Local Strip Club “Pole Tax” Passed to Fund Rape Kit Processing
Houston’s city council approved a law this past Wednesday that will require each local strip club visitor to pay a $5 fee upon entry in addition to any mandatory cover charges required by the club itself. Not only is the new fee enforced at all strip clubs, but also any other bar or club that occasionally hosts adult entertainment events such as wet T-shirt contests, etc. It is estimated that 30 clubs are subject to the tax.
This new local tax, similar to the Sin Taxes set on alcohol, gambling, junk food and tobacco, has been dubbed the “Pole Tax,” and could generate up to $30 million of annual revenue. Supported by Mayor Annise Parker and passed by a 14-1 vote, this law was created with the intent that the collected money will help fund rape investigations in search for the victims’ attackers by use of rape kits– packets that may include hair particles, blood specimens, and/or any other biological DNA evidence from the victim’s body.
There are currently over 6,000 untested rape kits in Houston because the city lacks the funds to analyze the evidence. Hopefully the new Pole Tax will dramatically decrease the number of backlogged rape kits that are still yet to be processed and analyzed, some of which date back as far as the 1980s! Houston Police Department Assistant Chief Matt Slinkard claims that some backlogged rape kits are untested for various reasons besides lack of funding, including: a possible guilty plead by a suspect before testing, possible consent issues, charges possible rejected by the district attorney, or not enough evidence to remain testable.
You might find yourself asking, why is it necessary for strip clubs to provide funds for these rape kits? Supporters of the ordinance find it essential because the environment created by strip clubs cultivate negative attitudes toward women, which may lead to sexually charged assaults and has a culture that is more tolerant of sexual violence. Council member Ellen Cohen notes negative secondary effects associated with adult-entertainment establishments.
On the other hand, Houston lawyer and local strip club representative, Albert Van Huff, states that there is no known correlation between people going to nice, high-end gentlemen’s clubs and rape. Ordinance critics think the new fee is unfair.
Whether it makes sense for strip clubs to be responsible for shouldering rape investigation costs or not, what’s another five bucks on top of the money you’ll be spending at Treasures on cover charges, drinks, and dolla dolla bills to be thrown at the strippers? Who goes to a strip club and doesn’t expect to make it rain anyway? If HPD really does need funding for rape investigations, perhaps this might help the system. Maybe displeased strip club visitors can learn to view the fee as a beneficial donation, and know that their money is being put to a good cause.
by Erin Dyer