For years, our justice system has been haunted by a backlog of rape kits sitting, untested, in storage. The reason we're always given? A lack of funding. And it's only getting worse. We now have doctors refusing to treat rape victims at all.
A story of one such victim, a 24-year-old Oklahoma woman, is particularly chilling. Her mother took her into a hospital only to be told by hospital staff that they would not give her emergency contraceptives because it went against their own religious beliefs. And that's not all. The victim's mother alleges her daughter was refused a rape kit entirely.
A hospital spokesperson says that's because it didn't have trained nurses on staff to do the rape kit. Why not? Because state funding for Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners (SANE) requires these trained professional rotate to different hospitals each month.
In other words? Short funding is once again being used as an excuse to fail rape victims. I understand that the economy is awful, but they're being victimized twice over. No money is worth that.
This poor girl was sent to another hospital, where fortunately there was a SANE on duty who did a rape kit, and there was also someone with a little compassion who gave her emergency contraception. But there's no excuse for what happened to her at the first hospital. There should have been someone there to help her, and the staff should have had some respect for her ordeal and valued her bravery.
Even in 2012, rape remains woefully under-reported. Many rape victims say going in and opening their legs to a rape kit is the last thing they want to do. Some because it is like reliving the assault, others because they fear exactly the kind of judgment and poor treatment that this girl experienced.
Pushing these victims off, sending them out to another hospital, means taking someone who has been strong enough to do something extraordinarily difficult and telling her that isn't enough. There is a huge risk that she (or he, there are male victims of rape) won't try another hospital, and not only will she not get treatment, but the risk that the rapist remains at large to strike again rises because there is no one looking to arrest them.
So states save money, but society loses in the end. Is that really smart budgeting?
What should be done about financing these sorts of services?
Image via frenkieb/Flickr