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Sex Violence Survivors Get Huge Hospital Bills for Visiting ERs

A new study found uninsured victims of sexual violence were charged an average of $3,673 for visiting the emergency room, reports Vox. Insured patients had lower out-of-pocket bills, but they still paid around $500. A study in the New England Journal of Medicine found that these bills can further traumatize victims, while also deterring others from seeking help. About one-fifth of sexual violence victims are estimated to seek care after an attack. Researchers affiliated with Harvard found 112,000 victims of sexual violence: 90 percent of whom were female, and 38 percent were children under 18. Privacy concerns are a large factor in ensuring that victims believe they can seek care. Incurring charges may harm survivors, the study says, "by serving to disclose a potentially stigmatizing event to parents, partners, or employees."

Sexual violence victims typically receive two kinds of care: a forensic exam, known as a "rape kit," which is paid for with public funds under the federal Violence Against Women Act of 1994. The second category is therapeutic care, which is not paid for by VAWA. Samuel Dickman, an abortion provider, recalled that a former patient in Texas who had been raped and become pregnant had a bill for more than $1,000 out of pocket. “Those charges were just shocking to her, and on top of having just been raped, frankly, it was haunting," said Dickman. He advocates for affordable access to essential medical services for survivors, which could be provided if VAWA covered therapeutic services, not just evidence collection.


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