Rape victims left to pay

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


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5 thoughts on “Rape victims left to pay

  1. lokel

    I believe the State has reversed its decision and now is offering to pay for them…. it was in the Citizen-Times today (if they can be trusted to tell the truth).

    As far as the robbery example goes …. if an individual is shot during the robbery the State does not pay for the medical expenses.

    It is a shame that this policy has gone on as long as it has …. still seems to be “blame the victim” mentality!

  2. nam veteran

    This IS appalling. I hope you are right lokel that this practice is being changed. A victim should not have to pay to be examined to prove they have been raped. That is adding insult to injury. I don’t mind my tax money being used to pay for this.

  3. Nelda Holder

    To clarify the supposed change in state policy: The News & Observer reports that the state currently has about $258,000 a year set aside to help cover reimbursement for rape kit exams for the uninsured. “If the state fully picked up the tab for the exams, which capture biological evidence, it could cost $4.8 million,” according to their story. The report does say that Bryan Beattey, secretary of the N.C. Department of Crime Control and Public Safety, has stated that the $1,000 cap would be eliminated immediately, but it remains applicable to the uninsured.

    Reading between those lines, $258,000 might not last too long, and victims with insurance may still be paying out-of-pocket costs.

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