Recently there have been several news stories that have uncovered the problematic issue of survivors receiving bills for sexual assault forensic examinations. Here in the Capital Region, STAR works with the local hospital systems to advocate for survivors so that they do not have to pay costs out of pocket.
We know that this is simply a stop-gap measure to help the survivors that we come in contact with, but in order to ensure that all survivors across our state receive this same support, we must work with our state lawmakers to improve this system.
In 2005, the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) was reauthorized to include a provision that a state or another governmental entity is to incur the full out-of-pocket cost of forensic medical exams, regardless of whether the survivor participates in the criminal justice process. Louisiana currently tasks the “parish governing authority” with covering the cost of forensic medical examinations for rape survivors; however, without a coordinated statewide system, the burden of these costs is often put on the hospitals or individual survivors.
Since news of this story made headlines last week, Representative Patricia Smith, Senator JP Morrell and Representative Helena Moreno have connected with STAR and the New Orleans Family Justice Center to work on this issue so that no survivor in our state will receive a bill for evidentiary examinations that are critical to the investigation and prosecution of sex crimes.
It is an unfortunate truth that we operate within a system where survivors are burdened with the difficult process of reporting, recovering and recuperating from crimes that are committed against them. In the words of President Barack Obama, “It’s on us to support them. It’s on us to have their back.”
As we begin this process of statewide advocacy, we hope that we can call on you to show support. You can do this by volunteering your time, donating what you can, and helping to inform others of these issues. We need you now more than ever to stand with us and support survivors.
Click here to read more about this issue in an investigative report by Rebecca Catalanello of NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune.