, Schuring said he had been told by a criminal defense attorney, “‘when a criminal really needs good legal services they’ll find the money,’ and I think the same thing will be true with this.”
He added that the attorney general would have the authority to pursue a civil action against sex offenders who don’t pay the fee.