RAPE CRISIS CENTER CONFERENCE

March 5, 1997

MY THANKS TO THE FIRST LADY FOR SUCH A CHARMING INTRODUCTION.

AND MY THANKS TO THE KENTUCKY ASSOCIATION OF SEXUAL ASSAULT PROGRAMS FOR THE INVITATION TO BE WITH YOU HERE FOR YOUR FIRST STATEWIDE CONFERENCE.

I ECHO JUDI'S COMMENTS THAT IT IS A PLEASURE TO BE WITH A GROUP OF INDIVIDUALS WHO SHARE WITH US SUCH A STRONG CONCERN FOR THE PROTECTION OF CITIZENS IN THIS COMMONWEALTH.

WHEN I BECAME GOVERNOR, I SET PRIORITIES IN MANY AREAS - IN REFORMING WORKERS' COMPENSATION, HIGHER EDUCATION, AND THE OPERATION OF OUR STATE GOVERNMENT SYSTEM THROUGH EMPOWER KENTUCKY.

ALL OF THESE INITIATIVES ARE AIMED AT RAISING THE STANDARD OF LIVING FOR KENTUCKIANS.

AT JUDI'S URGING, I ALSO MADE A CHOICE TO PRIORITIZE REFORM IN THE AREAS OF CHILD ABUSE, SEXUAL ASSAULT AND DOMESTIC VIOLENCE.

IT'S MY BELIEF THAT THIS DECISION FITS IN WELL WITH THE OTHER PRIORITIES BECAUSE THESE CRIMES ARE NOT PRIVATE, FAMILY DISPUTES OR SECRET EVENTS THAT IMPACT ONLY THE PEOPLE DIRECTLY INVOLVED.

SEXUAL ASSAULT AND DOMESTIC ABUSE ARE EXAMPLES OF VIOLENT CRIMES THAT AFFECT US ALL, REGARDLESS OF RACE, INCOME, OR AGE, IN EVERY COMMUNITY ACROSS THE COMMONWEALTH.

CHILD AND ADULT ABUSE MEAN HIGHER HEALTH CARE COSTS, INCREASED ABSENTEEISM, AND DECLINING PRODUCTIVITY.

THEY DESTROY FAMILIES AND THEY DESTROY LIVES.

THEY ARE LIFE THREATENING ROADBLOCKS TO REACHING OUR GOALS OF A QUALITY OF LIFE AND AN IMPROVED STANDARD OF LIVING FOR ALL KENTUCKIANS.

IN 1991, JUDI WAS APPOINTED TO THE ATTORNEY GENERAL'S TASK FORCE ON CHILD SEXUAL ABUSE.

SHE ATTENDED THOSE TASK FORCE MEETINGS WITH AN INTEREST IN LEARNING MORE ABOUT THE PLIGHT OF KENTUCKY'S CHILDREN, AND BECAUSE SHE WANTED TO BE A PART OF IMPROVING THEIR PROTECTION.

BUT I ALSO WATCHED HER STRUGGLE AS SHE BROUGHT HOME STORIES FROM THOSE MEETINGS ABOUT CHILD SEXUAL ABUSE AND THE PAIN IT INFLICTS ON INNOCENT CHILDREN.

THOSE STORIES MADE A LASTING IMPRESSION ON BOTH JUDI AND ME - IF THEIR STORIES WERE DIFFICULT FOR US, AS ADULTS TO HEAR, HOW MUCH MORE DIFFICULT WAS THE ACTUAL EXPERIENCE FOR THOSE CHILDREN.

DURING CHILD ABUSE PREVENTION MONTH ALMOST ONE YEAR AGO, I TOOK ACTION IN RESPONSE TO THOSE STORIES AND THE STORIES OF ALL KENTUCKIANS VICTIMIZED BY INTERPERSONAL CRIME WHEN I ANNOUNCED CREATION OF THE GOVERNOR'S OFFICE OF CHILD ABUSE AND DOMESTIC VIOLENCE SERVICES.

CREATION OF THAT OFFICE GIVES HIGH VISIBILITY TO THESE IMPORTANT AREAS AND PROVIDES OUR ADMINISTRATION WITH A WAY TO ADDRESS HOW SERIOUS THEY ARE.

THE OFFICE SHOULD ALSO GIVE THE STRONG MESSAGE THAT WE INTEND TO PURSUE MEANINGFUL REFORM FOR VICTIMS OF THESE CRIMES.

ONE OF THE PLEASURES OF BECOMING GOVERNOR IS HAVING THE OPPORTUNITY, NOT JUST TO ADDRESS THE PROBLEMS FACED BY THE STATE, BUT ALSO TO LEARN ABOUT AND MAKE PUBLIC THE SUCCESSFUL EFFORTS UNDERTAKEN BY IMPORTANT GROUPS.

WITH THAT IN MIND, IT IS MY PLEASURE TODAY TO ISSUE THE FIRST COMPREHENSIVE TEN YEAR REPORT ON THE KENTUCKY RAPE CRISIS CENTERS.

AS WE LOOKED BACK AT THE LAST TEN YEARS OF SERVICE WHICH YOU HAVE GIVEN TO VICTIMS OF RAPE AND CHILD ABUSE, THESE ARE SOME OF THE HIGHLIGHTS WE FOUND:

EVERY YEAR IN THE COMMONWEALTH, THE NUMBER OF VICTIMS SERVED BY KENTUCKY RAPE CRISIS CENTERS TOTALS OVER 5800 CHILDREN AND ADULTS, AN AMAZING 203% INCREASE OVER THE PAST TEN YEARS; ALMOST 9000 CRISIS CALLS ARE ANSWERED BY RAPE CRISIS CENTERS EACH YEAR; AND DURING 1996 ALONE, ALMOST 97,000 KENTUCKIANS WERE REACHED THROUGH EDUCATION AND PREVENTION PROGRAMS PROVIDED BY RAPE CRISIS CENTERS.

I KNOW EACH OF YOU HAVE BEEN GIVEN A COPY OF THE RAPE CRISIS CENTER REPORT ISSUED BY THE GOVERNOR'S OFFICE, AND I WANT YOU TO LOOK AT IT CLOSELY.

WITHIN ITS PAGES, YOU WILL FIND THE BEST THAT THE COMMONWEALTH HAS TO OFFER.

FOR YOUR HARD WORK AND COMMITMENT TO HELPING VICTIMS RECOVER FROM CRIME, JUDI AND I BOTH COMMEND YOU.

WHILE I WANT US TO ALWAYS TAKE PRIDE IN OUR SUCCESSES, WE MUST ALSO BE PREPARED TO MOVE AHEAD TO FACE ADDITIONAL CHALLENGES.

LET ME TALK TO YOU TODAY ABOUT ANOTHER IMPORTANT EFFORT WHICH WE MUST UNDERTAKE:

EVERY YEAR IN THIS COUNTRY, 2000 CHILDREN DIE AND 18,000 CHILDREN ARE PERMANENTLY DISABLED FROM ABUSE OR NEGLECT;

DURING RECENT YEARS IN KENTUCKY, WE HAVE SEEN THE NUMBER OF CHILD FATALITIES RISE TO 22 CHILDREN A YEAR.

JUDI AND I BELIEVE STRONGLY THAT THESE NUMBERS CANNOT BE IGNORED.

WE NEED REFORM IN THE AREA OF CHILD PROTECTION TO ENSURE THAT WHEN A CHILD LIVES IN DANGER, WE AS A STATE CAN STEP IN.

I BELIEVE IN THE FAMILY.

I BELIEVE IN THE RIGHT OF A PARENT TO RAISE A CHILD.

BUT WE CANNOT TOLERATE HAVING THE STATE'S HANDS TIED AS WE WATCH CHILDREN LIVE IN SITUATIONS WHICH RISK THEIR VERY LIVES.

LET ME GIVE YOU JUST TWO EXAMPLES OF WHY OUR CURRENT CHILD ABUSE LAWS ARE TOO WEAK:

FIRST, UNDER CURRENT LAW, IN ORDER FOR THE COURTS OR THE DEPARTMENT FOR SOCIAL SERVICES TO ISSUE AN EMERGENCY CUSTODY ORDER TO PROTECT A CHILD, A CHILD MUST BE "IN DANGER OF IMMINENT DEATH OR SERIOUS PHYSICAL INJURY OR IS BEING SEXUALLY ABUSED."

I CANNOT ACCEPT THAT WE HAVE TO WAIT UNTIL A CHILD IS HARMED TO THAT DEGREE BEFORE WE TAKE ACTION.

SECONDLY, IT IS CURRENTLY THE LAW IN KENTUCKY THAT IF AN INDIVIDUAL'S PARENTAL RIGHTS ARE TERMINATED BECAUSE THEY INFLICTED HORRIBLE ABUSE ON A CHILD, THAT DOES'NT AUTOMATICALLY PROTECT THE OTHER CHILDREN IN THE HOME.

IN FACT, IF A PARENT KILLS A CHILD, THAT DOES'NT AUTOMATICALLY AFFECT THEIR PARENTAL RIGHTS FOR THEIR OTHER CHILDREN.

THIS, TOO, IS UNACCEPTABLE.

WE MUST CHANGE THE LAW TO CORRECT THESE FATAL FLAWS.

I AM CURRENTLY CONSIDERING ADDING LEGISLATION TO THE CALL FOR THE MAY SPECIAL SESSION SO THAT WE CAN CHANGE OUR CHILD PROTECTION SYSTEM TO BETTER PROTECT CHILDREN.

IF I DO THAT, JUDI AND I WILL NEED YOUR HELP IN EDUCATING LEGISLATORS AND OUR KENTUCKY CITIZENS ON THE CRITICAL NEED WE HAVE TO CHANGE OUR SYSTEM.

TODAY, I'M ASKING THAT WE FORM AN UNSHAKABLE ALLIANCE FOR THIS CAUSE.

WE AS GOVERNMENT, WE AS ADVOCATES, AND WE AS KENTUCKY CITIZENS WHO SHARE A COMMITMENT TO THE PROTECTION OF CHILDREN.

YOU KNOW, IT IS MY BELIEF THAT IN ANY CIVILIZED SOCIETY THERE IS AN INHERENT PROMISE MADE TO CHILDREN.

THE PROMISE THAT THEY WILL BE LOVED AND NURTURED; THAT THEY WILL BE SAFE AND PROTECTED FROM HARM; AND, IF HARM OCCURS, THAT THERE WILL BE MORAL OUTRAGE AND AN IMMEDIATE AND EFFECTIVE RESPONSE.

I KNOW EACH OF YOU WILL JOIN JUDI AND ME IN OUR WORK TO MAKE THAT PROMISE A REALITY FOR KENTUCKY'S CHILDREN.

THANK YOU.