Wasilla rape victims billed when Palin was the mayor

KITS AND EXAMS: State lawmakers passed a bill in 2000 to ban the practice.

September 12, 2008 

When Sarah Palin was mayor of Wasilla, the city billed sexual assault victims and their insurance companies for the cost of rape kits and forensic examinations.

Palin had been in office for four years when the practice of charging rape victims got the attention of state lawmakers in 2000, who passed a bill to stop the practice.

Former Democratic Rep. Eric Croft, who sponsored that bill, said he was disappointed that simply asking the Wasilla police department to stop didn't work. Croft said he doubts Palin was unaware of the practice.

Maria Comella, a McCain-Palin campaign spokeswoman, said Palin "does not believe, nor has she ever believed, that rape victims should have to pay for an evidence-gathering test." To suggest otherwise, she said, is a "misrepresentation of her commitment to supporting victims and bringing violent criminals to justice."

As governor, Palin has worked in a variety of ways to tackle the problem of sexual assault and rape, including making domestic violence a priority of her administration, Comella said. Alaska routinely has the nation's highest rate of sexual assault.

Lawmakers became involved in 2000 when reports began coming in that police departments were charging sexual assault victims for the kits and the forensic exams, which cost from $300 to $1,200 at the time. The kit, a package of sample containers, swabs and other medical supplies, is used to collect evidence from women after they are attacked.

Then-Gov. Tony Knowles said Thursday that Wasilla was unique in the state in charging rape victims for the cost of doing the law enforcement necessary for solving the crime.

The bill passed the Legislature over the objections of Wasilla police chief Charlie Fannon, who said it would require the city to come up with more money to cover the costs of buying the rape kits and doing the exams.

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