Not only do survivors of sexual assault have to bear emotional and physical burdens, they also often have to contend with the financial toll that it comes with. According to a new study published in the American Journal of Public Health, rape survivors often have to pay almost $1,000 in medical treatments following instances of sexual assault.
The study, which analyzed hospital billing records from 1,335 survivors of sexual assault in 2013, found that the privately insured women paid around 14% of the total cost of treatment. While that doesn't sound so bad, the study found that it roughly translated to an average of $948. Insurance companies paid an average of $5,789, researchers found.
"With other violent crimes, victims are not responsible for paying for the damage that results from the crime," the study's lead author, Ashley Tennessee, told Reuters Health. "Many people know sexual assault is an issue, but they’re often unaware that victims have to pay for associated medical charges."
According to Reuters, 98% of the survivors whose cases were examined in the study were not hospitalized, but those who were paid an average of $788 for their stay. Those who weren't paid an average of $316 for outpatient costs.
“This financial burden adds to the emotional burden of sexual assault,” Tennessee told Reuters. “This is an area that society has missed, and we have a moral right to help victims.”
While the Violence Against Women Act requires states to pay for rape kits, medical treatment for rape can often involve services other than rape kits, and these costs may vary from state to state.
As Reuters acknowledges, a limitation of the study is that it doesn't include LGBTQ women or men. It also doesn't include those who are publicly insured or those who aren't insured at all — and these women may suffer from even greater financial burdens. While the study isn't exhaustive, it points to just one more way that society makes it more difficult for survivors to come forward. After all, as Tennessee told Reuters, the extra costs could keep survivors from receiving treatment.
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