A few points to consider when you hear about the town of Wasilla, and its egregious former policy of charging rape victims for rape kits, a topic USA Today examined today.
1. It is indeed a terrible policy to charge a rape victim for the cost of collecting evidence to prosecute. But these charges occur, even in places where the law theoretically bans it. According to a 2008 U.S. News and World Report article, some Illinois rape victims are still being charged for the rape kits.
The state seemed to address this in a 2001 law, but it would seem that as usual, passing a law and getting a bureaucracy to comply are two different things.
2. Palin spokeswoman Maria Comella told USA Today in an e-mail that the governor “does not believe, nor has she ever believed, that rape victims should have to pay for an evidence-gathering test.” Her critics can legitimately ask why, as mayor, she didn’t overrule her police chief. But they cannot charge that she supported the policy. In fact, there is not yet any evidence that Palin was aware of this policy.
3. The Police Chief of Wasilla who oversaw this policy may have been wrong to argue that the government should not cover the cost of the tests, but note that he did not want the victim to pay; he wanted to charge the perpetrators the cost.
Ultimately it is the criminal who should bear the burden of the added costs, Fannon said.
The forensic exam is just one part of the equation. Id like to see the courts make these people pay restitution for these things, Fannon said.
Fannon said he intends to include the cost of exams required to collect evidence in a restitution request as a part of a criminals sentencing.
4. An aide to a Democratic state legislator tells USA Today that women in Wasilla did pay out of pocket for their rape kits. According to available FBI statistics, there were five rapes in Wasilla during the three years that they have online records for. The newspaper does the town a disservice by citing the statewide numbers and saying the state has the highest rate of rapes per person.
5. Starting next year, federal law will ban the practice of refusing “to cover the estimated $800 cost of a forensic rape exam unless the victim files a police report.” That is the policy in “many” jurisdictions, according to the AP.
6. Let’s concede the worst, which was that this was an unforgivably stupid policy, and that Palin should have overturned it during her tenure. I’ll let Obama fans explain why that error in judgment is superior to voting “present” when dealing with “a bill permitting the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services to report suspected child abuse while protecting the identity of the facility or person providing the information.”