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      Sexual assault victims want rape crisis money restored

      State lawmakers in the SC House have overturned Gov. Nikki Haley's veto of funding for rape crisis centers. The Senate has yet to vote on it.

      The crisis centers, including one serving Horry and Georgetown counties provide emotional support, counseling and help getting through the legal process for victims of sexual assault.

      Victims and their advocates say those services are important and in jeopardy if state funding is not fully restored.

      At a Grand Strand support group meeting for caregivers of child sexual assault victims, counselor Tina Toth helps moms and grandmothers deal with the emotional trauma of everyday life.

      Marilyn Maxwell, a regular attendee of the support group meetings, calls the counseling a godsend.

      "Without this group, I don't think I could have maintained my sanity," Maxwell said.

      Maxwell said Haley's veto of $454,000 for the nonprofit rape crisis centers will lead to additional crime and other problems that will end up costing the state more over the long run.

      "It will get a lot worse, and of course it's going to fall back on the government to provide for whatever happens down the road."

      Tabatha Autry, another regular member of the support group, not only cares for a sexual abuse victim, but she was one herself.

      She said she's ready to march on Columbia, write letters, stand on street corners to protest if she has to, to keep money flowing for counseling services.

      "Every family, not in just this city, this county or state, but this entire nation, has been affected by sexual abuse in one way or another," Autry said.

      Gov. Haley said the state shouldn't give money to nonprofit groups.

      She said those patients and victims affected by her cuts to the SC Dept. of Health and Environmental Control have her sympathy, but represent a small portion of the state's ill or abused.

      Haley's veto effected 15 rape crisis centers statewide, which helped 5,000 victims last year.

      But Toth said her agency's free services are vital to victims of abuse and she worries about keeping the doors open and lights on without state funding.

      "We may not be as available to respond through the crisis hotline, to hospital accompaniment, through legal advocacy, in counseling and support groups," Toth said. "So it is really jeopardizing our ability to stay afloat as an agency."

      Another member of the support group, who asked not to be identified, said private, for-profit counseling is costly and not always covered by insurance, so there isn't a viable alternative to the free crisis center.

      The Associated Press contributed to this report.