It looks like the Sarah Palin rape-kit myth is still alive and flourishing. A reader sent along this editorial in the New York Times today by Dorothy Samuels decrying the policy and asking Palin to give voters an explanation.
Unfortunately, all this piece does is help perpetuate the myth. Thankfully, in addition to the blog posts I linked to in my first post about this, Jim Geraghty at the National Review Online has done his own thorough debunking, which I quote from below.
Samuels writes: “[W]hen news of Wasilla’s practice of billing rape victims got around, Alaska’s State Legislature approved a bill in 2000 to stop it.” However, the Alaska state legislature did NOT pass the bill in response to Wasilla’s policy of charging rape victims. As Geraghty points out, the bill came about because hospitals were charging victims.
Lauree Hugonin, director of the Alaska Network on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault, spoke at several committee meetings. She noted in response to Smith’s comment that while he had not found an instance where law enforcement has forwarded a bill, “hospitals have. It has happened in the Mat-Su Valley, on the Kenai Peninsula, and in Southeast, and that is why the bill is being brought forward.”
Further evidence that the law was not targeted at Wasilla:
Yet in six committee meetings, Wasilla was never mentioned, even when the discussion turned to the specific topic of where victims were being charged. (The Matanuska-Susitna Valley, the surrounding region—the most densely populated region of the state, and roughly the size of West Virginia—is mentioned in passing.)
Samuels also quotes from an article in the local Wasilla paper that police chief Charlie Fallon didn’t want to pass the burden along to taxpayers. That is an undeniably boneheaded and offensive statement. What she leaves out is his statement that he was TRYING to bill INSURANCE COMPANIES, not victims. “In the past we’ve charged the cost of exams to the victims insurance company when possible,” is what he said. The story is old and incomplete. It doesn’t say what Fallon would do if the insurance company rejected the claim. But the current mayor of Wasilla says there is no record of a victimbeing charged for a rape kit.
Lastly, Samuels claims that the Palin campaign has not addressed the issue and has released a statement saying only that “Prevention of domestic violence and sexual assault is a priority for Gov. Palin.” However, Palin addressed this matter two weeks ago: “Palin spokeswoman Maria Comella told USA Today in an e-mail that the governor ‘does not believe, nor has she ever believed, that rape victims should have to pay for an evidence-gathering test.’ ”
I did make a small error of my own in my first post about this matter. I wrote that a quote from a Democratic legislator in Alaska that Palin likely didn’t know about the policy brought me little comfort. I misread his quote. In fact, that legislator, Eric Croft, said he believed that Palin DID know what was going on, and he’s helped smear Palin by saying that the legislation came about because of Wasilla.
I think we can all agree that victims should not have to pay for their rape kits. And billing insurance companies is a far from ideal solution. Reimbursing a victim with state money after she’s already had to pay out of pocket is even worse. But it’s a problem that’s hardly been exclusive to Wasilla or Alaska. Fortunately, states have been quick to pass laws against such practices once word gets out.
But the fact remains that this is a nasty and untrue rumor about Sarah Palin that’s been circulating for weeks. If you’re an Obama supporter who gets frustrated that people still believe he’s Muslim or won’t put his hand on his heart for the Pledge of Allegiance, you should understand the frustration that Palin supporters feel when this slime is taken at face value.