Crime victims are urging legislators who’re cracking down on sexual predators to remember those who are harmed by those sex offenders. Iowa Coalition Against Sexual Assault executive director Elizabeth Barnhill says state and federal funding for crisis centers that help victims has dwindled. “There are far more victims than there are offenders in the system,” Barnhill says. “The state is always going to come up with money, for obvious reasons, to imprison offenders. Victims can’t be left out of this equation. We’ve got to provide services for them and right now our services are really in very dire straights.” Some shelters for those seeking refuge from domestic abuse have had to close down. Others are reducing the number of spaces available to victims seeking escape. Barnhill says crisis centers also lack the resources to help victims of sex abuse. She says there are lots of Iowans who have been sexually assaulted and the long-lasting affects can be “very debilitating.” Barnhill says those who’ve lost a family member to violence need help, too. Barnhill says the state needs to provide enough funding so her agency can provide a staff person who’ll meet a rape victim at the hospital. The Coalition Against Sexual Assault would like to seek bettervictim notification when their attacker is released from prison or moves to a new neighborhood. She says much of that could be accomplished by updating the Sex Offender Registry. “Making it easy to search by your zip code” is one of Barnhill’s wishes. She also believes the website should include information about Iowa’s sex crime laws — in language that’s easy to understand. “We also think it’s really important that people understand the limitations of the registry,” Barnhill says. “There are many unaprehended sex offenders and this doesn’t tell us where the offenders are in our community.” Barnhill would also like the state to extend the time in which a victim can file a sex assault or abuse charge.
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