Group seeks to bolster law that protects rape victims from paying for care

Some rape victims were billed for their treatment for rape, but Arkansas law should protect them from paying those bills. A group is working to strengthen that protection.

Tuesday, Nov. 14 we brought you an investigation about the way victims of rape are billed for their treatment.

THV11's Winnie Wright told you many Central Arkansas hospitals are in some way not compliant with the law on how to bill rape victims.
            
That story shed light on a situation many knew nothing about, including one organization that is already stepping up to make a change.
 
The law is clear, but its following is not consistent.       

The Attorney General's Office says victims of rape should never get a bill for the treatment required for them to press charges against their perpetrators, but many victims are getting billed.

What can be done to ensure it never happens again? Legislation.
 
"I think it's time, not only time, but I think that legislators and law enforcement would be in favor of looking what we do and do not have in the area of rape and services for the victims," said Louise Allison, Founder of PATH, or Partners Against Trafficking Humans, an organization dedicated to providing resources for victims of human trafficking and sexual assault.

We reached out to Louise after learning that many rape victims in Arkansas were being held financially responsible for their treatment, despite Arkansas law, which clearly says they should not.
 
"I don't think it is fair that something that was done to them. They didn't electively choose to be raped. And now they have to choose between do I pay for these really expensive medications or provide the care my child needs? Or put food on the table? That's not okay," she told us, and within minutes of being made aware of the situation, Allison was on the phone with the Forensic Rape Examination (FRE) Direct Reimbursement Program in the State of New York.

She called that program to get some ideas of what they do to protect victims of sexual assault.
Allison helped write the Arkansas Code that holds johns financially responsible for the treatment and prevention of human trafficking.

In the Legislative session of 2017, Arkansas Code Title 5, Chapter 5 was amended to allow officers to impound the vehicles of those arrested for an offense involving sexual solicitation. The johns are forced to pay an impound fee of $500. That money is put into the Human Trafficking Victim Support Fund.

Another fee, of $250, is placed on any person who offers to pay, agrees to pay or pays for sexual activity. That is deposited into the Safe Harbor Fund for Sexually Exploited Children. She is now turning her attention to rape victims.
 
"I think probably one of the things people are running away from is the fact that nobody wants to get stuck with being the one responsible for paying for everything. Because it's not inexpensive. It is an expensive thing to do to run a full kit and provide all the services that are needed," said Allison, who is back at work drafting legislation, that would make the rapists financially responsible, not the hospitals or the victims.
 
"I think the bucket of money, regardless of where that is and where that comes from needs to cover everyone the same across the board. Not just the rape kit, but the rape kit, plus anything else that they need to be able to beat that case against the rapist."

Allison said it's in the public's best interest to ensure these perpetrators are locked up.

There's a long road ahead. After the legislation is written, Allison will have to find sponsors for the bill and lobby for supporters in the Arkansas Legislature. The next legislative session is in the Spring of 2019.

© 2017 KTHV-TV


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