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American Women Pay an Average of $1,000 in Medical Bills After Being Sexually Assaulted


The American Journal of Public Health recently published some truly disturbing findings. In a study of 1,355 privately insured women who went to the hospital after being raped, researchers from the Medical University of South Carolina and Vanderbilt University Medical Center found that the average patient had to pay $948 in medical bills. (Costs for male and non-binary rape survivors were not part of the study, but I would imagine that their costs are equally or even more shameful.)

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As a result of updates in the 2005 reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act, sexual assault victims of any gender cannot be charged for rape kits – whether or not they decide to file a police report. However, other medical treatments which may be necessary after an assault are not covered under the Act. In addition, costs continue after women leave the hospital. 63% of the patients in the study had to pay for post-hospital services, such as mental health treatments, medication, or follow-up visits.

The women in the study were privately insured, so they only paid a percentage of their overall medical bills. Though they paid an average of $950 each, the average treatment cost per woman was $6,735, so the situation is likely even more dire for uninsured women.

It’s shameful and disgusting that the U.S. penalizes people for being sick and injured at all, but it’s particularly horrifying that we punish people with ~$1,000 bills for someone else’s crime. It heaps more stress on people who have already had to endure trauma.

“With other violent crimes, victims are not responsible for paying for the damage that results from the crime,” said Ashley M. Tennessee, the lead author of the study. “This financial burden adds to the emotional burden of sexual assault. This is an area that society has missed, and we have a moral right to help victims.”

The study therefore recommends: “The Violence Against Women Act (passed in 1994, reauthorized in 2000, 2005, and 2013) must be amended to mandate that all costs incurred because of rape are not passed on to the victim.”

Do the decent thing, Congress.

(Via The Independent; image via Flickr)

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