Dozens of sexual assault victims were billed hundreds of dollars for their own rape kits at a New York hospital

  • More than 80 sexual assault patients were charged for rape kits at one New York City hospital over the course of two years
  • Hospitals are required by law to cover the expense and bill the state or another agency, not the patient
  • The patients are now being reimbursed for their costs
  • New York is investigating 10 other hospitals for similar misconduct

A hospital illegally charged more than 80 victims of sexual assault for their rape kits.?

An investigation was launched after one woman was billed over and over again for an evidence-collecting exam after she was sexually assaulted.

Hospitals are not allowed to bill victims for rape kits. They are supposed to bill the state, but Brooklyn Hospital Center charged the woman $308, then raised the price to $449 after she did not pay.

The investigation found that 85 out of 86 sexual assault patients who visited the hospital were billed for their rape kits, totaling more than $15,500. The hospital is in the process of reimbursing all effected patients, a spokesperson says.?

A Brooklyn hospital sent sexual billed assault victims  more than $15,500 in rape kit bills that they are protected by law from paying

A Brooklyn hospital billed sexual assault victims more than $15,500 for rape kits that they are protected by law from paying

A New York state law, passed in 2005, dictates that rape kits should be billed to the state's Office of Victim Services.?

Following New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman's investigation, Brooklyn Hospital has agreed to inform patients of the law, as well as to reimburse those that have already been charged.??

Schneiderman said he has also sent letters to 10 other hospitals throughout the state seeking information on how they bill sexual assault survivors and hopes the agreement with Brooklyn Hospital will serve as a model.

'These kits are used on what is undoubtedly one of the worst days of a survivor's life,' Schneiderman said.?

'The absolute last thing they should have to worry about is how they'll pay for their care at the hospital. But we have found contrary to law that way too often they do have to worry.'

Schneiderman said a woman contacted his office in January about her experience being treated at Brooklyn Hospital after she was sexually assaulted in 2015.

When the woman received and did not pay her initial bill, the hospital continued to chase the funds. ?

'After her visit, in complete violation of state law, she was billed seven different times for her rape kit, hundreds of dollars each time,' Schneiderman said.

Eventually, he said, the hospital sent the bill to a collection agency, which he called 'intolerable.'

The Attorney General's Office found that Brooklyn Hospital had wrongly billed more than $15,500 to patients.?

What is a rape kit??

A rape kit is another name for a sexual assault evidence kit.

It contains tools for collecting samples that could show that someone has been sexually assaulted, including:

  • Paper bags and sheets for collecting evidence without contaminating it?
  • A comb, to pull any tissue evidence from pubic hair
  • Swabs for collecting samples from the mouth, vagina and anus
  • Blood collection slides and materials

A clinician performs a pelvic exam on women, and may take internal pictures of injuries.

The goal of a sexual assault exam is to check for any injuries sustained, and collect any identifying genetic material that an attacker may have left behind.?

Evidence collected during the exam will be analyzed and can help authorities catch and convict rapists and attackers. ?

?

The costs of rape kits are supposed to be covered by the state, primarily money allocated from the Crime Victims Fund, which is paid out of the pockets of criminals, not from tax dollars. ?

Brooklyn Hospital said in a statement that it regrets 'the inadvertent breakdown in our billing processes related to sexual assault victims.' Spokeswoman Kim Flodin said the hospital worked with Schneiderman's office to develop protocols 'to ensure that these billing issues do not occur again.'

The federal Violence Against Women Act prohibits hospitals from charging assault survivors for their rape kits, but advocates say enforcement of the law has been haphazard. States including Louisiana and Illinois have also passed laws to make sure survivors aren't charged for the kits.

Schneiderman said his office investigated and found that in all but one of the 86 forensic rape exams conducted at Brooklyn Hospital between January 2015 and February 2017, the hospital either improperly billed the patient or billed the patient's insurance carrier without advising the patient of the option to bill the state.

Schneiderman said it's unclear how many other hospitals are improperly billing patients for rape kits.

Advocates for sexual assault survivors praised the agreement with Brooklyn Hospital.

'Think about it for a moment, how traumatic is sexual assault?' said Sonia Ossorio, president of the New York chapter of the National Organization for Women, who joined Schneiderman at a news conference at his Manhattan office. 'And it's re-traumatizing to have bills arrive in the mail asking you to pay for basically what is collection of evidence of a crime scene.'

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