Friday, September 12, 2008

Palin charging rape victims for the Rape Kit

I looked at this issue closely because I have spent hundreds of hours of my time volunteering as a crime victim advocate, specifically - rape victims. The left is going crazy because Wasilla was charging rape victims for the cost of the exam during the Palin mayoral term- according to a newspaper article out of Alaska.

Part of my role as an advocate was to assist crime victims in utilizing the resources available to crime victims, including the Crime Victim Compensation Fund. Of course, I am in Texas... but I checked - Alaska has had a CVCF since the 1970's. A Crime Victims Compensation Fund reimburses victims of violent crimes for certain expenses incurred by the victim that were related to the crime; including medical expenses. The money does not come out of the taxpayers budget; it is paid for by criminals. When a person is convicted or granted a deferred adjudication and ordered to pay monies like a fine, court costs, probation or supervision fees, etc... part of that money collected goes into the fund. Who better to pay for the crime related expenses than the people perpetrating crimes??

Until quite recently, it was customary in Texas (or at least in my neck of the woods) to bill the victim and then they would be reimbursed by the CVCF. As recently as 2005, I was arguing with a local hospital that wanted my client to sign a document accepting responsibility for the rape exam - even after the legislature determined that victims would no longer be expected to do so. While the Alaska newspaper reported that most municipalities and state police agencies in Alaska were paying for the exams, it failed to mention that all across the country the expense and payment for rape exams has been hotly contested.

The other part of the story that caught my attention was that the stories fail to mention if Palin instituted this policy? if it was already in place when she took office? or like other jurisdictions I have seen - did the investigating agency make this decision independently? Some want to beat her over the head with this, but unless she was a micromanager, I think it is unlikely that she knew about details like this. This would have been a line-item in a department budget and, as Mayor, she was overseeing several departments - all with separate budgets.

This Crime Victims Compensation Fund was set up in the 1970's, long before Palin took office. I did not notice where any of the other articles or blogs about Palin billing victims mention that it was her idea to do so or that they got their money back.

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