In 2005 Congress authorized the Violence Against Women Act, and it included the fact that survivors of sexual assaults could not be charged for a medical exam to collect evidence (a rape kit). Although this is a start, survivors can still be charged for anything not directly related to the administration of a rape kit, and these patients often need medical treatment that does more than just collect evidence.
A recent study has discovered that in 2013, the latest year for which data was available, American women who were raped or sexually assaulted paid almost $1,000 in medical bills after reporting the crime to the authorities.
The study examined the hospital billing records of 1,355 women who reported a rape in the US in 2013. Of these women, 88% had to pay charges on the day of their hospital visit and in the month following the rape 63% of patients ran up further medical expenses that included prescriptions, mental health services, and physical care.
Seven percent of the women had to pay over 50% of their medical costs, and 27% of the survivors had to pay over 25% of their hospital bill.
Insurance providers paid over $9m medical services related to sexual assaults in 2013 with the average cost of treatment for each victim being $6,735. The survivors themselves paid an average of $950 in deductibles and non-covered treatment or 14 percent of the expenses.
The lead author of the report Ashley Tennessee, of the Medical University of South Carolina, said:
“Many people know sexual assault is an issue, but they’re often unaware that victims have to pay for associated medical charges.”
Victims of other violent crimes do not have to pay the costs they incur, but the economic costs of being raped have been overlooked. Not only are those who are sexually assaulted and raped violated in the worst way possible at the time of the crime but they have to suffer the indignity of finding the money to cover medical services after the attack.
Last year, one American woman was forced to crowdfund medical fees incurred after she was raped.
The woman, identified only as Ann, posted the photo above of her hospital bill and said:
“I was attacked over a year ago and today I got a hospital bill for my emergency room visit. I’m not financially able to afford the bill. I would really appreciate any help I could get.”
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