ETA: Please see our updated post here. This blog post was based on erroneous reports. Texas rape survivors are not being charged for their rape kits.
Former vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin was widely criticized for a policy in her town of Wasilla, Alaska, that charged survivors for rape kits. It would appear that such policies are not as uncommon as we might like. Brought to our attention by Feministe, CNN reports that some rape survivors in Texas are billed for their rape kits and other medical care. Despite the existence of a victims’ compensation fund that has had large surpluses for the past few years, bills are sometimes sent to the victims instead.
According to the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape, Pennsylvania has a Victims Compensation Assistance Program (VCAP) set up to make sure rape survivors do not pay for their treatment. From the PCAR website:
At the hospital you can choose to have your insurance billed or the VCAP fund billed for the sexual assault forensic exam and related medications. Whatever amount your insurance or VCAP pays will be considered payment in full to the hospital. If you don’t have insurance, the hospital will bill VCAP for the exam and you can file expense forms for the other costs. You should never receive a bill for the exam.
Let us hope that this really is how Pennsylvania hospitals operate. The idea that a survivor of rape could be billed for his or her rape kit is not only morally repugnant but also a displacement of societal responsibility to prosecute criminals. Completing the rape kit is an important step in collecting the forensic evidence needed to punish sexual offenders, and its cost should be billed to the state, not the survivor.