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Houston Area Women’s Center

The Osuna trade

When I heard that the Astros had traded for Blue Jays closer Roberto Osuna, currently serving a 75-game suspension for violating MLB’s policy on domestic violence (and also still awaiting his day in court for charges relating to said domestic violence), my first thought was to wonder what Chron spotrswriter Jenny Dial Creech would think about it. Now I know.

Based on the acquisition of Roberto Osuna, zero-tolerance policy means something a little different in the Astros organization.

On Monday, the Astros completed a trade that sent pitchers Ken Giles, David Paulino and Hector Perez to Toronto in exchange for Osuna. And even though the closer already has 104 major league saves at age 23, the deal is a head scratcher, considering the Astros have a zero-tolerance policy related to abuse of any kind and Osuna is close to completing a 75-game suspension for violating Major League Baseball’s domestic violence policy.

By definition, a zero-tolerance policy is one that gives uncompromising punishment to every person who commits a crime or breaks a rule. Osuna was arrested in Toronto on May 8 and charged with assaulting a woman.

On Monday, Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow said he was “confident that Osuna is remorseful.”

So the zero-tolerance policy is in effect only for those who aren’t sorry?

This sends a very bad message.

One of the greatest things about last year’s World Series champion Astros was that the team was composed of a lot of “good guys.” They didn’t have attitude, they didn’t have drama, and they were great in the community.

Now the Astros have brought on a player whom MLB deemed guilty enough to serve a 75-game suspension.

And the court proceedings are still going. The newest Astro is due back in court on Wednesday.

Let’s say this up front: Baseball is a business, the Astros are in the business of winning ball games, and Roberto Osuna will help them win those games when he comes back from suspension. The Astros have a better shot today at repeating as World Series champs than they did before the trade.

None of which should make anyone feel good about this. Read more of Creech’s column and you’ll see that several of Osuna’s new teammates don’t feel so great about it. That includes Justin Verlander and Lannc McCullers, who had some salty things to say to a former Astros minor leaguer, whom the team released after he was caught on video hitting his girlfriend. We can talk all we want about how leagues and teams should respond in these situations, and we can talk all we want about rehabilitation and second chances, but do keep in mind that Osuna may yet face legal punishment, and as far as I know hasn’t yet taken any steps towards making amends for his wrongdoing.

There is perhaps one positive to come out of this:

“People are speaking out about it, which I think is actually fabulous,” [Sonia Corrales, interim president and CEO of the Houston Area Women’s Center] said Tuesday morning. “People know that this is a problem in our community, when historically, it’s been thought about as private. Something at home. No one’s business. So the fact that the community is talking about it shows that people are aware of the issue, and that it really is a community problem, that’s good.”

At the center, which provides free services that include a shelter, counseling and all-hours hotline, Corrales has noticed a surge in victims and survivors willing to step forward and say they need help since the #MeToo movement picked up steam last fall in the wake of revelations about Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein.

“There are a few things we’ve seen with #MeToo,” said Corrales. “There’s a public accountability that if you’re doing something, we’re going to hold you accountable. So the message now to survivors is ‘I believe you.’ And that’s a difference, because so many times, they have not been believed.”

One can feel however one wants to about this. One can also make a donation to the HAWC or a similar organization if one would like to make something positive happen. I’ll leave that up to you. Campos, Jeff Sullivan, and Think Progress have more.

It’s about the domestic violence

You want to do something to reduce gun violence, here’s the place to start.

Domestic violence cases have risen sharply across the state, with more than 210,000 wives, girlfriends, husbands and others suffering death or injury at the hands of a family member in the past two years. More than 550 wives or girlfriends were killed by a domestic partner between 2012 and 2016, according to state figures.

“We continue to underestimate the reach and devastation of domestic violence,” said Gloria Aguilera Terry, chief executive of the Texas Council on Family Violence. “Domestic violence thrives in the silence and obliviousness we give it. Only when we confront the very conditions which allow domestic violence to exist will our homes, public spaces and places of worship be truly safe.”

[…]

Despite law enforcement’s best efforts to curb the violence, the deaths continue unabated. The Harris County Institute of Forensic Science recorded 229 domestic violence homicides from 2010 to 2016, or an average of 31 homicides a year.

Of those, at least 22 – about 10 percent – were relatives of the main victim.

Amanda Johnson, with the Dallas chapter of Moms Demand Action for Guns Sense in America, said the shooting underscores the need for smarter gun laws.

“People violent enough to be violent enough with their own children and spouses are also violent enough to commit mass murder,” she said. “When they have easy access to these weapons, it’s a really deadly combination.”

She and other advocates hope the Sutherland Springs shooting will spark a national dialogue, particularly with the daily abuse many women face that doesn’t draw the same scrutiny as a mass shooting.

“Up until now, the media would lose interest in a shooting once they found out it was a domestic violence incident and not a ‘real’ crime,” Johnson said. “Sutherland Springs is a game-changer.”

Sherri Kendall, CEO of Aid to Victims of Domestic Violence, said approximately 1 in 4 women experiences domestic violence at one point or another.

“While we are seeing a number of multiple homicides with domestic violence in the timeline, it is happening all the time,” she said. “We have to learn something from it. When this story is over we have to continue to be vigilant in our communities to make sure there are services for survivors and for perpetrators.”

The Sutherland Springs shooting highlighted the need to ensure domestic abusers can’t possess firearms, advocates said.

“This man had a history of abuse, and he should not have had access to a firearm, and we are advocating for stricter gun laws when it comes to being the hands of convicted abusers,” said Chau Nguyen, chief marketing officer at the Houston Area Women’s Center. “If we don’t take action, we’re going to see this as a recurring reality in our lives – and we know the link between domestic violence abusers and mass shooters.”

The link between domestic violence and gun violence is very strong. It’s not just the guys who commit the big headline-grabbing mass murders who depressingly and consistently turn out to have had a history of domestic violence, it’s the everyday (literally, every day) three-to-six people killings that no one outside those affected pay attention to because we’re all mesmerized by the latest double-digit massacre. There are many things we could do to ameliorate this if we wanted to. My advice would be to elect more people who do want to do something about it.

The phony “bathroom” issue

I am so tired of this.

HoustonUnites

Although Houston’s 36-page equal rights ordinance makes no mention of public restrooms, access to restrooms has become the focus of a raging public debate with the law set to go before voters on election day.

Opponents of the ordinance, largely conservative Christians, have flooded radio and TV with ads saying the law gives men dressed in women’s clothing, including sexual predators, the ability to enter a woman’s restroom. On Tuesday, the group released a TV spot that closes with a man bursting into a stall occupied by a young girl.

Supporters of the law, however, said the ordinance would in no way protect predators, pointing to a longstanding city law that bars someone from entering a restroom of the opposite sex with the intent to “cause a disturbance.” Legal experts agree the equal rights ordinance does not offer any protections to those who commit crimes, such as the oft-cited example of sexual assault, in a bathroom or any other place.

University of Houston law professor Peter Linzer said the law does not mean someone can enter a bathroom with the intent to commit a crime, regardless of gender.

“It’s a phony issue,” Linzer said. “If you commit a crime in a bathroom, you’re going to be prosecuted, and HERO is not a defense.”

[…]

Mayor Annise Parker pushed back this week on the idea that the ordinance in any way presents a public safety threat. The law is intended to protect someone’s consistent gender identity, not someone seeking to illegally gain access to a restroom.

“Two-hundred cities, 17 states have the same ordinance that we do or very similar wording that we do,” Parker said. “This just doesn’t happen. It is illegal for a sexual predator to go into a women’s restroom and attack anyone, and the idea that somehow the city of Houston is giving them free license is so offensive.”

Supporters of the ordinance have also questioned the authority of opponents on the issue of sexual conduct, given allegations against one of the group’s leaders.

That of course would be Kendall Baker, who is unironically out there warning people about perverts. I’m tired of talking about the lying and the lying liars who have been doing all this lying, so let’s talk a little about the truth. Here’s some truth about sexual assault from someone who’s spent a lifetime helping people who have been victims of it.

The talking point continues to be one of the most popular right-wing attacks on LGBT non-discrimination laws, and HERO’s opponents have used it relentlessly to weaken support for the measure among women and parents.

But in May 2014, during a public hearing before the Houston city council, HERO supporters gained a powerful voice in their fight against the “bathroom predator” talking point: Cassandra Thomas.

Thomas has spent thirty-one years at the Houston Area’s Women Center (HAWC), an organization dedicated to helping individuals affected by domestic and sexual violence. Aside from serving as HAWC’s Chief Compliance Officer, Thomas is also a member of the National Sexual Violence Resource Center Board and sits on the editorial board of the Sexual Assault Report of the Civic Research Center. She’s won numerous awards for her work on domestic and sexual violence, including a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Texas Association Against Sexual Assault.

Testifying before the city council, Thomas drew on her decades of experience to dismiss opponents’ fearmongering. “If you really want to stop sexual assault,” Thomas said, “then let’s cut out the scare tactics, and let’s speak the truth.”

[…]

The problem with the “bathroom predator” talking point, she explained, is that it fundamentally misunderstands how and why sexual assault occurs.

“Transgender people are not my bogeyman in the closet. My bogeyman in the closet is the man who is a rapist who has a position of power, that everyone thinks, because he has power or because he’s nice or because he’s white or because any of those stupid reasons, that ‘I’m safe from him.’ That is my biggest fear.”

Thomas’ position has been echoed by sexual assault experts in states and cities with similar LGBT non-discrimination policies, and it’s supported by research. Sexual assault is overwhelmingly carried out by people victims know and trust — family members or friends, religious and community leaders, etc. — and not random predators who pretend to be transgender.

“It puts a bogeyman face on a group of people who don’t deserve it at all, who are, by no account, through what we know, are dangers,” she added.

Stereotypical images of shady-looking men sneaking into women’s restrooms — which have become a centerpiece of the anti-HERO campaign — give women a “false sense of security,” Thomas explained. “It makes women think that there are only certain places and certain people that I have to be afraid of and that’s not true. We don’t know what rapists look like. There’s no big R on their forehead. And that misinformation sets women up to be injured.”

When asked about why opponents of HERO had latched on to the “bathroom predator” talking point, Thomas dismissed the idea that HERO’s opponents were seriously motivated by a concern for women’s safety. “If it was about women’s safety then these same people would be involved in the anti-violence movement from the start,” she said.

“If these same people were concerned about the safety of women, they would have come out against any number of issues that have come up about sexual violence over the years, but they have been remarkably silent. So all of a sudden women are in danger because of transgender people? No. They’re not.”

Amen.

Who cares about Bob McNair?

Another bad decision.

HoustonUnites

Houston Texans owner Bob McNair donated $10,000 this week to opponents of the city’s embattled equal rights ordinance, entering the political fray over the law headed to voters in November.

McNair, a frequent GOP donor, mailed the $10,000 check to opponents earlier this week, according to Campaign for Houston spokesman Jared Woodfill. He said the donation “was very exciting for us.”

Critics of the law, largely Christian conservatives, object to the non-discrimination protections it extends to gay and transgender residents — the law also lists 13 other protected groups. Supporters of the ordinance, including Mayor Annise Parker, have warned that repealing the law could damage the city’s economy and could jeopardize high-profile events such as Houston’s 2017 Super Bowl.

Woodfill pushed back on that notion Wednesday.

“The HERO supporters have tried to scare people into believing that we would lose the Super Bowl,” Woodfill said. “Obviously, if there were any truth behind that, Bob McNair wouldn’t’ be donating to the folks that are opposed to the ordinance.”

Here’s the longer version of the story. As Campos notes, there is something to that. I’ve always been skeptical about claims we could lose the Super Bowl if HERO is voted down for the simple reason that logistically, it would be very hard to do and would inconvenience a lot of people. The NFL doesn’t want to do that unless it absolutely has to, and I don’t think there would be enough of a national outcry to make that happen. What I do expect is that a defeat for HERO would jeopardize our chances of landing other big events, sporting and otherwise, and would likely cause some planners of events that are already on the calendar here, at the George R. Brown and big hotels, to reconsider and find alternate options.

So Woodfill gets a symbolic trophy, for whatever good it does him. It would be nice if this story went national, as a lot of other HERO-related news has done, as it might put a little heat on McNair and generally serve as bad publicity for him and his team. The Texans aren’t exactly a revered franchise outside of Houston, so a little ridicule there could go a long way. In the meantime, this story appeared in the paper the same day that this full-page ad ran in the local section:

HoustonBusinessLeadersEndorseHERO

For those who have been trying to claim that HERO is only of concern to the LGBT community, note the presence there of the NAACP, the Greater Houston Black Chamber, the Houston Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, and among the individuals, the President of the Houston Urban League, Judson Robinson III. There was also this in my feeds from yesterday:

As the Texas director of AARP, a nonpartisan, nonprofit advocacy organization for all persons age 50 and older, I am proud that this Association — with 38 million members, including more than 2.2 million in Texas — believes firmly in the fundamental right of all people to be free from discrimination.

Approval of HERO by voters would help ensure that Houston, the nation’s fourth-largest city, provides its residents and visitors with an environment free of discrimination based on sex, race, color, ethnicity, national origin, age, familial status, marital status, religion, disability, sexual orientation, genetic information, gender identity, or pregnancy.

There are lots of people talking about why HERO matters, to them and to the city. The Houston Area Women’s Center has been heavily involved to help debunk the dangerous and pernicious falsehoods that liars like Jared Woodfill have been spreading, now with the assistance of a fool like Bob McNair. The Press has more.

Houston Unites

The pro-HERO campaign has been launched.

Supporters of Houston’s nondiscrimination ordinance launched a formal campaign Wednesday urging voters to defend the measure this November.

ACLU of Texas Executive Director Terri Burke urged Houstonians to “send a message that this is a city that doesn’t discriminate.” Businessman Bobby Singh, invoking the threat of losing sporting events and conventions if the law is repealed, added, “Let’s send a strong message to people across the country and across the world that Houston is open for business.”

[…]

Foes have seized on the protections the ordinance extends to transgender residents, specifically the perceived threat of transgender women — people who were born male but identify as female — using women’s restrooms and locker rooms. They allege “transvestite men” may enter women’s facilities and commit sexual assaults.

Opponents also accuse Mayor Annise Parker, the first openly gay mayor of a major American city, of seeking to “criminalize faith” by forcing “individuals, families, churches, schools and businesses to accept, affirm and celebrate the LGBT agenda.”

Supporters on Wednesday indicated they will address both sets of allegations head-on.

Sonia Corrales, chief program officer at the Houston Area Women’s Center, said the majority of women and more than 90 percent of children are assaulted by someone known to them, and that similar nondiscrimination laws have been passed in 17 states and 200 cities without accompanying public safety concerns.

“It is a disservice to the public to continue to perpetuate myths about how and why sexual assault happens,” she said. “Nothing in HERO changes the fact that it is illegal to enter a restroom to harm or harass people or invade their privacy.”

Leslie Jackson, a minister at Cathedral of Hope, also decried the “voices of division” who “confuse religious freedom with the freedom to discriminate.”

“Religious faith does not undermine the value of equality for all under the law,” he said. “Religious faith demands it.”

Here’s their website, and here’s their Facebook page. I’ve said my piece about how I’d go about this, so I look forward to seeing how this goes. In the meantime, this is a team effort, so visit both pages and see what you can do to help. No bystanders allowed.

Addressing the bathroom question is certainly going to be important, because bathroom hysteria is going to be a central part of the repeal campaign. Sadly, I don’t know how useful facts will be, which is why I took a more indirect approach. Still, it’s important to emphasize how dishonest the claims being made about bathrooms by repeal proponents are. I’ve quoted Daniel Davies before, and this is as good a time as ever to bring his sage words back up: Good ideas do not need lots of lies told about them in order to gain public acceptance.

And look, regardless of the efficacy of any particular campaign tactic, I can’t overstate how much the repeal effort is based on vicious lies against people who live, work, go to school, and pay taxes here in Houston. Our neighbors, to put it another way. Most of the people who are leading the repeal effort call themselves devout Christians. I’m not a devout Christian – I don’t go to church, I don’t feel faith the way many people do – but I did grow up in a strongly Catholic family, and however un-devout I am now the teachings I learned as a child are still very much a part of who I am. If there’s one thing I know from those teachings I got as a child, it’s that there’s nothing remotely Christ-like about telling vicious, hateful lies about one’s neighbor. I don’t know what motivates someone who calls himself or herself a devout Christian to do such a thing. I was taught to love my neighbor. I have no idea how anyone could think this kind of behavior is loving. I’m glad that religious leaders will be part of the pro-HERO campaign. It’s important to convey the message that being religious is entirely compatible with supporting equality for all. I just hope that message can get out there as well.

City settles longstanding litigation with strip clubs

From the Mayor’s press release:

HoustonSeal

Recognizing Houston is a hub for human trafficking, the City and 16 area topless clubs have entered into a novel settlement agreement aimed at addressing this heinous crime, ending litigation dating back to 1997 when City Council imposed new regulations on sexually-oriented businesses.

“In the 16 years since City Council acted, no original clubs have closed and new clubs choosing to ignore our regulations have grown in number,” said Mayor Parker.  “Establishing a working relationship with these 16 clubs will assist law enforcement in reducing criminal activity, help us combat human trafficking and, hopefully, allow us to focus police resources on the rogue clubs.  This settlement allows us to address the problem head on in a meaningful way with funding and staff.”

The 16 clubs will annually contribute more than one million dollars to a Human Trafficking Abatement Fund.  The funds will be used to create and staff a human trafficking unit within the Vice Division of the Houston Police Department.  In addition to contributing monies, these clubs must institute and adhere to certain restrictions and policies to aid in combatting human trafficking.  For example:

  • all private rooms and areas must be eliminated;
  • a club may not knowingly employ, hire or contract for the services of an entertainer or dancer who is accompanied by another person who speaks for her, holds her identification, collects her pay for “safekeeping” or appears to exercise control, force, or coercion over the person;
  • a club may not knowingly employ, hire or contract for the services of a person for whom a background check reveals a conviction within 60 months for a prostitution or drug offense;
  • any individual convicted of a drug or prostitution offense, public lewdness or indecent exposure at a participating club is prohibited from working at any club that is a party to the agreement;
  • any act of prostitution, public lewdness, indecent exposure or offense involving narcotics observed by or reported to a manager of a club will be reported to the City along with all remedial measures taken to ensure the activity is not repeated; and
  • all clubs will provide annual human trafficking awareness training and disseminate materials regarding human trafficking awareness.

In return, the City has agreed to allow these 16 clubs to continue operating at their same locations in much the same manner as they did prior to the 1997 ordinance.  While topless entertainment and table dances will be allowed again, laws against public lewdness, prostitution, indecent exposure and narcotics offenses will continue to be strictly enforced.  Arrests for these offenses are grounds for terminating a club from participating in this agreement.

This agreement applies only to these 16 grandfathered clubs.  Any other club offering sexually-oriented entertainment must still comply with the 1997 ordinance and all other regulatory provisions.

I’ll be honest, I didn’t realize there was still litigation pending. My most recent update on this is from 2008, but I see that as of then the city was still “involved in a lawsuit in state district courts with the 11 clubs that appealed to the Supreme Court”, which had to do with “amortization,” or the amount of time the owners should get to recoup their investments before having to close or relocate. So there you have it. The Chron story fills in some more details.

Because they still do not concede to being sexually oriented businesses, the clubs do not have to adhere to the ordinance’s regulation that they must operate at least 1,500 feet from schools, day cares, parks and churches.

“They are not saying it,” Feldman said. “But they are agreeing to do all these things that actually are a greater obligation than they would have under the ordinance if they were a (sexually oriented business).”

Any club that breaks the terms of the agreement will be dropped from the settlement, and the other establishments will have to pick up the contribution to the abatement fund.

Feldman, who began crafting the settlement in the spring, said the concept originated from a lawsuit settlement between the city and prominent strip club Treasures. In 2012, the city and Harris County Attorney’s office sued Treasures’ owner, accusing the establishment of harboring prostitution, drugs, illegal weapons and sexual assaults.

A settlement was reached last December in which the club’s owner agreed to put $100,000 in a nuisance abatement fund to combat human trafficking as well as similar provisions with the current agreement.

“That in turn gave me the idea if we can create such a fund for the purpose of addressing enforcement activities within these clubs, why couldn’t we do something similar to address the broader issue of human trafficking?” said Feldman.

Feldman said the city would be open to speaking with any other clubs that would like to come under a similar agreement.

If the agreement works well for both entities, Feldman said the next step would be grafting similar terms as a permanent provision in the city’s sexually oriented business ordinance.

See here and here for the background on the Treasures lawsuits. I presume all this means that the strip clubs will not be playing in the county elections this year.

According to Melissa Darragh, the Mayor’s social media director, the agreement is supported by HPD, the strip clubs themselves, the Houston Area Women’s Center, YMCA International, and the Houston Rescue and Restore Coalition. You’re on your own to figure out which of the clubs are among the 16 that are now approved for you to attend, however. Hair Balls has more.

On the Astros’ Wives Gala

What Nonsequiteuse says:

I’m really upset that the Houston Astros have left the Houston Area Women’s Center in the lurch as far as the gala this year. I know the people and the programs that will suffer without those funds, and let me tell you, it will hurt.

I’d like to suggest some constructive next steps the parties involved in this meltdown might take to not just repair the damage, but to launch a new partnership that is beneficial to each party and the larger community.

You can read the basics at KHOU (which broke the story), CultureMap (and an update here, with comments from the Astros), the Houston Press (which brings in some additional elements of recent developments with the ball club), and undoubtedly many other places. Great, long history and details on the Houston Chronicle. But the quick history:

  • The Astros, through their Astros’ Wives organization, traditionally held a black-tie gala benefiting theHouston Area Women’s Center, our region’s oldest,  largest, and exceedingly well-respected nonprofit organization supporting survivors of domestic and sexual violence and educating the community on how to create a world free of such violence.
  • The gala has happened for so long, and been so well-received by the community, that the proceeds have become a key line item in the agency’s annual operating budget.
  • The ball club just announced that it is “officially” disbanding the Astros’ Wives, and that the club will redirect its charitable focus toward troubled youth and inner-city baseball programs.
  • KHOU broke the story [Tuesday] morning.

My thoughts, which I hope might form the basis for constructive move-aheads:

Fill the Gap
The immediate need is making sure HAWC has the funds they need to finish their budget year. Making do without the gala proceeds is like asking a team to play without a shortstop.

Let’s not wait for the team to act. You can donate here. Share the link once you’ve kicked in your bit, and remember, even $15 or $50 helps.

You should read the full post by Nonsequiteuse for a number of ways that this can be fixed or mitigated. The HAWC does great and necessary work, and it doesn’t deserve to be left hanging like this. While the Astros Wives Organization is a separate non-profit that is not affiliated with the ballclub, surely Jim Crane could have given the Women’s Center more notice about this change in policy. Maybe one last gala for old times’ sake, then part ways with plenty of time for the HAWC to plan for the next year. Failing that, there are some fine ideas in NS’ post, so check it out. I hope we can all come together and find a way forward for the HAWC this year.

UPDATE: More this morning, on the Astros’ response and what could have been done about the things they brought up.

UPDATE: Sean Pendergast piles on.

Paying for rape kits

I missed this last week, and reading it now I’m one part outraged and one part puzzled.

Victims of sexual assault are getting bills, rejection letters and pushy calls from bill collectors while a state crime victims’ fund sits full of cash, Local 2 Investigates reported Thursday.

“I’m the victim, and yet here I am. I’m asked to pay this bill and my credit’s going to get hurt,” said a single mom from Houston.

She received bills marked, “delinquent,” after she visited a hospital where police told her to have evidence gathered. Officers assured her she would not pay a dime for that rape kit to be handled.

“That was unreal,” she said. “I never thought I’d be out anything for what I went through.”

[…]

“It is set up legislatively so that the criminal justice system pays for whatever evidence collection occurs,” said Kelly Young, with the Houston Area Women’s Center, a rape crisis facility.

Police departments are reimbursed for up to $700 by the Texas Crime Victims’ Compensation Fund, but many departments cover the bills if they exceed that.

After that happens, victims can apply for other costs associated with the rape kit hospital visits to be covered by the fund.

The Houston Police Department made one payment toward the single mother’s hospital bill, but when she submitted the $1,847 worth of remaining bills to the Crime Victims’ Compensation Fund, she received a denial letter, telling her that law enforcement should have paid.

“She’s getting the run-around,” said Young at the rape crisis center, which was not involved in her case.

“There may be lots of survivors who have this happen and we don’t know because they don’t know that they shouldn’t be getting the bills,” she said.

Well, that’s a good question. Was there a screwup, on the part of either HPD or the hospital, or is this just how it goes and this particular woman happened to be the first one to get her story in the news? How we react to try to ensure that this never happens again depends on the answer to that.

Attorney General’s spokesman Jerry Strickland said the crime victim fund is enforcing strict guidelines imposed by the legislature as to which bills are paid and which victims are sent a denial notice.

Otherwise, he said that fund could become “insolvent.”

He said state law is clear that crime victims must exhaust all other potential funding sources, such as local police or their own health insurance.

“The legislature set it up that way,” said Strickland.

When asked for a number of how many denial letters had been sent out to Texas rape victims in the past, Strickland did not have an answer after checking with his crime victims’ compensation office workers.

He said the attorney general’s office constantly trains hospitals and health care providers on how to help victims in getting reimbursed for their expenses.

Again, the question that comes to my mind here is, screwup or SOP? Is it the intent of the Legislature that it’s the responsibility of the crime victim to do the paperwork to be reimbursed for any costs the local police department doesn’t pick up? Or is it the case that it’s up to the police departments and/or the hospitals to deal with it themselves and leave the victims out of it? One would hope that’s what they had in mind when that state fund was created – after all, as Salon puts it, we don’t charge burglary victims for the cost of dusting for prints – and one imagines that if cornered, the vast majority of legislators would agree that that’s how it should be. Perhaps that’s a subject on which the AG could issue an opinion.

Where the outrage really comes is that if this is the way it’s been all along, intended or not, it’s too late for the Lege to take action to fix it. The least we can do, therefore, is to find out for sure whether or not this is something that needs a legislative fix or a procedural one. Whatever the case, the cost of solving and prosecuting the crime should not fall in any way on the person victimized by the crime. Thanks to Ginger for calling this to my attention.