US /

Rape Victim: I Was Hounded About Faulty Hospital Bill

Hospital threatened to send bill to collections if she didn't pay for rape kit
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 14, 2014 9:05 AM CST
Rape Victim: I Was Hounded About Faulty Hospital Bill
Cara Smith, the chief of policy and communications for the Cook County, Ill., Sheriff's department, holds a photo of a rape kit on Sept. 26, 2013, in Robbins, Ill.   (AP Photo/Martha Irvine)

Christine is a sexual assault forensic nurse from suburban Chicago; helping to put together Highland Park Hospital's sexual assault response protocol was one of her duties. So it was a particularly unwelcome surprise when, after she went to that same hospital in 2013 after being raped, she received a bill from the hospital for the cost of her rape kit. A state voucher system is supposed to pick up whatever part of the tab insurance doesn't regarding expenses incurred within 90 days of a sexual assault. But Christine had incorrectly been coded as "self-pay," CBS Chicago reports, and that mislabeling took 10 months to correct. During that time, the bills kept on coming: "Lots of them, and for thousands of dollars," she says. The hospital even threatened to send her account to collections, she says.

Her story highlights what victims face when state law doesn't cover the cost of rape kits, which are integral in getting rapists convicted. "Once a month, you get a reminder in the mail, 'Hey, you were raped. Hey, this happened,'" Christine says. "It's hard to move on." The 2005 federal Violence Against Women Act bars sexual assault victims from being charged for their exam, which includes collecting forensic evidence; but a CBS News investigation found 13 states in which victim advocates relayed stories of victims being billed. Rape Victim Advocates in Chicago says it gets up to half a dozen calls about billing issues a month. Sen. Al Franken has twice introduced legislation that would address the issue, but both times the bills didn't make it out of committee. (Out of New Orleans this week: an explosive report on how police handled sex-assault cases.)

Get the news faster.
Tap to install our app.
Install the Newser News app
in two easy steps:
1. Tap in your navigation bar.
2. Tap to Add to Home Screen.