COLUMBIA — Gov. Matt Blunt recommended the use of $1 million of federal funding to establish a new grant program aimed at combating sexual and domestic violence Thursday as an amendment to his original budget proposal.
The amendment will take advantage of $1 million of federal funding that helps cover the cost of forensic medical exams, or rape kits, for sexual assault victims. It will redesignate $1 million of the originally proposed $2.3 million of state funding to go toward the creation of a sexual assault grant program, Blunt spokesperson Jessica Robinson said.
In Missouri, rape victims are required to pay for the forensic medical exam if they do not have insurance or the insurance company refuses to pay, according to a previous story in the Missourian.
The governor had originally proposed $2.3 million to specifically cover the cost of these exams and placed the program under the administration of the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services in October. In order to qualify for the federal funding from the Office of Crime Victims Compensation, Blunt issued an executive order Thursday redesignating this program to the Department of Public Safety’s Crime Victim’s Compensation Fund Program, a fund established in 1981 to provide financial assistance to crime victims.
“Instead of using the $1 million to pay for rape kits, we will use federal funding to pay for (the rape kits),” Robinson said.
While the program is still in the planning stages, Robinson said it will provide grants for education and support for local organizations that assist sexual assault victims.
Danica Pape, president of Stronger Together Against Rape at MU, said the program will help local organizations that provide assistance for domestic violence and sexual abuse victims, such as The Shelter, and will help them facilitate more volunteers.
Pape also said that the governor’s proposal to pay for victims’ medical costs is key to helping them in their recovery.
“I think it is definitely important that people who do go to the hospital after that should not have that financial burden,” Pape said.
Together the programs will designate $3.3 million to combat sexual assault but will not require any more state funding, Robinson said.
“It’s about providing additional services to Missourians using existing funding,” she said.