Study Shows US Women Foot The Bill For Rape Treatment

| by Erik Kindel
A medical examination room in a doctor's office or hospital.A medical examination room in a doctor's office or hospital.

A new study released Thursday shows what many victims of rape have known for a long time: that if you report your rape and seek treatment, you might be on the hook for that medical bill.

According to Reuters, victims of rape in the United States often have to pay about 14 percent of the cost of medical services, or about $950 on average. Insurance providers make up the rest of the costs, close to $6,000.

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Lead author of the study Ashley Tennessee, of the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston, spoke to Reuters Health about the results of her work:

"Many people know sexual assault is an issue, but they're often unaware that victims have to pay for associated medical charges … With other violent crimes, victims are not responsible for paying for the damage that results from the crime."

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The study was published in the American Journal of Public Health and examined hospital billing records for privately insured women who visited the ER in 2013, for a total of 1,355 instances. According to New York Magazine, of the more than 1,355 causes of assault, only 32 were admitted to the hospital following their ER visit, and only 7 percent received prescriptions for antibiotics, emergency contraception, or other medication.

The Huffington Post reports that 88 percent of the victims included in the study incurred charges on the day they visited the hospital, and 27 percent were forced to pay more than a quarter of the cost. To add insult to injury, about 63 percent of the patients received additional charges related to their hospital visit up to a month after the incident.

"This financial burden adds to the emotional burden of sexual assault, " Tennessee told Reuters. "This is an area that society has missed, and we have a moral right to help victims."

Tennessee and her colleagues acknowledged the limitations of the study due to the homogeneous group results were being drawn from. The data for the study doesn't include men or LGBTQ victims of sexual assault, doesn't account for publicly insured victims, or women who may face greater risk of assault due to societal and environmental factors.

"Follow up studies must look at the prevalence in these groups … We want victims to know they're not alone in this journey and recovery process, and that includes studying and informing all groups about their access to funding resources."

In a statement he made to Reuters Health by email, Scott Berkowitz, president and founder of the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN) said, "We encourage all victims of sexual assault to get a medical exam following the incident. Anything that is a barrier to ensuring victims are physically OK is bad for them and the community."

"Congressional attention has been focused on making sure victims aren't charged for the rape kit and forensic evidence, and there hasn't been as much attention paid to making sure they aren't charged for the other medical costs that result," he added.

Sources: Reuters, New York Magazine, Huffington Post Photo Credit: Pixabay

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