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North Carolina Makes Rape Victims Pay for Forensic Testing

February 25, 2008

Via North Carolina’s News & Observer comes this story rape victims being charged for the forensic testing required to identify and convict rapists. This is an issue we’ve talked about in my home state of Tennessee previously. According to the story:

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.

An advocate from the North Carolina Coalition Against Sexual Assault smartly makes this point: “Rape victims are being treated differently than any other victim of crime. The county doesn’t charge me for fingerprinting if my house gets broken into.”

If the state or county did charge to investigate home burglaries or murders, I’m sure there would quickly be cries of unfairness and “all the justice you can afford.” If the law enforcement agencies and governments do not charge for processing evidence from any other crime scene, it’s difficult to justify doing so just because the crime is rape. This U.S. News blog entry makes a similar point, and notes that “Processing the evidence of a rape is complicated. But unless we can do a better job ensuring that rape victims don’t have to pay for that evidentiary exam, we’re victimizing them all over again.”

11/1/07: Updated Information on the Treatment of Nashville Rape Victims
6/21/07: On Treatment of Nashville Rape Victims, They Just Don’t Get It
5/30/07: Outrageous Treatment of Nashville Rape Victims

17 Comments leave one →
  1. February 25, 2008 7:38 am

    What utter nonsense – what if the victim can not afford this process, does that mean the rapist goes free to rape again.

  2. February 25, 2008 8:20 am

    I love, too, Vol Abroad’s brilliant linking of this practice (in our state) with the legislation that would have us pay to prove who the fathers of our children are (if I get the html right, it’s .

    This is about a baseline assumption, I think, that all women are liars and should pay to prove that we aren’t.

  3. February 25, 2008 8:21 am

    Ha, I screwed that up. but you can still get to Vol Abroad’s so score half a point for me!

  4. February 25, 2008 9:17 am

    B, thanks for adding the link to Vol Abroad’s post – I think it’s also important that she draws the contrast between this practice and the assistance she received as the victim of other crimes.

  5. February 25, 2008 4:50 pm

    This is utter nonsense – the victim pays. Perhaps if the rape case gets to court and the defendant is proved guilty then he should pay the full cost of kit and medical support.

  6. February 25, 2008 5:01 pm

    And why, exactly, should the victim pay for what is essentially the collection of evidence needed for the prosecution of a crime? Nobody has suggested that criminals be directly billed for all of the resultant police work they leave behind them, but that rape victims should not be disproportionately asked to bear the cost of evidence processing. If you’re not paying a bill directly for fingerprints, police time, autopsy, etc. when you are the victim of a crime, neither should rape victims.

  7. February 25, 2008 9:07 pm

    Health Links:

    Another TN blogger has opined about much this same scenario I’m about to present, but in any case:

    According to your logic, Health Links, if the victim pays, then the families of murder victims should be footing the bill for thousands of dollars of evidence collection until a murderer is (A) caught, if he/she ever is and (B) proven guilty.

    That’s ridiculous, and I also suspect the cost for a rape kit is a pittance compared to what state budgets spend on murder case evidence collection annually. Wouldn’t you say?

  8. donna permalink
    February 26, 2008 11:36 pm

    That. Is. Disgusting.

    Those states should be deeply, deeply ashamed of themselves.

  9. Hildy permalink
    March 21, 2008 7:33 am

    The problem here is that the hospital and staff are not public employees. Victims of other (non-sexual) assaults are charged by the hospital for their assessments and evidence.

    You can argue that rape kits are non-therapeutic, purely evidentiary. If so, they should not be conducted in a hospital by medical staff, but instead by police staff. If people want the bells and whistles of having medically trained personnel assess them, some needs to pay for the care.

  10. September 13, 2008 5:48 pm

    “If people want the bells and whistles of having medically trained personnel assess them, some needs to pay…”

    dear sweet loving LORD. “bells and whistles”?
    obviously if you’re raped and you should just take a shower and get on with your life. wanting medical evidence which might support a criminal case against your violent attacker is “bells and whistles.”

    with virulent [no name-calling, people!-rw] like this loose in the world no wonder women are still terrified to report rape

  11. September 14, 2008 8:40 am

    [irrelevant insult deleted. no name-calling-rw]

    Here’s the question, from this example:

    A Medicare recipient enters the ER, a victim of rape. The ER provides i) treatment and ii) necessary medical care to complete the rape kit.

    Does the victim’s Medicare coverage cover the cost of the forensic examination? I don’t think anyone is talking about the situation where the hospital bills the victim directly. I’m pretty sure most people think that’s inappropriate, insensitive and happens damn infrequently, if at all.

    But, should Medicare pay? VA? Private insurance? What’s the practice out there, and is 3rd party coverage of forensic exam so outrageous?

    • Trina permalink
      August 3, 2010 8:37 am

      My daughter was raped and the witnesses are the mans wife and friends, rape kit done right after the rape at the hospital here in NC… was not brought in to collect a kit on him for 5 months (sheriff dropped the ball despite my begging and bugging them) finally her kit and his kit was sent off…he moved to california… has been a year and a half….kit still not resulted according to the detective that dropped the ball to begin with. And YES…my daughter got the bill from the hospital!!! Our criminal justice system is to blame.


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