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Jill has been blogging for Feministe since 2005.
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35 Responses

  1. Nancy Green
    Nancy Green September 15, 2008 at 9:12 am |

    I have some background on what exactly the rape exam is and why anti-abortion politics plays a role. see here-

    http://kmareka.com/?p=1988

    Mayor Palin was able to dodge the threat that some of her more extreme supporters might accuse her of using state funds for ‘abortion’ –that is , emergency contraception.

  2. Cerebelle
    Cerebelle September 15, 2008 at 10:13 am |

    I too was waiting for a little more evidence before condemning Palin for this, and now all I feel is utter disgust. That she can sign off on something like this in her own city makes me very fearful that she might be our next vice president and possible replacement president. All the more reason to vote, even if I’m in a red state. Perhaps miracles do happen?

  3. Meritorious Brand
    Meritorious Brand September 15, 2008 at 12:38 pm |

    As I’ve noted elsewhere, once this story makes it to the MSM the McCain/Palin candidacy is doomed. However, there are still some minor details that need to be cleared up before it make the NYT or WaPo.

    (1) In the Huffington post piece, Alperin indicates that the line item included in the budget to pay for the rape kits was identified as “contingency,” relying on the word of former Chief Stambaugh for this information. Is there some independent documentary confirmation that “contingency” was defined as, or at least included, rape kits? The budget document linked to was over 100 pages long, and Palin might try to lie her way around this (again) by claiming she didn’t see the word “contingency” or know what it meant.

    (2) The Alperin HuffPo piece indicates that the former chief budgeted $15,000 for “contingency” in FY 1993, $5,000 each in FYs 1994-5 and $13,000 in 1996. However, the FBI stats show that there were zero rapes in 1995. If that is the case, then the $5,000 could not have been spent for rape kits. Although there are no rape statistics for 1996-99, the stats between 2000 and 2004 show there were only 1 or 2 rapes a year. If the stats were about the same for the prior years, someone could argue that it was unlikely that the $10,000-$15,000 “contingencies” were reserved for rape kits, again because there were no rapes.

    (3) As noted, there are no rape stats for 1998, the year Palin put the “pay-for-your-own-rape-kit” policy into effect. Since there were zero rapes in 1985, 1990 and 1995, and only 1 in 2000, someone could try to infer that there might have been zero rapes in 1998, meaning no one (or no one’s insurer) was billed for a kit. Maybe there are more accurate state (as opposed to FBI federal) rape statistics that would prove that there was a spike in rapes resulting in a spike in rape kit billings?

  4. SarahMC
    SarahMC September 15, 2008 at 1:44 pm |

    WILL this story ever make it to the MSM?!?

  5. Elena Perez
    Elena Perez September 15, 2008 at 2:25 pm |

    Thanks for clueing us in to the additional support for this claim. We used it to update our post, “Why Sarah Palin is Bad for American Women” at the CA NOW blog: http://www.canow.org/canoworg/2008/09/why-sarah-palin.html

  6. Jaliya
    Jaliya September 15, 2008 at 3:05 pm |

    This is…*beyond*. It would appear to be another facet of Palin’s overall attitude towards reproductive-rights issues … So, imagine Palin being “mayor” of the entire country, should McCain keel over during his first term.

    I feel even more anxiety about the possibility of McCain/Palin than I did about Bush/Cheney — and I thought they were about as nefarious as a pair of pols could be!

    Thank you for Feministe…

  7. Feminist Avengers
    Feminist Avengers September 15, 2008 at 3:34 pm |

    Want the opinion of a feminist avenger? Rape is not a talking point.

  8. Bagel-san
    Bagel-san September 15, 2008 at 4:26 pm |

    It might be valuable to distinguish between “actual rapes” and “reported rapes” and “convicted rapes” (re. Meritorious’ post) …it’s pretty hard to *convict* without kit evidence (I assume) so charging for rape kits would lower *that* number, but it doesn’t mean no one’s getting raped that year.

    I got the impression from the local news article that interviewed Fannon http://www.frontiersman.com/articles/2000/05/23/news.txt that he was worried about losing money if the state covered rapes kits, which implies that they *were* used at least sometimes. ‘Cause in a magically rape-free world, it wouldn’t matter who paid for a kit that was never needed. (I haven’t heard how reliable this source is, though…)

  9. exholt
    exholt September 15, 2008 at 5:14 pm |

    So much for being a candidate who has strong “moral” values and is against more taxes…….

  10. jed
    jed September 15, 2008 at 5:50 pm |

    To make the MSM, someone must come forward and prove that she paid for a rape kit out of pocket. Otherwise, the whole situation looks like the police billed insurance companies where possible and paid for the rest. The legislation was more likely a result of complaints from insurance companies, not from victims.

  11. ol cranky
    ol cranky September 15, 2008 at 6:03 pm |

    billing of insurance companies is not acceptable for a rape-kit. aside from the fact that insurance costs end up being used to increase premiums and are felt by consumers, a rape kit is not a medical diagnostic test/evaluation it is collecting evidence for a criminal investigation (the testing for STDs technically is also part of this). To use the “we billed insurance most of the time” as an excuse is unacceptable. If Wasilla was wiling to borrow money to get a friggen sports center, the city should have been willing to foot the bill for the odd rape kit.

  12. Rebecca (liberal!Rebecca)
    Rebecca (liberal!Rebecca) September 15, 2008 at 6:58 pm |

    USA Today covered it a little.

    a rape kit is not a medical diagnostic test/evaluation it is collecting evidence for a criminal investigation

    ^ This. Way too many people think it’s medical care and “insurance companies always get billed for medical care.” It is NOT. It’s like billing the estate of a murder victim for the police to come dust for fingerprints.

  13. Jack
    Jack September 16, 2008 at 2:15 am |

    I’m no fan of Sarah Palin, but feminists seem awfully silent about the many, many false rape accusations made each year. And really, nobody ever gets punished for it. Perhaps this has been a problem in Alaska, though I’ll admit it’s pretty stupid and insulting in the rare event a woman actually is raped.

  14. Setu Madhavan
    Setu Madhavan September 16, 2008 at 3:35 am |

    Why dont you people just get to the true facts as to why Sarah Palin felt compelled to charge rape victims, instead of chasing your tails regurgitating make-believe theories till the cows come home.

    Here is the real reason why Sarah is justified in charging rape victims. Amen. Read on, you unholy heathens.

    One line item in the cost towards the rape test kit includes money towards EMERGENCY CONTRACEPTION (typically used if the victim was ovulating during the rape to pre-empt pregnancy. Remember pre-emption. Yes the same pre-emption from the ‘pre-emptive strike, definition of the Bush Doctrine, that caused Sarah ‘pitbull’ Palin to give Gibson the ‘why are you doing this to me, Charlie,’ look). Now Sarah believes that any form of contraception, that prevents/pre-empts conception is a sin. Do you think such a pro-life person as her (that loves to shoot wolves from the air, fire at bear cubs on trees, and anything that moves on four legs in Alaska for pleasure- even as she is doing her best to deny the eskimos and native Alaskan population their right to subsistence hunting/fishing) would be able to face her lord on the day of judgement when she is asked how she allowed Wasilla to pay for ‘emergency contraception’ for such sinful people as the ‘contraception demanding rape victims’ of Wasilla. So Sarah decided to take the moral religious high road. Just so you know her pastor is on tape proclaiming to the congregation, “Jesus is in WAR MODE”, as he implores his people to support the ‘Bush war’. Another nugget from her church pastor,”Those that voted for Bush will go to heaven, those that voted for Kerry are destined to hell”. Amen. Hallelujah!!

    So people, please refrain from getting your thongs and boxers all into a knot thinking about why Wasilla charged upto (and over) $1000.00 a-pop to rape victims. It wasnt Wasilla raping the rape victims all over again. It was just Wasilla’s godly Mayor, that holier-than-thou-godless-heathen-elites following her religious beliefs. Amen.

    Now if you are willing to kindly undo the knotted thongs and boxers, let me share with you what happened next.

    One senator tried to push a bill hard in Washington to get Federal dollars for such town and counties across the US that didnt have money to pay for rape test kits – just so the towns and counties dont charge rape victims instead. Now I am sure you silly boys and girls would imagine that such a bill would have passed smoothly – without even a single ‘Nay’ vote. Right? Wrong!!!

    So, boys and girls, here is a little quiz for you. Name the senator who pushed the bill to ensure that rape victims are not forced to pay for the rape test kits? Since I dont want you to knot up what you just unknotted, here is the answer. Senator Joe Biden, pushed hard to get the bill through to prevent rape victims from having to pay for their rape test kits.

    Onto the next question. Which senator voted ‘no’ to prevent the bill? Here is the answer: Sen. John ‘Maverick’ McCain!

    Go figure.

    Setu Madhvan (setu.madhavan@gmail.com)

  15. angrygrrrl
    angrygrrrl September 16, 2008 at 5:37 am |

    What?!?!?! Is this supposed to be somehow ironic?

  16. southern students for choice-Athens
    southern students for choice-Athens September 16, 2008 at 7:36 am |

    First, Sarah Palin is (1) scary and (2) unqualified and one of the best reasons to vote Democratic, even if their support for access to reproductive health care (including abortion) is on average equivocal at best. It’s easy to imagine her tacitly supporting a policy like is being described here, or at least finding other priorities more worthwhile pursuing than opposing a policy like has been described. But it does make sense to thoroughly investigate opp research nuggets like this, it’s one thing to be idealistic, another to be accused (maybe rightly) of distortions to get one’s point across.

    OK, so according to the blog reference above Wasilla at least tried to charge rape victims – somehow – $300 to $1200 for evidence-gathering – which was rightly pointed out is what a rape kit is for, it’s in no way diagnostic of anything like say STDs – so what happened, or what was supposed to happen when a victim didn’t want to pay, or obviously couldn’t pay, like in the case of a child?

    A good guess might be that they wouldn’t have been made to pay, or that their parents/guardians/etc wouldn’t have been made to pay. But what was the process – and there surely had to be some process – for handling the sliding scale or fee waivers?

    In some ways, it might almost make sense to try to charge some fee at least to insurance companies for the kits. Yes, it’s evidence gathering and you don’t expect the police to send you a bill when they dust for fingerprints if your home is broken into. But rape kits are expensive – or processing them in a manner that provides legally admissible evidence is expensive — and that’s the main reason that there are so many backlogs of rape kits that aren’t processed for a very long time, from what one hears anyway, in some communities.

    If a community were to try to seek outside sources of funding for processing rape kits – which one would suppose the $300 to $1200 fee in Wasilla was really for, for **processing**, it wasn’t a fee for a box of swabs and test tubes — in a way that is sensitive to the effect it could have on victims’ willingness to file reports – it might be understandable, maybe even something worth supporting. One shouldn’t assume that the program in Wasilla was like that, though.

    So it’s worth asking, if there was a sliding scale – and it seems there had to have been one for the rape kit fee to vary somehow from $300 to $1200 — exactly how did it work – how was it supposed to work, and how did it work in practice, in Wasilla and elsewhere — and did Sarah Palin or anyone directly connected with her little political machine ever give a damm when she was mayor or governor or whatever to try to find out about it?

  17. William
    William September 16, 2008 at 10:08 am |

    In some ways, it might almost make sense to try to charge some fee at least to insurance companies for the kits. Yes, it’s evidence gathering and you don’t expect the police to send you a bill when they dust for fingerprints if your home is broken into. But rape kits are expensive – or processing them in a manner that provides legally admissible evidence is expensive — and that’s the main reason that there are so many backlogs of rape kits that aren’t processed for a very long time, from what one hears anyway, in some communities.

    Seriously? “Rape kits are expensive” and the state drags it’s feet so victims need to pay for their own justice in the interest of helping out? Thats bullshit. How much do you think an autopsy costs? Ballistic identification tests? Man-hours for crime scene techs and detectives? Bite mark analysis? Investigating crimes is expensive. Most larger jurisdictions defray that cost by hiring experts and doing the work themselves (thats why there is the office of Coroner and State/County/Municipal crime labs). But for this one crime -a crime that disproportionately effects women, has a history of being ignored, makes a lot of people uncomfortable to imagine even existing, and that still isn’t viewed as that big a deal by a shocking portion of the population- not only have people departments not internalized the cost of investigation but they make the unique demand that victims front the cost.

    That, friend, is the very definition of discriminatory policy.

    So it’s worth asking, if there was a sliding scale

    No, it isn’t, because it wouldn’t matter. The bottom line is that charging victims for the processing of rape kits is singling out a crime most likely to happen to women and then charging them if they want that crime to be effectively investigated and/or prosecuted. Not only is it unethical but it looks to me like a pretty glaring violation of “equal protection under the law.” All a sliding scale would mean is that poor women wouldn’t be charged for their rape kits. Now, perhaps thats slightly less monstrous, but at the end of the day you’re still talking about a system in which rape victims have to subsidize the police in order to get them to bother doing their job.

    Or, to put it more concisely, the policy is a pig. A sliding scale would be lipstick.

    and it seems there had to have been one for the rape kit fee to vary somehow from $300 to $1200

    Or different amounts, kinds, and qualities of evidence cost different amounts to process.

  18. mustelid
    mustelid September 16, 2008 at 10:40 am |

    So…it’s okay for police departments to pass investigation costs on to crime victims (or the victims’ insurance co’s) if the investigation costs are deemed ‘expensive’? No. Absolutely not an acceptable argument. Justice is supposed to be available to everyone in the U.S., regardless of income. Yes, I’m aware it doesn’t function like that IRL. That’s something lawmakers should be trying to change, instead of working to reinforce.

    As far as how the measure was supposed to work, IIRC, the fee was supposed to be billed to the victim’s insurance co. If the victim had no insurance, the victim was supposed to pay out of pocket/not get the kit. In practice, there was something about the police chief Palin later fired paying the costs for the victims, since he hated the ‘cost saving measure’.

  19. southern students for choice-Athens
    southern students for choice-Athens September 16, 2008 at 11:23 am |

    It’s not acceptable for police departments to directly pass on to victims the cost of processing a rape kit, but it’s also not acceptable for a rape kit, once done, to sit on a shelf and not get processed, which has happened in many jurisdictions, mostly due to a lack of funds. (There are a lot of unreferenced assumptions there, but that’s probably easy enough to prove by a little google searching – many cities/jurisdictions have had backlogs of kits to be processed due to lack of fund, or not putting a high enough priority on pursuing the cases in question at all, perhaps)

    It just seems imaginable, though, that somewhere, somehow, a police department / sheriff’s office / etc might try to bill for some of the services they offer, and if they can somehow deem this a medical service and bill a health insurance company, the lack of funding for processing rape kits might be a reason they’d cite for doing so.

    But it’s really unimaginable to think that the Wasilla police would ask a parent of an underage rape victim to pay for their child’s rape kit. Maybe that would have been their policy, though, so that’s one question that should be asked.

    Again, none of this is to say that billing victims for rape kits is in any way acceptable, it’s just to try to ask intelligent questions that the media might ask, questions which the Palin campaign would surely be ready to answer with a spin that made Palin’s actions, whatever they were, sound reasonable.

  20. mustelid
    mustelid September 16, 2008 at 4:53 pm |

    Southern Students, it is a question of priorities. Backlogs of rape kits suggests processing said kits is not as high a priority as it should be. And suggesting that rape victims/their insurers chip in to speed things up just reinforces the notion that other crimes take precedence. Will authorities start extorting money for other crime lab costs now? And yes, saying that a victim’s crime tests will remain in limbo unless someone coughs up payment is extortion. The only relevant question here is, how did anyone (I’m looking at you, Sarah Palin) ever think this was a remotely acceptable way to ‘cut costs’?

  21. The Raving Atheist
    The Raving Atheist September 16, 2008 at 5:52 pm |

    The legislative history the bill demonstrates quite conclusively that (1) no rape victim, in Wasilla or all of Alaska, was ever charged for a rape kit or even asked to pay (2) in the rare cases that an insurer was billed for the rape exam, which happened in a number of cities other than Wasilla, it was because the hospital’s accounting procedures were faulty, (3) the only actual evidence presented to the committee was a letter from a woman in Juneau whose insurer had been billed, (4) for bureaucratic reasons, Alaska and other states still seek to finance rape kits through insurance where minors are involved, (5) the problem was a sporadic one in Alaska (and other states) since at least 1982, well before Palin got into office. It’s still a problem in Obama’s Illinois, where apparently the victims must pay up front and then seek compensation from a crime victims board.

    Additionally, the available statistics indicate it’s more than likely that there were zero rapes in Wasilla prior to the passage of the bill.

    In other words, this story is just another silly, silly, completely baseless smear.

  22. Politicalguineapig
    Politicalguineapig September 16, 2008 at 6:15 pm |

    “in the rare event a woman actually is raped”
    Jack, what part of ONE IN FOUR women don’t you get? I’m going to have to assume you’re commenting from an alternative universe.

  23. Bagel-san
    Bagel-san September 16, 2008 at 7:12 pm |

    (Jack = troll. Don’t feed ‘im.)

    I gave an example elsewhere of people who would be disproportionately hurt *even compared to other rape victims* which would be child victims of incest. They can’t pay for the kit, they don’t have insurance, and I can’t really see a kid going up to their dad and saying “hey, yanno how you raped me last night? Would you mind paying for my rape kit?”

    So, yeah, this fits in pretty nicely with McCain not wanting to teach children about sexual predators… McCain wants to get kids raped, and Palin wants to hinder them from prosecuting afterwards.

  24. William
    William September 16, 2008 at 7:23 pm |

    It’s not acceptable for police departments to directly pass on to victims the cost of processing a rape kit, but it’s also not acceptable for a rape kit, once done, to sit on a shelf and not get processed, which has happened in many jurisdictions, mostly due to a lack of funds.

    One ought not to have anything to do with the other. If the police are having trouble managing their resources the proper response is to make them manage their resources. They get badges, guns, and more money and authority than they could ever reasonably need, I’m not interested in hearing excuses. They need to prioritize better, period.

    It just seems imaginable, though, that somewhere, somehow, a police department / sheriff’s office / etc might try to bill for some of the services they offer, and if they can somehow deem this a medical service and bill a health insurance company, the lack of funding for processing rape kits might be a reason they’d cite for doing so.

    Right and, since tarring and feathering has gone out of style, the correct answer to a sheriff’s department making that transparently ridiculous and transparent claim is to either make it illegal for them to do so or sue their asses into submission. Again, the ineptitude and outright discrimination on the part of the police is not something victims ought to assuage.

    But it’s really unimaginable to think that the Wasilla police would ask a parent of an underage rape victim to pay for their child’s rape kit. Maybe that would have been their policy, though, so that’s one question that should be asked.

    Unimaginable? Ten bucks says you’re white and middle class from you giving the police the benefit of the doubt alone.

    More importantly, why the fuck would the age of the victim have any baring whatsoever on what kind of services they receive? That, my friend, is called discrimination. I don’t really give two shits if the police are asking the impoverished parents of an underage rape victim to pay for the kit or an adult heiress with money to burn, the context doesn’t matter here. Asking rape victim (or anyone connected to them) to pay for the costs of investigating their own rape is the kind of wrong that makes it hard for me to be opposed to the death penalty.

    Again, none of this is to say that billing victims for rape kits is in any way acceptable, it’s just to try to ask intelligent questions that the media might ask, questions which the Palin campaign would surely be ready to answer with a spin that made Palin’s actions, whatever they were, sound reasonable.

    No, its asking the kinds of questions that allow dodges and miss the point. These are not intelligent questions, these are irrelevant minutia. Its missing the forest for the trees. Its setting up situations in which Palin could obscure the fundamental horror here: she thinks that rape victims should be expected to pay for their own justice. Any nuance beyond that is just watering down an overt downplaying of rape and a brazen violation of Section I of the 14th amendment.

  25. Alara Rogers
    Alara Rogers September 16, 2008 at 8:15 pm |

    feminists seem awfully silent about the many, many false rape accusations made each year.

    Feminists are also awfully silent about the absolute *epidemic* of people being abducted by aliens.

    There is no money to be made by falsely accusing rape, it will almost never go to trial, it will cause as much damage to the accuser as to the accused, and so there is NO MOTIVE for doing it. Maybe in the days when a woman would be thrown out of her community for having consensual sex unless she claimed it was rape (and this occasionally *does* happen when some asshole would have beaten his daughter or wife to death unless she lied and claimed rape, but that’s really really rare.)

    What is very common is for women to be simply humanly mistaken about who raped them. Or for there to be no DNA evidence one way or the other. That doesn’t mean she wasn’t raped, it means she was wrong about who did it or she can’t prove it. Not the same thing as a false accusation.

  26. Always fight for what you believe in
    Always fight for what you believe in September 16, 2008 at 10:10 pm |

    Please see this link. It’s a resident from Alaska describing this situation in more detail that previous reports than I have read thus far. It also has more information in regards to rape victims in Alaska.

    http://alaskareport.com/news98/x61620_rape_palin.htm

    I hope this helps those of you gathering information about this.

  27. Richard Kane
    Richard Kane September 16, 2008 at 10:30 pm |

    Something is missing, I haven’t yet seen much condemnation of Sarah Palin, from moderate conservatives against her staunch almost cruel extremism. Comprehensive evangelicals should be incensed that she, cuts funding for shelters for pregnant women while she tries to prevent abortion.

    So I guess I’ll start showing some more conservative outrage.
    http://www.feministing.com/archives/010930.html#comment-178599
    http://www.feministing.com/archives/010930.html#comment-179213

    Slightly off the subject crackpot scientist Lysenko was so upset with the Nazi idea of breeding a better, smarter and more tough minded breed of people that, he inspired Stalin to order farmers to stop breading plants and animals.

    I see no rape kits to get in the way of a few women getting an abortion to be similar nuttiness.

    So I’m going to try to start Pro-Lifer’s Against Sarah Palin’s Extremism
    http://www.capitolhillblue.com/cont/node/11269

    So far I have not been able to post in on major sights

    *
    *
    Pro-life, it doesn’t have to mean supporting live ammunition

    Some people are urging sober, politically conservative Republicans who don’t like an extremist social agenda to be upset that the religious fringe, could lead to the kind of government looking over your shoulder world that they abhor, since McCain isn’t in the best of health due to his POW years. Others urge those who call themselves pro-life, but don’t think rape victims should be forced to have to be reminded of the goon who raped them, . . . CONTINUES AT THE ABOVE LINK

  28. William
    William September 16, 2008 at 11:52 pm |

    Feminists are also awfully silent about the absolute *epidemic* of people being abducted by aliens.

    I’d be willing to bet dollars to doughnuts that there were more reported alien abductions than false rape accusations for any year in the last quarter century.

  29. Alaska women say no to Palin, and other linkage. « Small-Town Elitist

    [...] add to the growing amount of scary information on Sarah Palin’s administration in Wasilla Alaska saying “no” to paying for rape [...]

  30. Ways to End the World › It just gets worse the more you know.

    [...] Jill at Feministe wrote yesterday that it turns out Palin was actually and actively responsible for eliminating funding for rape kits [...]

  31. Sara Callow
    Sara Callow September 17, 2008 at 11:57 pm |

    Sarah Palin is about as anti-women as you can get. It alarms me that so many people are unaware of the facts surrounding her actions and beliefs…. and instead choose to blindly support her based on gender. It is sexist NOT to question this candidate thoroughly. I have to believe that tis VP selection is slowly going to unravel the campaign for McCain. I have to believe it, because to think anything else is devastating.

  32. Victoria Placeo
    Victoria Placeo September 18, 2008 at 11:56 am |

    As a recent violent rape victim/survivor I had to address this one

    http://rape-and-sexual-assault.blogspot.com/2008/09/rape-victims-view-of-palin-and-rape-kit.html

    Victoria Placeo

  33. fixable
    fixable September 18, 2008 at 7:03 pm |

    For Meritorious: Wasilla Police Department statistics (http://www.cityofwasilla.com/index.aspx? page=103) show that there were 5 sexual assaults in 1995 and 10 in 1998. However, this number “includes all associated sex crimes,” and therefore is not clearly rape.

  34. What was Shelly Mandell THINKING? « NOT MY GAL

    [...] and then there’s the whole RAPE thing. Need I remind you, Ms. Mandell, that Sarah Palin changed the policy in her hometown of Wasilla such that victims were responsible for paying for the rape kits that [...]

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