Every day, women become victims of domestic abuse and sexual assault. The most common course of action would be to turn to a hospital for assistance. Hospitals are meant to be places of care and treatment, after all. Doctors are supposed to be comforting forces in recovery and insurance, though complicated, is something that should serve as protection. All of these systems are supposed to be safer than the social institutions that so often burden survivors of sexual assault with victim-blaming and slut-shaming.
Now, hospitals are becoming less safe and even those with insurance are now receiving bills for insurmountable costs, which could ultimately mean a decrease in reporting.
This bill increase is a growing trend on the parts of hospitals all over the country, one evidenced by new research.
Teen Vogue‘s Marissa Miller dove into the costs of hospitalization for sexual assault victims and the results of her reporting were incredibly troubling, particularly in regards to the skirting of laws, including The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), by hospitals in regards to the protections of victims and the implications of her findings.
Miller’s research showed hospitals billing their patients ridiculous rates for tests and treatments, which is the last thing anyone wants to deal with following a traumatic experience.
Michelle Katz, a licensed practical nurse and health insurance advocate, told Teen Vogue that sexual assault survivors are not supposed to be sent a bill for “critical ER services that place an important role in helping law enforcement make an arrest and work to achieve justice for the survivor.” Sadly, not many patients know much about the law or are too distressed to overlook their ridiculous hospital bill.
Not only could these figures create a burden for survivors financially, it could also create a domino effect in terms of reporting sexual assault, especially when combined with the social implications and culture surrounding rape and sexual assault.
In 2015, 89% of colleges reported zero rapes on campus, and though the statistic may sound comforting at first, this doesn’t necessarily bode well for survivors.
A number of studies have found that around 20 percent of women are targets of attempted or completed sexual assault while in college, the AAUW correctly points out, and what colleges are reporting (or not reporting) does not at all reflect reality. This low number of reported rapes is actually problematic — it indicates that a number of universities have environments that foster victim-blaming, fear of speaking out, or lack of support systems in place for victims of sexual assault.
Could this increased cost of medical services only increase the lack of reporting as well?
What can survivors do if they’re sexually assaulted? One option would be to take it to a court of law, though this can be intimidating. In situations like these, it’s important to take advantage of all resources available, such as calling the National Sexual Assault Hotline.