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Strip clubs help fund rape crisis centers

Sexual assault crisis centers can finally count on a new source of funding—strip clubs.

English: Signage on the exterior of a strip cl...

The Illinois “skin tax,” that went in to effect on Jan.1, requires strip clubs that serve alcohol to pay a tax that would raise money for underfunded rape crisis centers. Clubs have the option of paying a $3 surcharge per customer or an annual fee of anywhere from $5,000 to $25,000 depending on the size and sales of the business.

The original bill, introduced by state Sen. Toi Hutchinson (D-Olympia Fields), called for a $5 tax for the entry of each customer into a strip club. Many club owners opposed the $5 tax, and the two sides eventually negotiated a $3 tax instead.

Polly Poskin, executive director for the Illinois Coalition Against Sexual Assault, presented the idea to Hutchinson after learning the Texas Supreme Court ruled a $5 entrance fee into Texas strip clubs constitutional.

“You can thank the Texas Supreme Court for the skin tax,” she said.

Rape crisis centers have had quite a few funding cuts over the past four years, said Cathy Byers, the executive director for the Growing Strong Sexual Assault Center.

Byers called the skin tax “fantastic.

The tax in place would allow many centers to continue to provide services, instead of eliminating them like other centers have had to, Byers said.


Mickie Owens, the legal advocate for Counseling and Information for Sexual Assault, believes the skin tax is an appropriate one, she said.

“I understand some people have some difficulty with it, but there is some correlation with the sexual objectification of women and the sexual assault that is occurring,” Owens said.

But when the bill was first introduced it was not welcome by some strip club operators.

Sam Cecola, director of operations for Chicago’s Admiral Theater was “strongly opposed” to the proposed tax while Michael Ocello, president of the Illinois Association of Club Executives also protested, reported the Chicago Tribune.

Ocello, who is also the owner of five Illinois strip clubs, argued in 2012 that the tax might run some clubs out of business, leaving dancers, bartenders and even custodians without jobs, reported STL Today.

But Owens and Poskin agree that they don’t think the live adult entertainment industry will suffer from the new tax.

Ocello told ABC news he didn’t see a connection between strip clubs, alcohol and rape.

But Poskin disagreed saying, “If there is live nude dancing and the consumption of alcohol combined, it contributes to negative secondary consequences.”

Ocello and Cecola did not return calls for comment.

After repeated attempts to contact various club operators about the connection between strip clubs and sexual assault, only one club manager commented—but only on the skin tax.

“I think that if they’re going to skin tax strip clubs, they should tax all of them, not just the ones that serve liquor,” said Polly Kirby, manager of Silver Slipper Saloon.

Poskin said the “ideal” solution would be to eliminate all strip clubs but doesn’t see that happening. With the skin tax in place, at least victims of sexual assault are benefitting from the business, she said.

“If we as a culture are going to allow [strip clubs] to exist even with the negative consequences they have brought upon women,” Poskin said, “then the funds should be used to help women and assist in the recovery of that harm.”

The funds will be made available to rape crisis centers on July 1, 2014.

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