Greetings to the Ladies Jane —
One would think, after the flap that ensued during the most recent US Presidential election regarding same, that any law-enforcement agency still requiring victims pay for their own sexual assault medical forensic examinations (i.e. rape-kits) would have stopped the practice.
As recently as last month, Texas rape victims have received hospital bills and payment delinquency notices for their rape-kits. As of just over a year ago, North Carolina rape victims were in the same situation. Ditto for Georgia, Illinois, and Kansas.
The problem seems to be part paperwork issues, part privacy laws, part cost-cutting, and part insensitivity. Because the specimens collected during the forensic medical exam are not labeled “rape-kit” and the patient’s file is not noted “sexual assault” (both points to protect the privacy of the patient), these women are falling down a rabbit hole of hospital-billing-department/private-insurance/public-aid/credit-delinquency merry-go-round where every organization says, “Not my responsibility,” and refers the victim to someone else.
Victim receives a bill –> Hospital says insurance didn’t pay, call insurance –> Insurance says services not covered, call the police since they told you it wouldn’t cost anything –> Police say we don’t pay hospital bills, call the state –> State says you have insurance, call insurance –> And on and on.
To be fair, most (if not all of these states) have funds established to pay for at least some of these expenses, and public aid and private insurance are supposed to be exhausted before a victim sees a bill. The entire concept is broken because it is built upon the concept that the victim is ultimately financially responsible for the forensic medical examination. The fact that a sexual assault victim could ever see a bill for her rape-kit is a secondary crime in and of itself, and the fact remains that women are receiving hospital bills and delinquencies on their credit reports as a direct result of sexual assault.
The US Department of Justice, Office of Violence Against Women, has outlined its views of the roles of first responders to sexual assault as part of a coordinated community response to same in its publication A National Protocol for Sexual Assault Medical Forensic Examinations. In this document, the USDOJ states, “Just as critical [to effectively collecting evidence for successful prosecution] is performing sexual assault forensic exams in a sensitive, dignified, and victim-centered manner.”
Does rape victims receiving bills for their own rape-kits sound “sensitive, dignified, and victim-centered” to you?