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Should Rape Victims Be Responsible for the Cost of Medical Treatment for an Assault?

7 pages
1870 words
George Washington University
Type of paper: 
Research paper
This essay has been submitted by a student. This is not an example of the work written by our professional essay writers.

Rape or sexual assault is one of the most violating and traumatizing things that an individual can endure. For this reason, in the aftermath of their attack, rape victims often experience numerous hardships that range from physical injuries to emotional trauma. Besides, studies show that some of these victims may lose some of their valuables, jobs, or may need to relocate from their initial homes due to safety concerns. This, therefore, does not only take an emotional toll on the victims but also takes a financial toll on them. Studies substantiate that an approximated 20% of the total number of rape victims in the United States experience both sexually transmitted infections and critical genital injuries which lead to quite costly medical expenses (Metla, 2015). This being said, the core intent of this research paper is to discuss whether rape victims ought to be responsible for the medical expenses that they incur during treatment after an assault.

To begin with, I believe that it is not the responsibility of a hurting rape victim, to pay for the cost of medical treatment after an assault. This premise is substantiated by the Violence Against Women Act (VAMA) which was passed in 1994 and reauthorized in 2013. This act prohibits the survivors of sexual assault from being billed the cost of a rape kit, which is primarily a sexual assault medical forensic exam. Besides, in its 2013 reauthorization, VAMA states that the state is overly responsible for the payment of these sexual assault forensic exams. In this regard, the state or another government entity ought to bear the full out-of-pocket cost for the medical forensic exams for the sexual assault victims.

Literature Review

According to recent literature, sexually assaulted women in the United States often bear substantial costs for testing as well as other medical treatment in the events of reporting the rape to authorities. More fundamentally, rape victims who are privately insured pay, on average pay $950 which is equivalent to 14% of the total cost of medical services. In such cases, recent studies substantiate that the insurance providers, on the other hand, pay about $5,789 of the medical bill. According to Basile (2015), while most people in America today, are aware that rape or sexual assault is an issue that calls for a lot of medical and authoritative attention, they are often unaware that the rape victims are burdened with the responsibility of paying for the associated medical charges. On the contrary, unlike the rape victims, today in the United States, victims of other violent crimes are not responsible for paying for the consequent damage which is as a result of the crime.

Tennessee (2017) points out that sexual assault victims should not be responsible for their medical evidentiary examination. According to the study, Tennessee contends that a medical evidentiary examination is that which is done by a health professional after rape or sexual assault has occurred. This examination is inclusive of attention to the medical needs of the victim and also the collection of evidence for the sake of law enforcement purposes. More fundamentally, forensic evidence collection, medical evaluation, and evaluation of emotional needs are all covered under this medical evidentiary examination.

According to Ford, Bachman, Friend, & Meloy (2002), the legislation of VAWA has since created two crucial streams of funding which have been considered overly important during the medical treatment for an assault. In this regard, the first stream of funding was the funds that were given for the purposes of the criminal justice through the United States Department of Justice (USDOJ). This stream was inclusive of prosecution grants and grants for law enforcement which primarily encourage arrest policies as well as other grants addressing domestic violence. The second stream of funding, on the other hand, is mainly focused on social service support programs and was administered by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). This being said, studies that are intended to investigate the relationship between VAWA grants and the reduction of violence against women substantiate that indeed the establishment of VAWA has since resulted into a reduction in rape and aggravated assault against women. Besides, the VAWA funds have resulted in an increase in the enforcement action and also an increased incapacitation of the offenders who are reportedly violent to women.

Project Overview

As defined by the Violence Against Women Act, 2005, a forensic exam at a minimum should include the examination of physical trauma, the determination of penetration or force, counseling and the interviewing of the patient and finally collecting and evaluating evidence. In the event for medical treatment for assault, the state, or even the local jurisdiction, in the case of the non-state level paying systems decide what it will cover as part of the paid free forensic exam. However, the implications and the results differ in the sense that, there are those states, as required by VAWA, cover only what is only expected of them by the federal mandate. Other states, on the other hand, provide more, and almost an entirely free medical services to the victim.

In a similar regard, studies substantiate that sexual assault victims who have in most cases been subjected to different forms of sexual assault, among them rape, ought to be compensated by the state governments in cases when the victim has been billed of the medical treatment for an assault. Crist (2017) contends that compensation of the funds used in the treatment of sexual assault and rape victims is overly advantageous. For instance, one primary advantage of having victim compensation as the primary funder for the rape victims forensic exams is the fact that these compensation act as a very effective way to leverage state funds to attract federal funds. In this regard, the more of its own funds the state spends, the more the amount of federal money that the state brings in. Therefore, VAWA recommends that the states increase their total compensation spending by taking responsibility of paying for the forensic examination or the rape kit for the rape victims and as a result, increase their federal allocations that will in turn, match the state dollars spent.


Based on the findings of this research paper, it is evident that rape and sexual assault are among the most emotionally and financially consuming issues. This being the case, healthcare and medical facilities ought to embrace means that will help lift the massive financial burdens off the shoulders of the affected individual. As a result, it is evident that, today, in the United States, victim compensation funds are by far the most designated funds sources that are needed to pay for medical forensic exams across the country. Additionally, although many states in the United States often report seamless payment systems there still are worries over the funds which are evidenced by rape victims who are required by hospitals to cover their medical bills in the course of treatment for an assault (Boba & Lilley, 2008). As a result, it is important that hospital personnel and medical providers are effectively trained on the VAWA 2005 requirements as well as the states process for covering the cost of the medical treatment of an assault. This, in essence, will help reduce the common misunderstandings on the part of the hospital and hence relieve victims from being billed with the treatment costs.


Given that incidences of rape are associated with shame and stigma, studies substantiate that victims of rape shy away from reporting the matter to the authorities or even seeking immediate medical attention. For this reason, the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN) states that rape is one of the most grossly underreported incidences. Today in the United States, out of every 1000 rape cases, only an approximated 310 cases are reported. Therefore, based on this context, scholars believe that the additional barrier of forcing survivors to shoulder the financial burden of incurring the medical treatment costs after an assault could be one of the leading reasons why even fewer rape and sexual assault victims come forward or even seek medical attention at all. Thus, this being said, it is important that the health insurance agencies and the state administration at large takes responsibility for the hefty medical bills that occur during treatment of sexual assault (Magid, Houry, Koepsell, Ziller, Soules & Jenny, 2004).

Besides, from a moral perspective, it is unfair to burden the helpless rape victims with hefty medical bills that they had not planned for. Crist (2017) contends that, when rape victims are expected to pay for their medical bills incurred after an assault, the healthcare facilities and the society as a whole, usually adds a financial burden to the already overwhelming emotional torment that the victim is undergoing after the assault. In my opinion, therefore, this happens to be an area that the society has missed with regard to the moral rights that every individual is entitled to.

In a similar view, I am for the opinion that, one of the ways that could make the trauma of being raped worse is when the victim, who is undergoing both emotional and physical trauma is often bombarded with constant hospital bills for the rape kit. Besides, according to the 2013 VAWA reauthorization, rape and sexual assault victims should not, at any cost, be required to pay upfront for a medical exam after which they will later receive an insurance reimbursement. This means that VAWA already stipulates that the forensic exam must be completely free of charge (Boba & Lilley, 2008). Also, in instances where hospitals mistakenly bill a rape victim, they are expected to correct the error and alternatively bill the state organization that is designated to pay the sexual assault bills.

However, on the contrary, despite the fact that the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) requires that a condition of eligibility for the federal Services Training Officers Prosecutors (STOP) grant a primary federal avenue that is responsible for funding violence against women programs, it does not offer protection to the rape victims for being billed for additional tests and prescriptions that they happen to incur during emergency room visits after the assault. As a result, funds that are dedicated to payment and coverage of medical forensic exams, as well as the overall treatment of the victims, are never available. This, therefore, burdens the victims with the hefty treatment charges.

Nonetheless, critics of the requirements of the Violation Against Women Act contend that victims should be responsible for the cost of medical treatment of an assault owing to various reasons. For instance, there are cases when a victim will be overly concerned about their privacy, may experience fear of embarrassment and therefore, would not want the state to pay for their medical forensic exam. In such cases, the victim gets the chance to pay their medical bill without having to inform the authorities about the incident. Similarly, the state is responsible for proceeding with the sexual assault or rape case and therefore, in the cases where the victim does not their privacy compromised, it is important that the state or the county informs them that they may submit the cost to their insurance company for reimbursement. Also, rape victims should be informed that, in cases where they do not want their insurance billed, the state is obligated to cater for the medical bill.

Conclusion and Future Implications

In conclusion, although moder...

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