Here’s One Way Sexual Assault Victims Are Actually Being Helped

Most victims who get rape kits don’t pay for them. But, according to a new study, there are still major failings — especially for minorities.

NEW YORK, NY: Protesters stand outside of a Manhattan court as former IMF director Dominique Strauss-Kahn, who was accused of sexual assault, exits on August 23, 2011 in New York City.
National Journal
Elahe Izad
Add to Briefcase
See more stories about...
Elahe Izad
May 14, 2014, 1 a.m.

There’s been much at­ten­tion lately on the huge back­log of rape kits in the U.S., with forensic evid­ence sit­ting on shelves and the vic­tims of sexu­al as­sault mis­takenly think­ing their cases were be­ing in­vest­ig­ated.

But at least when it comes to get­ting those rape kits to vic­tims in the first place, there is one pos­it­ive de­vel­op­ment: Most sexu­al-as­sault vic­tims who get med­ic­al forensic ex­ams (called rape kits) ap­pear to be get­ting them free of charge and without hav­ing to re­port a crime to the po­lice.

That’s ac­cord­ing to a new, 118-page Justice De­part­ment-fun­ded re­port that sheds light on the ways states are im­ple­ment­ing the Vi­ol­ence Against Wo­men Act, and how they are pay­ing for rape kits.

The re­port found that two-thirds of states pay for rape kits us­ing vic­tim com­pens­a­tion funds, which are in­ten­ded to off­set costs for vic­tims of all types of crimes, not just sexu­al as­sault. The oth­er 11 states pay for rape kits us­ing law-en­force­ment or pro­sec­u­tion funds.

The pay­ment piece is im­port­ant, be­cause there is a policy and philo­soph­ic­al de­bate about how to pay for rape kits, says the Urb­an In­sti­tute’s Jan­ine Zweig, the lead au­thor of the re­port.

“What we found for the states us­ing [vic­tim] com­pens­a­tion funds, the pay­ment pro­cess is quite seam­less; very few stor­ies about vic­tims be­ing in­ap­pro­pri­ately billed,” she said. “But the de­bate is about wheth­er a fund that’s in­ten­tion is to dir­ectly be­ne­fit vic­tims should cov­er forensic evid­ence.”

Law en­force­ment and pro­sec­utors be­ne­fit from the evid­ence from rape kits, so some be­lieve that law-en­force­ment funds should be used to pay for them. The latest it­er­a­tion of VAWA, passed in 2013, for­bids the prac­tice of char­ging vic­tims and then re­im­burs­ing them the full cost.

Some states have caps on the amount that the ex­ams can cost; if hos­pit­als con­duct ex­ams at a cost that ex­ceeds that cap, some­times they take a loss. Hos­pit­al of­fi­cials are wor­ried about the sus­tain­ab­il­ity of such a prac­tice,and ser­vice pro­viders are also wor­ried about the fu­ture of rape-kit fund­ing.

The re­port, con­duc­ted by the Urb­an In­sti­tute us­ing a $525,464 award from the DOJ’s Na­tion­al In­sti­tute of Justice, also found there are still bar­ri­ers to rape-kit ac­cess for Nat­ive Amer­ic­ans, im­mig­rants, and non-Eng­lish speak­ers.

For ex­ample, in one state with mul­tiple In­di­an re­ser­va­tions, only one re­ser­va­tion had sexu­al-as­sault nurse ex­am­iners. Cul­tur­al bar­ri­ers are also a big prob­lem, and non-Eng­lish speak­ers face a lack of trans­lat­ors — par­tic­u­larly when they of­ten have to rely on fam­ily to trans­late in oth­er situ­ations.

The 2005 ver­sion of VAWA man­dated that for states to be eli­gible for grant money, they have to provide free ex­ams re­gard­less of wheth­er vic­tims re­port crimes to po­lice. That’s im­port­ant, be­cause there is a short peri­od of time to col­lect evid­ence, yet the de­cision of wheth­er to press charge can take time.

“The de­coup­ling of those two things was very im­port­ant in 2005, but what we haven’t seen is large num­bers of vic­tims get­ting those ex­ams and then not go­ing to the po­lice,” Zweig said. “Most people went to get ex­ams and were re­port­ing to the po­lice.”

That means there could be many vic­tims who aren’t get­ting rape kits, and then miss­ing out on the oth­er as­pects of the ex­am, in­clud­ing STD test­ing and get­ting linked to crisis coun­selors and ser­vice pro­viders.

“The pay­ment is­sues are ob­vi­ously very im­port­ant, to make sure that the vic­tims that get these ex­ams, that there are sys­tems in place so that they’re not saddled with a bill after the most trau­mat­ic event in their lives,” Zweig said.

But she cited Bur­eau of Justice stat­ist­ics that show only one-third of vic­tims re­port rape, and less than a quarter seek help from rape crisis cen­ters or loc­al ad­vocacy groups. Giv­en the re­port’s find­ings, it stands to reas­on many of those vic­tims aren’t get­ting ex­ams and are los­ing out on both as­sist­ance and the op­por­tun­ity to see as­sail­ants pro­sec­uted.

“The lar­ger con­text is there are many vic­tims who are not get­ting any help,” Zweig said.

What We're Following See More »
AT ISSUE: COMEY FIRING, SESSIONS’S RECUSAL
Mueller Seeks Documents from DOJ
1 days ago
THE LATEST

Special counsel Robert Mueller "is now demanding documents from the department overseeing his investigation." A source tells ABC News that "Mueller's investigators are keen to obtain emails related to the firing of FBI Director James Comey and the earlier decision of Attorney General Jeff Sessions to recuse himself from the entire matter."

Source:
MULVANEY SAYS PROVISION ISN’T A DEALBREAKER
Trump May Be OK with Dropping Mandate Repeal
1 days ago
THE LATEST

"President Donald Trump would not insist on including repeal of an Obama-era health insurance mandate in a bill intended to enact the biggest overhaul of the tax code since the 1980s, a senior White House aide said on Sunday. The version of tax legislation put forward by Senate Republican leaders would remove a requirement in former President Barack Obama’s signature healthcare law that taxes Americans who decline to buy health insurance."

Source:
FRANKEN JUST THE BEGINNING?
Media Devoting More Resources to Lawmakers’ Sexual Misconduct
1 days ago
THE LATEST

"Members of Congress with histories of mistreating women should be extremely nervous. Major outlets, including CNN, are dedicating substantial newsroom resources to investigating sexual harassment allegations against numerous lawmakers. A Republican source told me he's gotten calls from well-known D.C. reporters who are gathering stories about sleazy members."

Source:
STARTS LEGAL FUND FOR WH STAFF
Trump to Begin Covering His Own Legal Bills
3 days ago
THE DETAILS
DISCUSSED THE MATTER FOR A NEW BOOK
Steele Says Follow the Money
3 days ago
STAFF PICKS

"Christopher Steele, the former British intelligence officer who wrote the explosive dossier alleging ties between Donald Trump and Russia," says in a new book by The Guardian's Luke Harding that "Trump's land and hotel deals with Russians needed to be examined. ... Steele did not go into further detail, Harding said, but seemed to be referring to a 2008 home sale to the Russian oligarch Dmitry Rybolovlev. Richard Dearlove, who headed the UK foreign-intelligence unit MI6 between 1999 and 2004, said in April that Trump borrowed money from Russia for his business during the 2008 financial crisis."

Source:
×
×

Welcome to National Journal!

You are currently accessing National Journal from IP access. Please login to access this feature. If you have any questions, please contact your Dedicated Advisor.

Login