Raped? Pay Up Now! And Then WAIT

11 05 2009
Credit: HRW

Credit: Human Rights Watch

Rape victims having to pay for their own rape kits. Rape kits sitting on shelves by the tens of thousands and not being processed. Women being revictimized by governments and criminal justice systems that don’t take rape seriously. This disgusts me.

I was dumbfounded during the presidential campaign with the news that when Sarah Palin was mayor of Wasilla, Alaska, rape victims had to pay for their own rape kits. And now it seems that many raped women in the state of Texas (where I live) are receiving letters threatening their credit if they don’t pay for the processing of their own rape kits, which can cost from $1,200 to $1,800 to process. This is outrageous. In what other crime do we make the victims pay to collect and process evidence?

 Joe Cutbirth, Adjunct Professor of Journalism at Columbia University, wrote an article about this for the Huffington Post site. He cites the U.S. Violence Against Women Act, which says that states must pay for rape kits if they want to get other federal funding. He also mentions how Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott remarkably tries to defend the letters to victims, saying the Texas Crime Victim’s Compensation Fund—which collected almost $100 million in 2007—would go broke if it didn’t put some restrictions on the payout from that fund. In that same year, the fund had a $58 million surplus—money just sitting around that could go to pay for the processing of these rape kits. Governor Rick Perry—who has talked of secession—continues to embarrass and outrage me and many other Texans every single day with unbelievably insensitive and stupid words and actions such as this.

And to add another layer of insult to these women, even when they are courageous enough to report a rape, often these rape kits can sit on shelves for months…or years. Nicholas Kristof wrote an article about this in the New York Times and quoted a Human Rights Watch report, which said that in Los Angeles County, at last count there were 12,669 rape kits in police storage that had not been processed. Some unprocessed kits were more than 10 years old and the statute of limitations for being able to prosecute the case and use the results as evidence had expired.

The Human Rights Watch report Testing Justice: The Rape Kit Backlog in Los Angeles City and County puts a human face on the tragedy of this delayed testing through real stories such as this:

Catherine was in her forties, living with her young son. She was awakened at midnight by a stranger who raped her, sodomized her, and forced her to orally copulate him—repeatedly. Thankfully, her child remained asleep. When it was over, the police brought her to the Rape Treatment Center. Like all rape victims, her body was one of the crime scenes. She consented to the collection of evidence.

The detective was told by the crime lab that it would take at least 8 months to analyze Catherine’s rape kit. The detective said he knew from the “MO” in this crime that the rapist was a repeat offender. Eight months was too long to wait. He personally drove the kit to the state lab—where the kit still sat for months. When it was processed, they got a “cold hit.” Catherine’s rapist was identified. He was in the offender database.

During the months Catherine’s kit sat on a shelf, unopened, the same rapist attacked at least two other victims—one was a child.

Does any of this alarm you? Piss you off? Sadden you? Evoke any emotion at all? It does for me. I have known in my lifetime several women who have been raped. It is absolutely devastating. And without exception, these women experienced the legal system raping them all over again. We must stand with these women and support those who have the courage to report what happened to them.

Want to do something about this? Contact Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott at greg.abbott@oag.state.tx.us or the U.S. Department of Justice at AskDOJ@usdoj.gov.

Here’s the CNN report on Texas billing women for their own rape kits. Below the video, please note an update to this post.

UPDATE 5/15/09: I was incensed about this and wrote the State of Texas (where I live) Attorney General’s office. Here’s the reply I received:

Dear Ms. Beeler:

Thank you for your recent message. We appreciate your contacting the Office of the Attorney General.

There has been much confusion regarding a Houston television station’s recent report regarding the Crime Victims’ Compensation Fund. In response, we have posted on our website a message which addresses inaccuracies and misinformation contained in the report. Please read “Notice To Crime Victim Advocates” on our website at

Rest assured, the Office of the Attorney General is committed to protecting and serving Texas crime victims.

Sincerely,

Carlos Ibañez

Public Information & Assistance

Office of the Attorney General of Texas

http://www.oag.state.tx.us/victims/advocate_notice.shtml.

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8 responses

11 05 2009
Raped? Pay Up Now! And Then WAIT

[…] Original post by Diane Beeler […]

11 05 2009
Daily News About Palin : A few links about Palin - Monday, 11 May 2009 04:11

[…] Raped? Pay Up Now! And Then WAIT […]

11 05 2009
VotingFemale

It bothers me a lot…

And it bothered Sarah Palin a lot also… that the chief of police in Walsilla would do such a thing… that was why she put an end to it.

This issue is above partisan politics… it is putting money ahead of the needs of rape victims. and it stinks to high heavens

11 05 2009
VotingFemale

I am a conservative who reaches out to liberals on common interest issues… and this is one of many of them. this is beyond party bickering.

11 05 2009
Posts about Huffington Post as of May 11, 2009 » The Daily Parr

[…] Durden Collateral Damage and Double Standards Robert Kuttner, Huffington Post. A good read Raped? Pay Up Now! And Then WAIT – itdawnedonme.wordpress.com 05/11/2009 Credit: Human Rights Watch Rape victims having to pay for […]

11 05 2009
skyewriter

As always, an important and passionate post, Diane. I read that Huff Post article, too, and was outraged.

This is an issue close to my heart for many reasons.

A woman’s body was the gateway to the world for every human being alive. And this is yet another example of the many ways we are not allowed our measure of dignity, our right to be in our bodies how we choose, and how we are confounded in our attempts to be seen as equal.

Our bodies are parsed into pieces. We are wombs and ovaries. Crime scenes (that was very powerful). T & A.

Thank you for this reminder that we must strive to write ourselves into our laws and we must fight to keep others from denying us the justice that every human being deserves.

15 05 2009
sidhe

This is absolutely appalling, and another way that “the man” can trivialize rape and, most importantly, women. Just disgusting. I’m trying to find out if other states or municipalities do this as well but its slow going. Also appears that many kits aren’t even tested…

31 05 2009
DW

well, if this can happen, then the states that administer those federal funds for such things as the cost of rape kits…should get their act together better. And not leave it up to second parties like hospitals, to bill whomever including the victim! it should be ILLEGAL to send a sex crime victim the bill for any of this. she should have an automatic right to SUE and get a statutory penalty award against the outfit that is billing her. statutory meaning, by written law.

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