Thursday, March 5, 2009

Keeping an old smear alive

Jim Macdonald, at Making Light, has seen fit to revive the "Sarah Palin made rape victims pay for their rape kits" smear from last year. Lest it fade from memory.

I'm very fond of Making Light, have been reading it for years, have commented there a few times, but not lately, and certainly not lately on a political thread. So I'll post this here, for my own future reference.

Macdonald, in the main post:

I have a rape kit right here. Let’s look at it…

The first thing I notice is that its official name, printed right on the cover of the box, is “Sexual Assault Evidence Collection Kit.” Hmmm… nothing there about patient care or treatment. “Evidence Collection” sounds more like a police function.
Macdonald, at comment #4:
A Rape Kit is normally performed by a SANE nurse (that's Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner). An RN with additional specialized training.
Right. And it's usually done at a hospital, not at a police station. By a nurse, not a police officer. Macdonald is an EMT, not quite a doctor or nurse, not quite a policeman, but a little of both, which might account for his blurring of the distinctions.

Since the rape kit is customarily administered at a hospital, by a nurse, rather than at the police station, by a policeman, the hospital administration is going to be involved, and would like to bill someone for the time and effort. Hospitals usually try to bill a patient's insurance company. That was exactly what the police chief in Wasilla took as standard procedure; what he wanted to do was to obtain restitution from the perpetrator. The Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman article from 2000 is a little incoherent, but after the first wild charge, quotes the police chief saying some sensible things:
While the Alaska State Troopers and most municipal police agencies have covered the cost of exams, which cost between $300 to $1,200 apiece, the Wasilla police department does charge the victims of sexual assault for the tests.

Wasilla Police Chief Charlie Fannon does not agree with the new legislation, saying the law will require the city and communities to come up with more funds to cover the costs of the forensic exams.

In the past weve charged the cost of exams to the victims insurance company when possible. I just dont want to see any more burden put on the taxpayer, Fannon said.

According to Fannon, the new law will cost the Wasilla Police Department approximately $5,000 to $14,000 a year to collect evidence for sexual assault cases.

Ultimately it is the criminal who should bear the burden of the added costs, Fannon said.

The forensic exam is just one part of the equation. Id like to see the courts make these people pay restitution for these things, Fannon said.

Fannon said he intends to include the cost of exams required to collect evidence in a restitution request as a part of a criminals sentencing.
[Sic, sic, sic.]

Some states have a fund to pay for rape kits, some do not. In North Carolina, for instance, from Feb. 13, 2008:
N.C. hospitals bill rape victims

Rape victims across the state are paying for their ill fortune in the most tangible of ways: a bill for the evidence kit needed to lock up the rapist.

The vast majority of the 3,000 or so emergency room patients examined for sexual assaults each year shoulder some of the cost of a rape kit test, according to state records and victim advocates. For some, it's as little as a $50 insurance co-payment. For those without insurance, it's hundreds of dollars left when a state program designed to help reaches its limit.
From August 2008, the situation seems to have improved:
Rape victims won't face exam bills

Victims of sexual violence in North Carolina will no longer be forced to pay for the forensic exams needed to help capture their attackers.

The N.C. General Assembly approved more than $1 million this summer to revamp a program designed to help cover the cost of rape kit exams for uninsured victims. The exams are used to collect bodily evidence of an attacker and are standard in the prosecution of sex crimes.

Now, hospitals will settle directly with the state, sparing victims of sexual assault the aggravation and trauma of receiving a bill.
Billing for rape kits was also standard procedure in other places, until quite recently:
Rape Victims Can Be Hurt Financially, Too

"It's been a problem for a long time," says Ilse Knecht, deputy director of public policy at the National Center for Victims of Crime. "We've heard so many stories of victims paying for their exams, or not being able to and then creditors coming after them." In order to qualify for federal grants under the Violence Against Women Act, states have to assume the full out-of-pocket costs for forensic medical exams, as the rape kits are called. But according to a 2004 bulletin published by the NCVC, "[F]eedback from the field indicates that sexual assault victims are still being billed." Knecht says she's recently heard from caseworkers in Illinois, Georgia, and Arkansas reporting that rape victims continue to be charged for their forensic exams.

The rape kit itself generally contains bags to collect clothing, test tubes for collecting blood, swabs for fluid, and a comb to collect pubic hair. Small-change stuff. But exams also involve administering tests for pregnancy, HIV, gonorrhea, and syphilis, and that's where the costs add up, says Randall Brown, medical director for the Baton Rouge Rape Crisis Center in Louisiana.

How forensic exam costs are handled varies. In some locations, hospitals bill patients' insurance and absorb whatever the insurers don't pay or bill patients for the balance. Some states have special funds to cover a portion of the costs. Others require convicted offenders to pay into a fund to reimburse the costs of the exams.
Also Missouri: In 2006, State Sen. Michael Gibbons introduced an amendment to a crime bill that
would require the Department of Health and Senior Services to make payments to medical providers to cover the charges of forensic examinations for victims of sexual offenses. Victims would also be able to seek “out-of-pocket” losses from the Crime Victims Compensation Fund to cover the cost of personal property that is seized as part of the investigation.
The legislative database says the last action on the bill was that it was "in conference," this in 2007.

A NOW press release from 2002 says
NOW's local activists report that in many jurisdictions the victim must pay for the processing of the "rape kit" evidence – an absurdly unfair proposition. Is there any other assault in which survivors are required to pay the cost of investigating the crimes against them? These expenses can reach $1,500 for DNA analysis, and $5,000 or more for extra costs such as evidence collection and medical care.
So it wasn't only Wasilla, it wasn't only Sarah Palin, it was standard procedure in lots of places. More from Rachael Larimore at Slate.

I guess there is still some concern on the Left that Palin is not quite finished, politically, so it will be necessary to keep the old smears alive. Like zombies!


geronimo said...

Oh, of course! Since other jurisdictions do it, it's ok for Palin to have instituted this obscene practice in Wasilla. Now I get it.

blake said...

She, personally, instituted it, geronimo?