Rightly, we are all horrified and enraged that the town of Wasilla, while Sarah Palin served as its mayor, billed victims of sexual assault for their own rape kits.
I blogged about this topic in-depth yesterday (which I'm pleased to report has been viewed by more than 15,000 people, hopefully swaying the minds of some hockey moms), and a commenter accused Illinois of following the same sick procedure as Wasilla once did.
She asked why no one seemed to care that this was being done in Obama's homestate too.
Well, that's because it isn't being done in Illinois... thanks in part to Barack Obama.
In the state of Illinois, House Bill 1814 (HB1814) amends the Crime Victims Compensation Act. It was passed in 2001. As indicated here, this bill:
Amends the Crime Victims Compensation Act to permit emergency awards; to extend the statute of limitations for filing for compensation from one year to 2 years; and to revise subrogation provisions to require deposits into a special fund for costs related to recovery efforts by the Attorney General. Provides that if the Comptroller offsets a claim, the individual or entity receiving the funds must credit the applicant's or victim's account and may not pursue payment from the applicant or victim for the amount. Amends the Court of Claims Act to permit emergency awards to be approved by the decision of one judge.
According to the University of Chicago, what this means for rape victims, in plain English, is:
"According to the Sexual Assault Emergency Treatment Act, the Illinois Department of Public Aid will reimburse the costs of ER treatment if you do not have public aid or private medical insurance. Under the Illinois Crime Victim’s Compensation Act, if you report the assault to the police within 72 hours of the crime and if you file a claim application within two years of the date of the crime, you can be reimbursed for out-of-pocket medical expenses, loss of earnings, psychological counseling, and loss of support income due to the crime. Reimbursement can be up to $27,000."
This amendment sponsored by:
But... Sarah Palin said that Barack Obama has not contributed "a single major law or reform--not even in the State Senate." Maybe it counts less because he didn't solely sponsor the legislation? Does that means the 23 bills that McCain co-sponsored shouldn't count either?
Huh. So it would appear the commenter had her story slightly backwards. While in Wasilla during Palin's reign as Mayor it was acceptable to bill rape victims $300-$1200 for the cost of a rape kit, Barack Obama fought and PASSED legislation to reimburse victims of crimes, and extend the period of time during which they could file claims from one to two years.
Also, Does anyone find it ironic that IL will pay up to $27,000 per victim, whereas the Wasilla Police Chief was concerned that:
"According to Fannon, the new law will cost the Wasilla Police Department approximately $5,000 to $14,000 a year to collect evidence for sexual assault cases."
Really? It costs you that little to DO YOUR JOB?
Furthermore, I received this heartfelt email from an anonymous reader:
"I just wanted to write to tell you the facts about rape kits in Illinois.
I am a volunteer rape victim advocate in Chicago. When you go to any ER in the state of Illinois, there is not quibble about being ‘reimbursed’ for anything because there is no charge whatsoever for being treated for rape.
There is a Crime Victim’s Compensation Act which, as you stated, allows for up to $27,000 for financial loss due to violent crime.
SASETA is something different and totally separate from the Crime Victim’s Compensation Act. SASETA is the Sexual Assault Survivors Emergency Treatment Act, and it mandates that all licensed hospitals provide emergency care to sexual assault victims. The Illinois Dept. of Public Health is the institution that hospitals apply to with their sexual assault treatment plans to be listed as authorized treatment centers.
The most important things about this act are that victims are to get a private room with a door (they should NOT have to wait in the waiting room). Also, victims are not to be charged or to receive a bill for ANY services, treatment or medication provided by the ER.
Thank you for your article though, I was not aware of this policy of rape victims in Wasilla having to pay for their own rape kits, which I too find abhorrent."
Look, this isn't another "Gotcha, Palin!" post. This isn't a "it's solely Sarah's fault!" diary, either.
The point is this. A woman is running for Vice President. As Mayor of a town of 6,000 people, Sarah Palin presided over a police department that billed victims of sexual assault for the forensic evidence collection process. These women were expected to pay $300 - $1200 of their own money in the hopes that justice could be served. Like a fine for being sexually assaulted. Yet things weren't so tight in Wasilla that they couldn't afford a brand spanking new, state-of-the-art ice hockey rink!
Do we charge people who get shot for the cost of collecting the bullets as evidence? Do we make bombing survivors pay to get back the charred belongings they may have left behind?
This is AMERICA. The police do their jobs to protect us and to bring criminals to justice, in Little Rock, Wasilla, Newark or San Francisco. That is the way it's done here. Women who have been sexually assaulted have already endured their burden. They grapple with the decision to bring charges against an assailant. They subject themselves to the invasive rape kit procedure. They testify about what happened to them and give sworn, detailed statements. Isn't that asking enough? Barack Obama thought so... apparently, Sarah Palin did not.