Fom the Alaska Report:
Can you imagine having to pay for the CSI (crime scene investigation-fingerprinting, photography, etc) if your home was robbed? What if a bill came for the breathalyzer tests if you'd been hit by a drunk driver? When Sarah Palin was mayor, the city of Wasilla had the most egregious policy against victims of rape in the state of Alaska, possibly the entire country. The rape kit, a set of items used by medical personnel for gathering and preserving physical evidence following a sexual assault, was charged to the victim.
I sat with a rape victim during the “harvesting of evidence”. Mascara smeared eyes stared blankly out from a cave of shame. “We’ve got swimmers,” announced the forensic tech in the lab next door. My friend didn’t look surprised. In her 60’s, she was still asked if she felt the need for emergency contraception. Surviving the process would have only been compounded and made worse with an itemized bill; victimized twice courtesy of Sarah Palin and the city of Wasilla.
Much can be learned about the Palin Administration’s family values from reviewing their spending priorities. Former Chief of Police Irl Stambaugh included forensic rape kits (up to $1,200 per kit) in his budget requests. He was fired by Palin in 1997. In her termination letter, Palin wrote, “…I do not feel I have your full support in my efforts to govern the city of Wasilla. Therefore I intend to terminate your employment. . . ” Staumbaugh headed the police department since it was created in 1993. Before that, he served 22 years with the Anchorage Police Department rising to the rank of captain. Sarah Palin hired Charlie Fannon as the new Wasilla Chief of Police and said it was one of her best decisions as mayor. Fannon eliminated the forensic rape kits from the budget. Though the number of rapes weren’t reported, Fannon claimed it would save Wasilla taxpayers $5,000 to $14,000 a year.
When Eric Croft, a Democrat Legislator from Anchorage, learned of Wasilla’s policy, he drafted HB 270, which Governor Tony Knowles signed into law. The new law made it illegal for any law enforcement agency to bill victims or victims’ insurance companies for the costs of examinations to collect evidence of a sexual assault or determine if a sexual assault actually occurred. Upon signing the law, Governor Knowles said, “We would never bill the victim of a burglary for the cost of gathering evidence, nor should we bill rape victims just because the crime scene happens to be their bodies.”
Wasilla Police Chief Fannon protested the new law stating it would require the city and communities to come up with more funds to cover the costs of the forensic exams. Really? Are the true costs of sexual assault and forcible rape in a community only measured and reflected in the dollars spent on the forensic rape kit?
Alaska has the nation’s highest per-capita rate of forcible rape. A disproportionate number of rape and sexual assault victims are Native Alaskan women. Alaska Native people in Anchorage were 9.7 times more likely to be sexually assaulted than others living in the city between 2000 and 2003. Alaska crime statistics never seemed to make a “Northern Exposure” episode. But this isn’t about statistics-real lives were affected by Palin’s regressive policies. One thing Alaska can’t seem to export is the fundamental information around a woman’s rights. Alaska “liberalized” abortion laws before Roe v. Wade. Our dirty secret had to do with a woman’s right to be safe from rapists. This right to choose was not only threatened, but abolished with Sarah Palin’s archaic policy as Mayor of Wasilla. The rape kit included emergency contraception. To be sure, emergency contraception is not, nor does it cause an abortion. In fact, ec prevents pregnancy and therefore reduces abortions.
Under Palin’s Administration, “Life Begins at Rape” for women unable to pay for their forensic evidence gathering. Justice is served to women who can afford it and denied for those who can’t.I live in Alaska-the wealthiest of the 50 states! Forcing rape victims to pay for their own forensic rape kits is something one would expect to find in a fundamentalist country overseas. I have outrage fatigue. I can’t decide which facet of this policy is more upsetting. Is it the denial of justice for the poor? Is it the punishment of women who had been raped? Is it the political policies of a woman so entrenched in the “Pro-Life” movement she would deny justice to a victim? This is not a “Pro-Life” policy. This is a “Pro-Rapist” policy, and forced pregnancy policy.
It should be noted Joe Biden introduced legislation to fund rape kits to women in America. John McCain voted against it.
When Sarah Palin was elected Alaska’s first female governor, I hoped these issues would be addressed as part of her “historic” platform. When Amnesty International published their study on rape statistics and Alaskan women, the response was pathetic. The now dismissed Commissioner of Public Safety, Walt Monegan, acknowledged the lack of law enforcement in Alaska as part of the problem. Since that time, Walt Monegan has been fired and $2.5 million dollars threatened from the budget for State Troopers. John Cyr is executive director of the Public Safety Employees Association, and has been very critical of the Palin administration’s commitment to keep Alaskan’s safer.
If Alaska’s sexual assault statistics were true for the rest of the country, rape would be considered an epidemic and the National Guard would be called up. As Mayor and Governor, Sarah Palin has made justice illusive to criminals and forensics a commodity that victims must purchase. Meanwhile, rape prevention sits on the backburner. Being a rape victim isn’t necessary for outrage. You don’t need ovaries to protect the physical sanctity of fellow citizens. Life does not begin at rape, it just gets harder.