Apparently, Texas Does NOT Charge Victims for Rape Kits

Last Saturday, I wrote a blog post about a news story originally reported by a Houston television station and picked up by CNN, stating that Texas was charging victims for their own rape kits.  Since then, word has come in that the news was inaccurate and false.

To start, the Texas Attorney General denied the story:

Importantly, last year the Crime Victims’ Compensation Fund has provided reimbursement for more than 8,500 sexual assault exams and sexual assault examination kits. These exams help preserve crucial evidence that law enforcement uses to identify the perpetrators after an innocent victim has been sexually assaulted. For years the Fund has covered, and will continue to cover the costs of sexual assault forensic examinations and kits.

Unfortunately, a Houston television station recently broadcast a misleading and inaccurate story that has caused confusion within the crime victim services community. As a result, some sexual assault survivors-and the organizations that serve them-are unsure about the services that are available to victims.

This message is intended to reassure all interested parties that the Crime Victim Compensation Fund has always covered the costs associated with sexual assault examinations. And that practice will continue.

Read their full statement here.

Normally, I’d be extraordinarily skeptical of such a denial.  And I was.  But the Texas Association Against Sexual Assault has put out their own statement, saying in part:

TAASA is concerned that this misinformation will have a chilling effect on a rape victim’s willingness to report the crime and get a forensic/medical exam (rape kit). We want to assure everyone that the cost of a forensic exam is not billed to the victim. This is always the responsibility of law enforcement and they in turn can be reimbursed for up to $700 though the Crime Victim’s Compensation (CVC) fund. If the cost exceeds this amount it is absorbed by the law enforcement agency or hospital, not the victim.

Additional medical treatment is not part of the forensic exam and billed separately. All crime victims, i.e. rape, gunshot, mugging, etc. are billed for medical treatment. They are eligible to apply for reimbursement of these costs through the CVC fund. The CVC fund is statutorily the “payer of last resort,” so if a victim has medical insurance it will be billed first. This is to assure the fiscal integrity of the CVC fund and make certain that funds remain available to crime victims who are uninsured or underinsured. Rape victims are not singled out in this process for reimbursement, it is consistently applied to all crime victims and this process is replicated with few variations across the country.

And I can only assume that unlike a government agency looking to shrug off really bad press, a victim’s advocacy organization would have no reason to lie to those for whom they’re advocating.

In the case of the woman reported on in the story, her billing was reportedly an error on the part of the hospital, not the state.

As I stated in the previous post, this actually is a problem in numerous states throughout the country.  Victim’s advocates have been talking about it for a long time and working to change it in those states where it is actually occurring.  But thankfully, it seems that Texas is one less state to worry about.  Which is at least something.

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11 comments for “Apparently, Texas Does NOT Charge Victims for Rape Kits

  1. May 16, 2009 at 3:44 pm

    These types of errors are why it is so important that all who report rape know that victims advocates can help with this type of paperwork.

    The way the AG initially responded to the original story didn’t help at all since he let the public get the impression that the expenses for the forensic exams first had to go through the survivor’s insurance when that isn’t true and it is only the medical treatment of the victim which needs to go to insurance, if available, prior to being approved for reimbursement.

  2. May 16, 2009 at 4:13 pm

    Yeah this is good, but I wonder how many who expressed outrage actually did anything to address this. The reporting of this is still problematic as basic journalistic fact-checking is missing these days. Just like yesterday when people confused a ruling from the CA Supreme Court last year for something new that day and reported that Prop 8 had been struck down. We really need to be careful about regurgitating stories coming from other sources and try to generate our own leads.

  3. May 16, 2009 at 11:43 pm

    I’m too lazy to click on the links, but… do they PAY for the rape kits, or REIMBURSE?

    The quotes say “reimburse,” which means the woman must pay the up-to-$700 out of her pocket and then wait who knows how long to get paid back… which is really not much better. I don’t know about you, but I don’t generally have an extra $700 lying around that I can hand over and wait weeks for bureaucrats to get around to sending me a check…

  4. May 17, 2009 at 4:31 am

    Thank God for small favours. :)

    We really need to be careful about regurgitating stories coming from other sources and try to generate our own leads.

    That can be hard – especially if you don’t have someone in the vicinity, preferably someone who can verify information. It can be one of the few major drawbacks of blogging.

  5. May 17, 2009 at 7:53 am

    In Austin, home of the marvelous non-profit abuse support facility, Safeplace, counseling services are also available to victims of rape and domestic abuse.

    Their outreach is felt all over the city, including their anti-bullying talks in public schools.

    All of Texas isn’t as backwards as W would have us seem, but no one can save us from the Goodhair Perry’s, but ourselves.

    Fortunately, future voter registration models predict that if hispanics in south Texas register to vote as expected, Texas will be blue before too long. Thank goodness, or I would be advocating for the secession of Austin from TX.

  6. Nicole
    May 17, 2009 at 8:15 pm

    My main problems with TX sexual assault laws (which are consistent with most other states I think) is that:

    1- In case the TAASA statement wasn’t clear, survivors who have a forensic exam done are REQUIRED to have a medical exam as well. It’s all well and good that the forensic exam is covered by local or State agencies (it darn well should be), but it seems duplicitous to then require that survivors pay (either through insurance or out of pocket) for the med. exam. Ultimately it’s just splitting hairs; if a survivor goes to the hospital to have a rape kit done, and isn’t able to leave unless she pays upwards of $300, can we say in good faith that the rape kit doesn’t cost her anything? It may not be a direct cost in the strictest sense, but in practice, it is.

    I understand TAASA’s position that sexual assault survivors aren’t singled out with this requirement of having to pay for the (MANDATORY) med. exam following the collection of forensic evidence, but since when is ‘everyone else is subjected to this inherently unfair treatment’ a sufficient justification?

    2-Local or state agencies only pay for the forensic exam if the survivor agrees (within 72 hours of the assault) to press charges. Given that the collected evidence can last significantly longer than 72 hours (weeks if not years I think), why put this extra pressure on the victim to make the decision to press charges? Final point- once the victim agrees to press charges and have the kit done, the investigation won’t stop until it runs it’s course. Even if the victim decides to drop charges for whatever reason, the case goes forward and she could be called as a witness, etc.

  7. Ali
    May 18, 2009 at 2:14 pm

    @ freida bee, Austin isn’t the only place in Texas were progressives/feminists live.

    @ Nicole, Are you sure the med exam is required? I didn’t get that from my reading of the statement and I’m not sure hospitals can legally force any treatment on a person unless they’re unconscious or something. My experience comes from Alaska, but I know in my sexual assault (attempted rape) I didn’t have to go to the hospital at all, but forensic evidence was collected.

  8. Jason
    May 18, 2009 at 8:02 pm

    The medical exam (as far as I know) is actually required in order for the forensic exam to be valid. In other words, if they’re testing for a particular chemical or compound, they need to know if there are any conditions that might throw off the tests performed. If it isn’t required, it’s at least “best practices”, evidence-wise.

  9. Kathryn
    May 20, 2009 at 10:23 am

    Am I the only one who is concerned at the term “innocent victims”? Either they are a victim or not, innocent victim is surely tautology. I know it’s a small point, and I know somewhat it refers to legal terminology, but it still hints at the layers of misogyny and disbelief that people face.

  10. May 20, 2009 at 10:25 am

    Kathryn: I actually did notice that (but didn’t want to go off on that tangent in the post). Thanks for pointing it out.

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