Rape is traumatic.
And although we know rape victims have to deal with physical and emotional distress, many victims also must handle a monetary burden, too.
Ashley M. Tennessee, DHA, MBA, MPH, and assistant professor at the Division of Healthcare Studies and Department of Health Professions at the Medical University of South Carolina, recently helmed a study that discovered many American rape victims must pay for some rape-related medical treatment.
Tennessee was inspired to pen the study for personal reasons.
While taking refuge in the New Orleans Superdome [during Hurricane Katrina], Tennessee’s dear friend was sexually assaulted as a result of an “unsuccessful struggle and fight” to obtain food for her and her two sons “after rations were dropped through the ceiling of the Superdome,” she says.
Tennessee also knows many women and men who have been molested during their formative years or as adults.
“When the opportunity arose to select a topic for my doctoral research, selecting rape was a no brainer,” she adds.
Oddly, other victims of violent crimes are not responsible for paying for crime-related injuries, Tennessee says.
Although the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) requires states to pay for rape kits, “hospital billing procedures often include more services than those associated with the rape kit alone, and forensic costs also vary by state,” Reuters reports.
Rape victims who have private health insurance pay $950 on average, or 14 percent of the cost of medical services. Insurance providers pay about $5,789.
Tennessee is confident her research could help everyone in the U.S. because sexual assault is not a singular crime.
“The lasting effects of a rape reverberate throughout our society,” Tennessee says.
“Victims of sexual assault often suffer extensively from PTSD, lose their ability to maintain intimate relationships, suffer from an inability to maintain social interactions, and even more so, lack an ability to remain gainfully employed.
Victims bear the brunt of the pain and suffering post-assault. However, society suffers significantly as viable, formidable individuals are no longer physically or mentally able to contribute in a substantive manner.”
Tennessee hopes her work also will serve as a building block for future studies. She’d like to see research done concerning the prevalence and incidence of male rape and rape in the LGBTQ community.
The researcher also would like the study to facilitate changes to the VAWA, as well as Joint Commission accreditation standards.
“It is my desire that this study furthers the dialogue surrounding sexual assault and that the result of that dialogue [leads to] the suggested policy changes and recommendations that ensure rape victims going forward will never have to pay for a crime committed against them,” Tennessee adds.
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