Rape victims charged for medical exams
March 5, 2001 12:39 PM   Subscribe

Rape victims charged for medical exams "A 22-year-old woman is raped in Cobb County. Nurses and doctors poke and prod her body to collect evidence for police. By the time the $486 bill reaches her new home in Valdosta, the debt has been turned over to a collection agency. She is nine months' pregnant and doesn't know how she will pay."
posted by darren (15 comments total)
What is the proper response to this post?

They should not be charging victims for the cost collecting evidence. They need the evidence to go find the criminal and execute them. Collect the expense from the criminal. Why would someone do this to the victim? Why is the victim carrying the rapists baby? This is all revolting.
posted by thirteen at 12:57 PM on March 5, 2001

First of all, the article states that forensic exams may not be charged to the victims under a 1996 Georgia law, which seems to not be common knowledge. I don't know whether laws like this are common, but of course they should be standard.

(It's not at all clear that the pregnancy was a result of the rape, by the way.)

Uh, thirteen, capital punish much?
posted by dhartung at 1:07 PM on March 5, 2001

posted by thirteen at 1:16 PM on March 5, 2001

Well, not for everything, but rape is a most egregious crime and worthy of the punishment.
posted by thirteen at 1:25 PM on March 5, 2001

I personally would prefer physical castration, and then dumping the perp in a prison, telling all his cellmates he's a child molester. Then he can spend the rest of his life reliving what his victim had to endure.
posted by darren at 1:35 PM on March 5, 2001

Damn. I hope I never run over your foot or something. I'd hate to have my foot run over for the rest of my life.
posted by sonofsamiam at 1:37 PM on March 5, 2001

I'd only endorse that idea if you did it willfully and intentionally, sonofsamiam..... :-)
posted by darren at 1:39 PM on March 5, 2001

Claire Pearson of GNESA: "Getting a bill for a rape that you had no control over and wasn't your fault, it's not a very empowering experience."

As opposed to, say, getting a bill for a rape that you did have control over and was your fault - which would be empowering? Women everywhere shall walk more safely knowing that Claire Pearson is on their side...
posted by m.polo at 1:44 PM on March 5, 2001

Dhartung is right. We don't know if the rapist was also the man making the girl pregnant. Why not abortion if that was the case? Can't the girl sue if the law says she is not responsible for the charges and this bill she received violates state law?
posted by Postroad at 4:09 PM on March 5, 2001

Perhaps, if the rapist did impregnant the victim, she felt that two wrongs would not make a right. What the hell difference does it make who the father of her child is, or why she decided not to abort it? It's her business, not ours, and has nothing to do with the story or the injustice served upon this woman.
posted by Dreama at 4:18 PM on March 5, 2001

Postroad: Though the woman may be entitled to sue. Don't you think she has enough going on? A lawsuit isn't an easy thing and many people would rather pay the bill than drag themselves through another court case.

I was particularly interested by the note that police may not order these exams because of the price. This is dangerous ground we're treading if police agencies are unwilling to pay for evidence that they need. Maybe the perp should be fined as well as imprisoned for this crime. Or maybe we should just run over his foot repeatedly for the rest of his life.
posted by fiery at 8:43 PM on March 5, 2001

First off, I think the examples were fictional (and I certainly hope that is the case). There was no clear sign that the child was conceived of the rape, but I think it was certainly implied. I got the impression the child was an additional cost/burden imposed upon her, as if to say she has all this going on, and here is the state piling on a bill.

Secondly, if some woman wants to carry the rapist's baby, I would not say a word to change her mind, but it is conceptually so repulsive to me I cannot help but curl my lip. I think it is obvious that if I support a woman's right to do away with her pregnancy, I would not stop her from keeping it. Thematically it is just about all I ever post about.
posted by thirteen at 9:30 PM on March 5, 2001

Re: Capital punishment for rape

The problem with broadening the scope of capital punishment crimes is not only moral. By making more and more crimes punishable by death, criminals have no reason to stop at a certain point. If the maximum penalty for murder and rape are the same, why shouldn't the assailant kill the person he's raping? One less witness and he's looking at the same sentence.

If I recall correctly, this is why many woman's groups protested sharpening rape sentences a while ago.
posted by jedrek at 10:27 PM on March 5, 2001

it's not a very empowering experience.

I wish use of the word "empowering" was a crime. It ought not to be used in the first place unless you're talking about some kind of investment of a legal or official capacity, such as "The president is empowered to command the armed forces." And if you really insist on using its secondary verb definifion, you have to link it to some sort of object for it to mean anything. Othwise, as in Pearson's case, it comes off as empty political posturing. This victim doesn't need a political ideology, she needs emotional counseling.

This is dangerous ground we're treading if police agencies are unwilling to pay for evidence that they need.

Oh, they'll get the evidence. The hospital is morally and legally bound to perform the exams on any rape victim that walks through their doors. That's probably why the cops are dragging their feet, especially the departments with tight budgets. They know the hospitals can't push the issue too hard; in a worst-case scenario, the unpaid bills will just be factored into the cost of care for those who do pay, the same way the hospitals deal with all other indigent cases.

First off, I think the examples were fictional (and I certainly hope that is the case).

They better not be. If so, that reporter has committed one of the cardinal sins of journalism: Don't make up sources. You can protect their identities, as was done here, but you can't imagine them, or the events that happened to them.

And I really could have done without the last two sentences of that piece, and the phone number at the bottom. Leave your opinion out of it, especially when you feel the need to to wield your biggest Hammer of Self-Righteousness to make it. Believe it or not, Ms. Reporter, most other people think rape is bad too. You aren't exactly going out on a limb by throwing it in your readers' faces that "I Know That Rape Victims Are More Important Than City Budgets." Like, duh. As for the phone number: After no story about any other kind of crime does a newspaper dump a helpline number for victims of that crime. To me, this is the sort of thing that ::cough:: "disempowers" rape victims more: The continual media posturing that Rape is Different, Rape is Shameful is going to keep otherwise level-headed women believing that they ought to be completely secretive about it, that it ought to cause you untold years of emotional problems no matter what, etc. (Yes, I know most women do indeed have emotional problems after a rape. But it doesn't help matters to keep pounding into their brains that they're supposed to have them, regardless of their own emotional strength pre-rape.) Be sensitive, sure, but try to realize that the true ::ahem:: empowerment will come when women are no longer afraid to say "Yes, I've been raped in the past," because they no longer fear any social stigma from it.

Oh yeah, as to the immediate problem: I'm sure the billing of the rape victims is innocuous, albeit tasteless. To the hospital's computers, it's just another medical procedure like any other, and it's going to spit out a bill for the victim just like any other patient gets. However, I also would not have trouble beliving it if the hospitals were intentionally billing them anyway. A scandalous percentage of most hospitals' revenues comes from intentional overbilling, either by billing both the patient and the authority at hand (in this case, the cops; usually just the insurance company) and hoping both parties will pay, not knowing the other has done the same thing; or by charging far more for various things than they're supposed to (like $5 to give you a single Tylenol while you're stuck in your hospital bed). Smart consumers know to ask for fully-itemized bills upon checkout, so they can go over it line-by-line and demand the more outrageous charges be taken off. But most consumers, of course, are not smart.

Insurance companies and HMOs do the same sort of thing in reverse: They will intentionally underpay claims in hopes the policyholder never realizes they're entitled to more under their plan, and often will outright refuse to pay claims that are clearly covered in your policy. Again, the smart consumers can clear this up, by escalating the claim and demanding it be reviewed, or, in some cases, by getting a lawyer to send them a legal threat. Everyone else just sighs and accepts it. You should NEVER just accept it unless your claim was paid in full.

And before anyone uses this to condemn the American system of private medicine: The government does it too. Medicare almost never pays in full to the hospital the first time around. Social Security will ALWAYS deny a citizen's first claim for disability, no matter how blatantly obvious the need might be (only applying for SS on account of age/retirement will go smoothly). It can take over a year to get approved, and you will often need an attorney to succeed at all. Canada, Britain's NHS, they all have variations on these tactics.
posted by aaron at 10:40 PM on March 5, 2001

Wow, aaron, that's a mighty big post. I agree with you about the overuse of the word "empower" and it's variations.

As far as the poor women being billed, I can understand that the system is so confused that they would bill a rape victim by accident. But it seems like someone working at the hospital's billing department should realize what's going on and stop it before it gets out. It isn't cool that the hospital has to foot the bill, but some public agency is going to have to pay for the exam. It's just common decency that the rape victim shouldn't have to pay for it.
posted by Loudmax at 1:55 AM on March 6, 2001

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