I was skeptical of the charge that Sarah Palin was forcing rape victims to pay for their own rape kits, thinking a) she could always brush it off by pleading ignorance and b) that even Republicans aren’t really ready to sign onto legislation that functionally legalizes rape, because it sets aside rape victims as victims of crime that don’t, unlike all other crime victims, deserve the protection of the police. Surely, I thought, we won’t be able to hang the charge that McCain/Palin have a history of denying rape victims the right to have crimes against them investigated, a right all other citizens share, right?
In 1994, Joe Biden introduced anti-violence legislation that, in part, put the costs of rape kits, a critical part of investigating rape, on the state and not on the victims. This strikes me, once again, as no-duh legislation. If someone breaks into your house, the state pays for the fingerprinting and DNA sample collecting. So why not pay for the collection of evidence in rape? It’s this sort of small detail that adds to the bigger picture of why rape is so common in our country. Yet another research study has shown that 1 in 5 young women have experienced forced intercourse. (PDF.) The chances of getting convicted if you rape someone is pretty low, in no small part because so much law enforcement doesn’t take it seriously. To make it worse, the younger a woman is, the more likely she is to be raped. Your young adulthood is exactly the time when you don’t have the money to pay $500 for a rape kit, on top of the $40 for the emergency contraception and the no doubt hundreds, perhaps thousands, of dollars in E.R. treatment for injuries incurred during the rape. And if you get pregnant, tack another $500 on that for the abortion. If you have health insurance, that helps, but again, we’re talking an age group that’s likely not covered.
So we know that Palin didn’t bother to learn or didn’t bother to care that her town was charging rape victims for the investigations of crimes against their persons, but of course prosecuted, mind you, as crimes against the state. Yes, this is a confusing point, but a rape victim is, like any other crime victim, a witness to a crime that’s charged as a state matter. (It’ll go down as the people/the state against the defendant.) Alaska has the nation’s highest rape rate in the country, by the way, with 76 incidents per 100,000 people. This is wildly high—the next highest is New Mexico, with 56 per 100,000, but most states hover in the 20-40 range.
The smoking gun, though, is McCain’s lack of support for victims of rape at the point when they need the most help, which is when they’re putting their dignity and sanity on the line in order to aid an investigation of the crime committed against them. One incident is an anomaly, but we have a pattern of the McCain/Palin ticket not really caring if the state prosecutes rapists. And all this comes on the heels of McCain’s campaign crowing about how they aren’t the kind of people who want to help law enforcement prevent and prosecute child molestation. Someone’s got to ask them why they buck the vast majority of Americans on this issue, since most Americans are eager to keep sexual predators off the streets.