Rape victims who receive medical treatment are “expected to pay those bills — for physical treatment as well as charges that [involve] the rape kit” that is required for prosecution, says Barbara Anderson, executive director of the nonprofit crisis-intervention organization Our VOICE in Buncombe County. Anderson confirmed a Feb. 14 report in The News & Observer that rape victims treated in emergency departments across the state — some 3,000 annually — must pay for their own medical examinations. Even for victims who have medical insurance, payments do not normally cover the full cost.
Anderson says this is true in Buncombe County, where there are no local funds or foundations to assist victims other than the “last resort” source of state-government funds that cover partial payment, and a small assistance fund, the Teal Ribbon Fund, held by the N.C. Coalition Against Sexual Assault. Anderson says her organization belongs to that coalition, which is currently pushing for public awareness of the issue and for assistance from the state to cover the financial shortfalls.
The N&O report indicates that costs to rape victims average $1,600, with state benefits for the uninsured capped at $1,000. “It’s different from any other crime,” Anderson says, giving the example of a home robbery, where fingerprinting and other investigatory tools are not charged to the victim. “This is a crime,” she stresses, and it is necessary to collect the evidence. “If it were a homicide, they wouldn’t charge the family.”
“The general public is not aware of this,” Anderson says. “And the victims don’t know — until they show up at the hospital.”
— Nelda Holder, associate editor