The Financial Burden of Being a Rape Survivor Is Outrageous

April 21st 2017

Danielle DeCourcey

Sexual assault victims with private insurance, are paying hundreds of dollars out of pocket for medical services they received in the aftermath of an assault.


A study published in February in the American Journal of Public Health found that women assaulted in 2013 paid an average of $950 in costs that insurance providers didn't cover. Insurance companies did pay an average 86 percent of the total costs, but women who just suffered a serious trauma were still left with big medical bills.

The study looked at 1,355 women who had private insurance and were assaulted. Out of the group, 32 of victims had to be admitted to the hospital, and the hospital visit cost an average of $788, according to Reuters. The other patients' care cost an average of $316. The study did not look at male, LGBT victims, or women with public insurance, according to Reuters. 

A woman sits on the ground.

The Violence Against Women Act requires states to pay for rape kits, and some people may assume that a rape kit includes all testing and medical care for a victim. However, that's not the case. 

"A rape kit basically is designed to collect evidentiary information to determine who the perpetrator is for the victim," lead study author Dr. Ashley Tennessee from the Medical University of South Carolina told ATTN:. "The examinations are very routine, and what they do not cover in terms of sexual assault victims is bodily harm like bruises, testing for sexually transmitted diseases, testing for pregnancy, and they do not cover if the person has any disfigurement or needs any therapy."

Insurance companies are not required to cover the full cost of medical services associated with a sexual assault, so victims can be left paying for immediate medical costs like emergency contraceptives, HIV prevention drugs, or anxiety medication. 

A woman's shoes.

Tennessee said that the financial burden on victims can increase the residual damage of the sexual assault. "Imagine receiving a bill in the mail for a crime that was committed against you," she said. "Every time they get a bill they continue to relive it in their minds, and the bills become a constant reminder that they were assaulted."

She said that state and federal lawmakers should take steps to make sure sexual assault victims can get the care they need without incurring big bills. She said the care should be covered in a similar manner as preventative services. 

"This study continues the dialogue in a conversation we need to have in this country," she said. "Sexual assault is a very real public issue for us." 

RELATED: Man's Sexual Assault Story Exposes a Devastating Misconception