Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Some Thoughts on Rape Kits

I was planning to write about how anti-feminist Sarah Palin is. I had a post outlined with notes ready to publish. I just couldn’t get over the scandal about the rape kits. I’ve read a dozen or so articles on the rape kits, and I’m still appalled.

In case you don’t know, here’s what happened:

In 1996, Palin became the mayor of Wasilla, Alaska. She soon fired the chief of police for an undetermined reason. The chief’s replacement decided that to cut the budget, the city would stop paying for rape kits. While he said in an interview from 2000 that he’d prefer the rapist pay for the kit, the cost fell to the victims. Palin signed off on the budget with this provision.

In 2000, the state of Alaska decided to make it illegal to charge complainants for rape kits. Wasilla was the only municipality known to be doing so at the time, according to some sources, and one of many according to others.

Now, Sarah Palin claims she didn’t know the city was charging for rape kits. One of two things is happening, and neither is ideal. Either she did know and accepted the charges, or she didn’t know and signed off on the budget without reading it.

I would like to provide a clarification because the articles online, even on supposedly reputable sites like, aren’t clear on this point. A rape kit is not a medical exam. A rape kit is a tool for forensic analysis. Charging for a rape kit is the same as charging the victim of a home invasion for the cost of checking for fingerprints.

After reading about rape kits, I started doing some digging. Does my commonwealth charge for them? I found out that in 2007 – yes, just last year – Kentucky legislators passed a law requiring a fund from the Commonwealth Attorney General’s office to cover the cost of up to 2 medical exams and a rape kit for victims. A bit late, to be sure, but I'm glad the provision's there.

What about other states? Well, it's hard to tell. When a state has a law, as Alaska and Kentucky do now, it's easier to tell that victims aren't footing the bill. When the state doesn't have a law, though, finding out it trickier. Other than calling up random sherriff's offices and asking, there's no real way to know. While I don't have much ground to call other states, you can do so. Call your local law enforcement office and ask.

If someone is raped, who pays?

If you find out it would be the victim, I'd love to know. I'm curious as to whether this practice continues - and if so, whether it will continue now given the coverage the Palin/Wasilla story has received.

Really, though, I want to know. I'll help you mount a campaign to get it stopped. Post a comment here with the municipality or shoot me an email: brandi @ featureresumes . com. I'd love to help.

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