Tuesday, September 30, 2008

more on the rape kits

this from think progress:
The Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman — the hometown newspaper of Sarah Palin — reports that the Governor has replied to a list of 14 submitted questions. Among the queries was a question about the fact that, while she was mayor of Wasilla, her administration’s policy was to “bill victims” for their rape kits:

Q: During your tenure as mayor in 2000, then police chief Charlie Fannon commented in a May 23, 2000 Frontiersman article about legislation Gov. Tony Knowles signed protecting victims of sexual assault from being billed for rape kits collected by police as part of their investigations. Fannon revealed then that Knowles’ decision would cost Wasilla $5,000 to $14,000 a year, insinuating that the department’s policy was to bill victims for this testing. During your tenure as Mayor, what was the police department and city’s standard operating procedure in recovering costs of rape kits? Were any sexual assault victims ever charged for this testing while you were mayor?

A: The entire notion of making a victim of a crime pay for anything is crazy. I do not believe, nor have I ever believed, that rape victims should have to pay for an evidence-gathering test. As governor, I worked in a variety of ways to tackle the problem of sexual assault and rape, including making domestic violence a priority of my administration.

It is indeed “crazy,” yet charging sexual assault victims for their rape kits (which cost $300 to $1,200 at the time) is exactly what happened while she was mayor of Wasilla. In a budget-cutting move, Palin’s administration began charging rape victims for exams and the kits containing the medical supplies. (Her signature is on the budget.) USA Today reported:

It is not known how many rape victims in Wasilla were required to pay for some or all of the medical exams, but a legislative staffer who worked on the bill for [state legislator Eric] Croft said it happened. “It was more than a couple of cases, and it was standard practice in Wasilla,” Peggy Wilcox said, who now works for the Alaska Public Employees Association. “If you were raped in Wasilla, this was going to happen to you.”

The practice of charging rape victims got the attention of state lawmakers in 2000, who passed a bill to stop the practice.

In her short tenure as Governor, Palin has come under criticism for presiding over a state where rape is “epidemic.” A March study by a state task force found that level of funding only covered the cost of helping women and children hurt by the epidemic of sexual violence. It was not enough to try to prevent assaults from happening or to ensure “accountability of offenders.”

Peggy Brown, executive director of the Alaska Network on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault, said of Palin: “She’s really done a lot of work on oil and gas, but when it comes to violence against women and children…we haven’t been on her radar as a priority.”

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