COLUMBUS- State Reps. Michele Lepore-Hagan (D-Youngstown) and Tavia Galonski (D-Akron) today issued a letter to Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost seeking detailed information related to the Crime Victims Compensation Fund and his discretionary role in awarding or not awarding funds to survivors of sexual assault. The request for information comes as Reps. Lepore-Hagan and Galonski introduce House Bill (HB) 732, the Protect Child Victims Act, which would give child sexual assault and abuse victims the ability to apply for an emergency award from the Crime Victims Fund for any healthcare treatment, including abortion care.
“The Crime Victims Compensation Fund exists to provide financial support to Ohioans who are victims of horrific crimes. Sexual assault survivors deserve to have the same access to this fund as other crime victims do, and we are simply asking for transparency from the Attorney General’s office,” said Rep. Galonski. “We want to ensure that all of our most vulnerable neighbors are receiving the adequate assistance they so desperately need in times of crisis.”
“Ohio has the money to help child victims of sexual assault and abuse, and it’s up to the Attorney General how to spend it. But after we saw extremist Republicans, including Yost, rush to discredit a 10-year old rape victim on national television, I don’t have confidence that our state government is doing everything we can to protect Ohio’s children,” said Rep. Lepore-Hagan. “The safety and health of these children should be a priority for the Attorney General’s office, and that’s exactly why this fund was created. The numbers we requested tell a story and will give us a window into if and how these funds are being. Show us the support for these victims.”
An initial request for research was made by Rep. Lepore-Hagan to the Legislative Services Commission (LSC), a nonpartisan agency providing the Ohio General Assembly with research services, on Sept. 30, 2022. A follow-up with specific questions for the Attorney General was made on Oct. 5, 2022 seeking the age, county, expense requested, approval/denial, amount received/denied, and length of time before determination for sexual abuse applicants to the Fund, while respecting any victim privacy rights. The Attorney General’s office refused disclosure, indicating the information was not contained in a report and not available.
“Helping child sexual assault victims heal is a priority of mine. Monitoring and evaluating the use of these dollars informs whether we are effectively supporting and caring for victims after a traumatic event. It seems clear to me that the Attorney General is not making this fund a priority in his office,” said Rep Lepore-Hagan. “We have a job to do, and that job is to give these children a chance at survival and recovery. If he won’t do it, I will.”
“As elected officeholders, we have a responsibility to make efforts to improve the lives of all Ohioans. The Attorney General’s shameful treatment of a 10-year-old rape survivor gives the impression that he does not have the best interests of Ohioans in mind when he makes decisions that ultimately impact all of us,” said Rep. Galonski. “We want to know where the Attorney General is—and is not—choosing to spend money from the Crime Victims Compensation Fund. It’s what Ohioans deserve.”
Sexual violence is costly for survivors. The CDC estimates the lifetime cost of rape to be $122,461 per survivor due in part to the many negative effects that reach beyond the immediate event. These include increased risk for mental, physical and behavioral health disorders across the victims’ lifetimes. Child sexual abuse is also associated with an increased risk of sexually transmitted diseases including HIV, self-inflicted injury, substance use disorders and violence.
Despite the ability to make awards of up to $50,000, the Ohio Attorney General paid 1,753 claims averaging $3,388 from the fund for victims and families of any crime, not just sexual assault. The Ohio Administrative Knowledge System (OAKS) found that more than 50% of the awards were for economic support, while medical and related expenses accounted for 21.2%. Awards to victims are made at the discretion of the Ohio Attorney General.
The letter from Reps. Lepore-Hagan and Galonski requests disclosure of public information including manuals, documents, or descriptions of the processes used to determine whether to approve or deny an application to the Crime Victims Compensation Fund.
View the letter here.