Under Palin, Victims Charged for Their Own Rape Kits

Haven’t had much time to blog lately, but this was too stunning to pass by. Thanks to this piece at Huffington Post, we learn what shouldn’t be so surprising coming from an evangelical in power – and yet it is. Palin was mayor of Wasilla Alaska from 1996-2002 and, until a state law banned the practice in 2000, Wasilla charged victims of rape for their own rape kits.

In case you’re not aware, a rape kit is the physical exam and collection of bodily evidence taken from the victim in the hours following a rape; it allows for the forensic testing essential to pursue prosecution in a crime whose prosecution is already stacked in favor of the defense. A traumatized woman brave enough to make it to an ER following her attack in Wasilla would be granted the examination only if she could pay anywhere from $300-$1200. (It was billed to her insurance where possible.)

Did Wasilla charge for fingerprint dusting at the scene of a burglary? Special fees for bagging evidence at the scene of a mugging? When someone was murdered, was the victim’s family billed for the bodily exam? Did the Wasilla police department charge a victim for examining any scene of a crime? Only when that crime scene was a live woman’s body and only when the crime involved sex. This can be rationalized only considering an unspoken assumption that the victim is somehow to blame. Something she said, something she wore, someplace she was.

Not such a jump for an evangelical who is a huge supporter of “abstinence only”. Palin has said that “explicit sex education programs will got get my support.” Explicit? What kind of education do you give by being vague? Palin also spent twenty years at the Wasilla Assembly of God, a Pentecostal church where they speak in tongues, believe in the imminent rapture, and pray to cure homosexuality. Although Palin switched to the more moderate Wasilla Bible Church several year ago (no tongue-speaking at least) she since, as governor, renamed the street on which the Wasilla Assembly of God sits after its founding pastor, Rev Riley.

Okay, maybe Palin wasn’t fully aware of the policy to charge victims of sexual assault for their own rape kits. Maybe it wasn’t on her radar?

Not likely.

When Palin took office as Mayor, she ousted the sitting Police Chief (a move so contested it brought about clamor for a recall) and replaced him with Charlie Fannon. Fannon would become the most vocal opponent to the legislation, passed by Governor Tony Knowles in 2000, that made it illegal for any law enforcement agency to bill victims for the costs of examinations conducted to collect evidence of a sexual assault. He went on the record saying the law “unfairly burdened the taxpayer.” Again – why not charge for the investigation of other crimes? Why just rape?

According to the Rape, Abuse, & Incest National Network (RAINN) 60% of all sexual assaults go unreported. What’s one more hurdle to speaking out? RAINN also reports that, factoring in the unreported assaults, only 1 in 16 offenders go to jail.

So how much rape reporting is happening in one of the least populated states in the country? In 2000, the year Knowles’ legislation passed, Alaska had 497 arrests for rape. This post at Daily Kos does a great job of contrasting the “burden to the taxpayer” against Alaska’s exhorbitant earmarks during Palin’s term as governor.

Fannon argued that the

“new law will cost the Wasilla Police Department approximately $5,000 to $14,000 a year to collect evidence for sexual assault cases,”

as if collecting evidence for sexual assault isn’t already the responsibility of the police.

There are many disturbing things about Palin – more specifically about McCain’s decision to choose Palin as his running mate. As others have said, this isn’t about Sarah Palin; it’s 100% about John McCain.

There has been a lot of talk about the McCain camp not vetting Palin enough – instread pouncing on her after one breif meeting because of her selling points. I worry that the campaign has been aware of a lot more than we suspect and just didn’t care. McCain has issues with his ultra-conservative base, many of whom wouldn’t recognize victim blaming in regard to rape if victims were emblazoned with bright red letters. There will also be those swayed by the image of hockey-mom, loving wife, god-fearing citizen: conventional in many ways Clinton was not. And let’s not forget those desperate for a way to rationalize voting for McCain when they had been planning to vote for Clinton while being loathe to broach the subject of race.

That law in Wasilla was the epitome of the repression of women and backward thinking about sex. The question is…will anyone really take notice?


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One Response to “Under Palin, Victims Charged for Their Own Rape Kits”

  1. dna9 Says:

    Facinating post, I was not aware that Palin had done that. It is already too difficult for women to report and have the criminal proceduted.

    We need more women to report assault not less.

    We have tried to do something about this with a revolutionary new personal alarm that uses DNA.

    Mark Hetherman
    FREE E-book – Women’s Safety Tips That Could Save Your Life
    Blog: http://assaulteducationforwomen.wordpress.com

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