The Financial Burden of Sexual Assault

Research

Closeup of George Washington's eyes on a dollar bill

In June 2017, Ashley M. Tennessee and a group of colleagues published research that highlighted the costs incurred by privately-insured female rape survivors as a result of the violent crimes committed against them.

The researchers analyzed hospital billing records in the United States from 2013. Of the database containing 28 billion records, they found 1,355 incidents of sexual assaults to female patients.

Of the total number of incidents studied by Tennessee and colleagues, only 32 women were admitted to the hospital. Those that were admitted paid, on average, $788 for their inpatient stay. Those who received only outpatient services paid an average of $316. Prescription costs ranged from $48 to $56 per survivor.

For all incidents of rape, researchers found that, collectively, each rape cost an average of $6,737. Fourteen percent of that amount was paid by the survivor ($948), while the rest was paid by the provider.

For all incidents of rape, researchers found that, collectively, each rape cost an average of $6,737.

 

The 1994 Violence Against Women Act and subsequent reauthorizations in 2000, 2005, and 2013 have worked to provide financial assistance to survivors for “collection of forensic evidence associated with the rape.” As the study points out, however, this assistance does not extend to “payment of bills for additional tests and treatments provided that… collected for the safety”—and health—of the survivor.

Many victims and survivors of sexual assault either do not report crimes, are unaware of the financial assistance available to them, or are at the whim of standardized billing procedures that fail to recognize the incidence of sexual assault at all. In these instances, any related costs tend to fall solely on the survivor.

Researchers point out that media attention highlights violence from more visible crimes like mass shootings while generally ignoring crimes related to sexual assault—especially given their high prevalence. “Unlike other violent crimes that are captured on video and replayed continuously by the media, victims of sexual assault replay violent acts committed against them in their mind’s eye while suffering alone in silence,” Tennessee and colleagues write.

The authors argue that the Violence Against Women Act “must be amended to mandate that all costs incurred because of rape are not passed on to the victim.” The amount of perpetrators who will never be charged for their crimes (99%) and the fact that the financial, psychological, and physical burden of their crimes fall solely on survivors further illustrate the passive approach of policymakers and society at large to these deplorable crimes.

Feature image: peasap, I’ve got my eye on you, used under CC BY 2.0

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