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The Cost of Being Raped

(Photo: Woman in dark via Shutterstock)

For years, hospitals in northeastern Wisconsin have billed sexual assault victims as much as $1,200 for the cost of their examinations, according to a new investigation.

The Post-Crescent newspaper found that, despite the availability of government funds to cover the cost of sexual assault examinations, many hospitals were sending the bill to victims. The AP has more:

When someone is sexually assaulted, the process of collecting forensic evidence can include taking pictures of bruises, swabs of sexual fluids or hair. Other expenses, which can include a pregnancy test, antibiotics and medical supplies, can bring the final price tag to about $1,200. […]

For example, hospitals in the ThedaCare system used to absorb the cost for years as part of their charity care, said Jean Coopman-Jansen a program coordinator at Appleton Medical Center. After a change to comply with the health system’s billing rules, some victims last year were forced to pay the costs themselves, she said.

Fortunately, Wisconsin officials appear to be addressing the problem. Jill Karofsky, who heads up the Wisconsin Department of Justice’s Office of Crime Victim Services, said the state government recently began working with hospitals to educate them on how to properly use government funds so victims wouldn’t be charged for their examinations.

“The message to victims is when someone sexually assaults them, their body becomes a crime scene and they are submitting to a very invasive exam and the state frankly ought to pay for it. … It’s forensic evidence,” Karofsky said.