Nearly 15 years ago, the Sexual Assault Recovery and Crisis Center operated out of a small room at the Baltimore YWCA with a few volunteers.
"We paid $15 a month to a rent a closet," said Cecelia Carroll, executive director of the center on Franklin Street. "I'm not exaggerating."
Today, the center has 34 full- and part-time employees, including counselors and therapists, who provide a variety of services. The center sends crisis teams to schools, helps create school curriculums and goes to hospitals late at night to counsel a rape victim.
But Gov. William Donald Schaefer's slashing of the center's budget may end those services and return the center and the reporting of sexual assaults to the closet, Carroll said.
"If the funds aren't reinstated . . . we'll resemble what we were 10 to 15 years ago," said Carroll.
Under Schaefer's proposal, 17 rape crisis and sexual assault programs around the state will be eliminated.
Carroll said she expects her center will have to cut back to two full-time employees because the center stands to lose $300,000. The center will have to depend on its 75 volunteers. However, Carroll said, the volunteers can't provide the type of service a therapist or counselor can.
The center is open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays, 24 hours on Fridays, and from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturdays, Carroll said. Those hours will have to be cut back dramatically, she added.
"We won't be able to have anything like we have now," Carroll said. "We can use our volunteers, but most of them are mainly students. They come and go at the same time. They have midterms and finals at the same time. They have holidays around the same time. When the summer comes, they go home. There will be huge gaps in service."
The assault center will have to eliminate programs such as providing sensitivity training to the Baltimore police, Carroll said. It also will not be able to send out crisis teams to schools as it did last year when a student at Hamilton Middle School was raped.
The center also has made it a policy to send someone to the hospitals with clothing for rape victims. Counselors have attended line-ups and court proceedings with the victims.
"We are losing all of these things," Carroll said.
By cutting funds to programs such as the center, Carroll said, the cost to society will be doubly increased.
"Boys who are abused and don't receive treatment grow up to be abusers," Carroll said. "You can either pay the $23 to treat them now, or the $40,000 to put them in jail later. Women who are not treated grow up to be substance abusers. It's pay now or pay later."
If the center closes, Carroll said, there will be no place for recovering victims to turn. Mental health agencies and the Health Department are having their budgets slashed, too. And, even those agencies don't have the expertise to assist the victims, Carroll said.
"We've finally reached a point where we've gotten people to come forward and seek out help and now the agencies are closing," Carroll said. "I just find it ironic that now we have a former Miss America and a Roseanne Barr coming forward to say I'm an incest survivor, inspiring other people, but there'll be no place for them to go."