Built on Facts

A Palin Accusation Examined

If you’re here for the physics and not the politics, skip this entry. I wouldn’t blame you. It irritates me to read politics on science sites too, but with the election only about two months away it’s hard to resist the temptation. Here we go.

Neurotopia links to an article criticizing Sarah Palin. Nothing unusual. What raises an eyebrow is the contents of the criticism. In short, she’s being accused of making rape victims pay for their own rape kits. Here’s the news article from 2000, which mentions Wasilla in passing. Palin was mayor at the time.

Let’s see what the article actually says. Notice, contra Neurotopia, that it does not mention Palin at all. Nor does it mention tax cuts. It certainly doesn’t say that “[s]he justifies it as necessary to cut taxes”. That’s simply fabrication. This is what the article says in its entirely about Wasilla:

While the Alaska State Troopers and most municipal police agencies have covered the cost of exams, which cost between $300 to $1,200 apiece, the Wasilla police department does charge the victims of sexual assault for the tests. Wasilla Police Chief Charlie Fannon does not agree with the new legislation, saying the law will require the city and communities to come up with more funds to cover the costs of the forensic exams. “In the past we’ve charged the cost of exams to the victims insurance company when possible. I just don’t want to see any more burden put on the taxpayer,” Fannon said. According to Fannon, the new law will cost the Wasilla Police Department approximately $5,000 to $14,000 a year to collect evidence for sexual assault cases. “Ultimately it is the criminal who should bear the burden of the added costs,” Fannon said.

The new law prevented departments from billing insurance: the departments bear responsibility themselves. The article says nothing to indicate that any actual victim was ever forced to pay money out of pocket. The only conceivable possibility is that there may have been cases for which insurance didn’t pay (the article provides no evidence of this), in which case the most likely scenario would be the department paying as in the city of Palmer. This could be easily checked by examining the individual cases: in the four years Palin was mayor before this law was passed, there were only five sexual assaults. [Update: See comments #46 and #47] It’s unclear how many (if any) of those investigations required rape kits. There is no evidence in the slightest than any of those five ever had to pay a cent, and this would be obvious and easy for the newspaper to have checked – and I’m sure the DNC’s team of operatives [UPDATE: This is disputed, though of course the DNC should investigate this.] would have turned up something better than this hit job if there were any such thing to find. It certainly would be sick and reprehensible if victims had to pay, but there is nothing at all indicating that such a thing happened. And even if the Police Chief turns out to have done something so horrible (again, no evidence), there’s nothing at all to indicate the mayor would have been aware of a detail of police procedure for a crime that happened about once a year. There’s no evidence that Palin was even aware that such a thing was even a possibility under the law. If any of those things were true, you’d think the governor who signed that law would have brought this up as an issue when Palin defeated him, after all. And when Palin was elected governor of Alaska, she never expressed any reservations at all about the law.

Now the law is something I wholly agree with. I bow to no one in my loathing of sex offenders. Prison is too good for them. And correspondingly, it is a very serious thing to level this kind of accusation in the teeth of evidence to the contrary. The entire case against her is ambiguous two word “when possible” phrase from one of her employees quoted in a 8-year-old local news article. From that, Palin – who again is not even in the article! – is being cast as a scenery-chewing Nurse Ratched villain. Seriously, gentlemen.

I understand Palin is not exactly the queen of popularity here at ScienceBlogs. But that is absolutely no excuse for promulgating this kind of desperate garbage.

Comments

  1. #1 Becca
    September 10, 2008

    Thanks for posting this. As much as I’d love the ammunition against Palin, she’s left us with plenty of true things. This one was so sickening that I’m actually just glad to see it’s not true.

    *that said*, I think it’s pretty unethical to charge rape victim’s insurance companies for the kits.

    Have you ever been in a car accident? Have you ever had to describe the accident in excruciating detail for the car insurance company, to make it clear it wasn’t your fault? If all health insurance companies were warm and fuzzy and focused on making sure everybody got needed care, it’d be fine to bill them… but in the real world, of profit driven bottom-line-obsessed insurance where nothing gets covered unless it’s justified 12 times over… it strikes me as unwise to try to collect.

  2. #2 --bill
    September 10, 2008

    Let’s see…
    the police chief says it’ll cost 5 to 14 thousand a year, for tests that cost 3 to 12 hundred dollars each…
    That’s between 4 (= 5,000/1200) and 46 (= 14,000/300) tests a year…taking averages gives about 12 (= 9500/750) tests a year…
    that seems distinctly at odds with your claim that rapes requiring rape kits is “a crime that happened about once a year.”.

  3. #3 Barry
    September 10, 2008

    I prefer an argument based in truth to an attention-grabbing fiction every time. I think Palin is bad enough on her own; there is no need to make anything up.

  4. #4 Uncle Al
    September 10, 2008

    There is no truth in the social sciences and Liberal Arts, there is only dialaectic. There are no Democraps or Republicants, there is the Party. Nancy Pelosi’s “100 Days” went into a back room and saw the carrot (money, power, protection) and the stick (Vince Foster).

    Palin is a stupid and corrupt. In what reality is a rabid born-again MILF with a retard baby and an unwed preggers teenage high school daughter a Vice President?

    Obama is no different in place. However, he is at least competitively intelligent – graduated magna cum laude Harvard Law School and president of the Harvard Law Review. He’s young and not yet been purchased twelve dozen different ways.

    It is incompetent fascists, corporatists, and double-digit IQ christ-besotted jackasses (Manchurian candidate McCain & VP MILF) against bleeding heart Liberals, welfare pimps, Enviro-whiners, feminazis, and Queer Nation (Dark Lord of the Senate). Choose wisely.

  5. #5 Chris P
    September 10, 2008

    Given that Republicans are lying their rearends off to give us four more years of destruction to this country’s economy and the environment of the planet I’d say anything goes bar violence.

    We cannot tolerate another four years of stupid in the white house. Being “nice” isn’t going to cut it against Karl Rove’s gang.

    No, her name is not mentioned, but she was in charge.

    I’m tired of playing wimpy liberal. We need to learn form PZ Myers and Dawkins and start fighting ignorance and stupidity.

  6. #6 bsci
    September 10, 2008

    There’s not enough info here, but rarely does billing insurance mean that a person pays nothing. Thus, the victims probably did pay something. Was some of the cost taken out of deductibles? Did they pay 20% or some other fraction of the cost? If it wasn’t a group plan, did their insurance rates go up.

    While I agree that the original article was no sufficiently research, it is clear that Wasilla had a different policy than other towns, which could or did result in direct or indirect costs to victims.
    Flip the question, why should health insurance pay for the collection of evidence for a criminal investigation? The police policy was definitely odd.

  7. #7 Zifnab
    September 10, 2008

    Alright, first off I’ll concede that there has been a certain degree of hyperbole. I don’t think anyone is suggesting Palin personally pushed the old legislation ages before she even became mayor in a grand scheme to screw over raped women.

    The only conceivable possibility is that there may have been cases for which insurance didn’t pay (the article provides no evidence of this), in which case the most likely scenario would be the department paying as in the city of Palmer. This could be easily checked by examining the individual cases: in the four years Palin was mayor before this law was passed, there were only five sexual assaults. It’s unclear how many (if any) of those investigations required rape kits. There is no evidence in the slightest than any of those five ever had to pay a cent, and this would be obvious and easy for the newspaper to have checked – and I’m sure the DNC’s team of operatives would have turned up something better than this hit job if there were any such thing to find.

    True enough. Even if the “liberal” media didn’t dig up such a skeleton, the DNC opposition research team would have happily filled in the gap. That said, Palin has only been the nominee for a few weeks and digging into rape-victim case files in a small town in Alaska isn’t exactly quick and painless work. So there could still be fossils left to excavate. Time will tell.

    And linking to a WSJ Op-Ed to make a point about opposition researchers really… doesn’t.

    From that, Palin – who again is not even in the article! – is being cast as a scenery-chewing Nurse Ratched villain. Seriously, gentlemen.

    The spokesman for the “pay-your-own-rape-kit” brigade was Police Chief Fallon who was, in turn, appointed by Sarah Palin. I know, I know. How can you possibly could an elected official accountable for the statements and actions of her appointed representatives? After all Sarah didn’t say these statements herself. They came from her employees, employees who are in no way ideologically tethered to the Mayor.

    Oh wait…

    “Wasilla got a new police chief Thursday, one who said he will bring to the job a philosophy of personal freedom that doesn’t include his predecessor’s support of limiting bar hours´┐Ż’I don’t think the answer to crime is restricting people’s freedom more and more.’ Fannon is replacing Irl Stambaugh, whom the mayor fired in January. Palin said she did not think Stambaugh supported her administration…Stambaugh has sued the city, alleging Palin fired him because local bar owners and the National Rifle Association asked the mayor to do so. Stambaugh wanted the city to adopt earlier bar closings as a way to combat alcohol-related traffic accidents, according to the complaint.”

    Fallon clearly wasn’t appointed to enact a political agenda of the new mayor. How can he possibly have his own policy views held up as indicative of the policy views of the new mayor?

  8. #8 Matt Springer
    September 10, 2008

    “that seems distinctly at odds with your claim that rapes requiring rape kits is “a crime that happened about once a year.”

    It’s not my claim, it’s the actual court data for crimes reported. That’s why I linked straight to the source.

    My guess as to the high estimate is that there’s a baseline cost for the ability to process kits which is much greater than the cost of the physical kit itself. The police would need to cover the cost of processing equipment and possibly qualified hospital staff. If I understand correctly, rape kits are fundamentally a medical procedure and regardless of who pays, it’s the hospital which is actually conducting the exam. Though the fundamental nature of sexual assault certainly merits an exception, police departments don’t (as far as I know) make a habit of paying for medical examination after a mugging or other non-sexual violent crimes either.

    Which again is why I agree the law is good – sex crime victims deserve a higher standard of care from the police.

  9. #9 John McKay
    September 10, 2008

    The article says nothing to indicate that any actual victim was ever forced to pay money out of pocket. The only conceivable possibility is that there may have been cases for which insurance didn’t pay (the article provides no evidence of this), in which case the most likely scenario would be the department paying as in the city of Palmer.

    I don’t agree that that is the most likely scenario at all. Charlie Fannon, the police chief Palin hired after firing Irl Stambaugh, said, “In the past we’ve charged the cost of exams to the victims insurance company when possible.” Does that imply it wasn’t always possible? Maybe. The article doesn’t say if such a case has happened, and the only clue it gives over how the Wasilla PD would have handled it except for the reporter’s rather clear statement that “the Wasilla police department does charge the victims of sexual assault for the tests.”

    You repeatedly point out that there is no evidence to condemn Palin and Fannon for having done this reprehensible thing, but there is also no evidence to clear them. There simply is no evidence one way or the other. In the absence of evidence, you want to give them the benefit of the doubt. That’s fine. In that same absence of evidence, some others are inclined to assume the worst or at least to assume their bad first impressions of Palin will be confirmed. That’s their right.

    The one truth in this is that during Palin’s term as mayor, the Police chief she hired had a policy of placing the responsibility for paying for a vital investigative tool on the victims rather than paying for it out of police funds. Did he also require the victims of shootings to pay for ballistic testing of guns and bullets? Singling out rape for this kind of treatment certainly indicates a gross insensitivity toward the victims and probably that he placed a lower value on solving these crimes than on others. Most of the contempt that we feel for this kind of double standard should be directed at Fannon, but Palin deserves some blame for Placing him in that job.

  10. #10 Druceratops
    September 10, 2008

    Matt,

    Thank you for taking this up. I had many of the same concerns with the Neurotopia post. A quote from the linked article may explain some of the discrepancy in the cost of the kits and the costs cited by the police chief of Wasilla.

    “The new bill would also make law enforcement agencies that are investigating a sexual assault responsible for the costs of testing victims for sexually transmitted diseases and emergency contraception.”

    In my opinion, while the rape kit is clearly the responsibility of law enforcement, it is less clear cut that law enforcement (rather than health insurance) should be responsible for the other tests and interventions.

  11. #11 JYB
    September 10, 2008

    Full disclosure: I strongly dislike Palin.

    I’m not really sure this is a stirring defense.

    1. As BSCI points out, having the insurance pay doesn’t mean victims won’t be responsible. Especially when you consider how many Americans don’t have insurance. In my area, a number of sexual crimes are committed against homeless women.

    2. Insurance is often a pain. I don’t know what the exact process is, but I need to fill out forms and submit reciepts every time I file a claim. That’s not something you’d want a rape victim to have to go through.

    3. Saying “We’re not sure if she even knew this was a policy” isn’t that good a defense for a mayor of a town the size of a large high school. I imagine if there was a sexual assault, chances are the victim would know Palin or be at most one degree from her.

  12. #12 Joel
    September 10, 2008

    Palin is a stupid and corrupt. In what reality is a rabid born-again MILF with a retard baby and an unwed preggers teenage high school daughter a Vice President?

    Uncle Al, When you go on to endorse Obama, this statement convinces me that anyone you would like is not someone I would want.

  13. #13 Matt Springer
    September 10, 2008

    Disagreement is wonderful! A fiesty and free discussion of views is part of what made this country great. I hope my readers will always feel free to blast my views to kingdom come should they so wish.

    However, I am not going to put up with bile and abuse. If Uncle Al (or anyone else) leaves another comment like #4, they’re getting banned. Disagree as strongly as you want, but be civil and thoughtful or take your comments elsewhere.

  14. #14 Mike
    September 10, 2008

    comment about billing insurance companies.

    I have lived in several localities that have a policy of billing insurance companies for any ambulance rides. However, if the insurance company does not pay or does not pay for the entire charge, the locality does not make the individual person pay anything else. It seems reasonable to assume that a similar method may exist for the rape kits.

  15. #15 Pierce R. Butler
    September 10, 2008

    …”a crime that happened about once a year.” … it’s the actual court data for crimes reported.

    Anyone who repeats court data as if it represented accurate numbers knows so little about the criminology of sexual assault that they have no business making any assertions of fact about the subject.

    If that one Frontiersman article from eight years ago is the total evidence here, the accusation should be considered tentative at best. However, it’s hardly clear that the one source cited by Neurotopia is the entirety of such information, either.

  16. #16 Phil
    September 10, 2008

    I agree with most of your assesment, but I think the criticisms dealing with whether Palin was aware or responsible for the position of a appointed member of city government are certainly valid.

    Another thing to consider is that the police chief’s familiarity with the budget numbers involved would seem to indicate that this has been discussed at least at the department level if not at the city council level, implying that Palin would have had some knowledge of the policy at the time. All things considered we really need more information.

    However, whether Palin took action to force victims or their insurance to pay for kits or if she never acted to change the policy which she almost certainly was aware of, either possibility is equally damning in my book. Wasilla’s policy was disgusting and was enough of an issue that Alaska state legislature stepped in to correct it, but Palin stood by and did nothing.

  17. #17 JYB
    September 10, 2008

    @14

    However, if the insurance company does not pay or does not pay for the entire charge, the locality does not make the individual person pay anything else. It seems reasonable to assume that a similar method may exist for the rape kits

    My locality makes you pay anything the insurance doesn’t cover. When my sister had to take an ambulance ride it ended up costing her about $2000 out of pocket. I don’t think it’s a reasonable assumption that the municipality pays.

    Either way, I think something as traumatic as rape should be handled as “behind the scenes” as possible. As I said before, if it’s anything like my insurance, I’d have to file a claim for the cost of my rape kit.

  18. #18 Phil
    September 10, 2008

    JYB,

    I think it is a reasonable assumption that the municipality pays. In the case of a rape kit, this is the set of items used to gather and preserve physical evidence against any alleged suspect to be used by the prosecution in any criminal proceedings.

    In my mind this would be like forcing any crime victim, their family, or their insurance to pay for the crime scene investigation.

  19. #19 Becca
    September 10, 2008

    +1 to the sentiment that “rape kits” are not analagous to “medical care” but to “ballistics tests”.
    That said, rape victims shouldn’t be paying for medical care either.

    If Wasilla didn’t have Palin as Mayor, maybe there would be a Planned Parenthood around to provide STD testing and emergency contraception for everyone. If Palin hadn’t been Governor of Alaska, maybe PP would recieve State funding. And if Bush hadn’t been elected, and McCain supported him 90% of the time, maybe PP would recieve federal funding.

    (for reference the nearest Planned Parenthood to Wasilla is about 20 miles away, in Anchorage. They say: “The Anchorage Clinic does not receive State or Federal funding, we are unable to offer free services at this site. Fees for many services slide to 50% if your income is below 200% of the Federal Poverty Level adjusted for Alaska.”)

    As an aside to bill, who ran the numbers- keep in mind also that the town of Wasilla has increased in population since the time Palin was Mayor. I’ve only got a vauge recollection of the change (~5 thousand the, ~9 thousand now?), and I don’t think it’s the entire explaination, but it should be kept in mind as long as we are being precise.

  20. #20 Matt Springer
    September 10, 2008

    For Mr. Butler at comment #10: I am aware that sexual assault is underreported, however, the issue at hand here is the specific need for rape kits. Every unreported sexual assault is an awful thing, but obviously the whole issue of who pays for a rape kit is moot if the crime isn’t reported in the first place.

    For Becca at comment #19: Rape kits are definitely more analogous in their legal purpose to ballistics testing than medical care. My point is that unlike ballistics testing, rape kits are (as far as I know) administered by private medical professionals rather than the police. This is what generated the billing problem, and produced the need for the law.

  21. #21 Phil
    September 10, 2008

    Matt,

    I’m unclear on the billing issue you’re perceiving. I could see it if it was the hospital billing the victim and not billing the city but the article states:
    The new law makes it illegal for any law enforcement agency to bill victims or victims insurance companies for the costs of examinations that take place to collect evidence of a sexual assault or determine if a sexual assault did occur.

  22. #22 Carl Brannen
    September 10, 2008

    The estimated rape rate for the US is about 40 per 100,000 population per year. Wasilla, at population of around 10,000 would thus have about 4 rapes per year. But only 1/6 of rapes are reported, so the rate at which the police would need kits is at most something like 2 rapes per 3 years. Perhaps less if they don’t need a rape kit for every rape, perhaps more if that area is particularly prone to the crime or the reporting of it.

  23. #23 Carl Brannen
    September 10, 2008

    Since I don’t have a TV, I have to surf the web to find out what’s going on. The stuff on Sarah Palin is amazing. It’s like she’s the only person running right now, but she’s not saying anything.

    You might enjoy this article: Rebecca Johnson: ‘I am a liberal, but I’m blown away by Sarah Palin’.

  24. #24 John McKay
    September 10, 2008

    # 19

    The Planned Parenthood situation is more dire than you think. It’s not 20 miles from Wasilla to the nearest clinic; it’s 44 miles. At the best time of day, you could drive that in just under an hour. During most business hours, it would take well over an hour to make the trip.

  25. #25 Kelson
    September 11, 2008

    #23

    That article is atrocious, it is everything that is wrong with American voting today. Any liberal voting for Palin just because she is a woman is a disgrace. They are giving her a free ride to support policies that actually hurt womens rights. The whole idea of American’s voting being a big popularity contest shows the immaturity and decadence of this nation. The meritocracy has died, and it’s been killed by the very people who say they support it the most, the Republicans. No longer are things done based on who is the most qualified or whose ideas do I support the most. No, we are willing to vote in a woman who wants to take away the right to abortion even in cases of rape and incest, because she is pretty and a woman. It’s sickening and I’m absolutely disgusted.

    Everything that made this country a great economic power is being eroded by the “pro-business” republicans. What are we going to do when our biologists are taught about creationism in their public schools because of the policies of people like Palin? What are we going to do when our education and research falls behind the rest of the world due to lack of funding, the republicans have destroyed science education funding and research grant funding. The NSCE’s funding was cut by almost 25% during Bush’s time in office. It’s despicable, and yet we continue to vote in anti-intellectual pro-ignoramus candidates to office while deriding and insulting our educated candidates calling them “elitist” and “out of touch with the people”. Now I understand why the Founding Fathers created a democratic system meant to disenfranchise the common people. They were afraid of a tyranny of the uneducated, ignorant, emotional and irrational majority. The ability to make a decision based on the qualifications and beliefs of the candidate seems to have gone out the window and now its a mass race to appeal to the grunting masses by being the most photogenic, the most vitriolic while appearing the sweetest, and to nab superficial voters who choose their candidate on the color of their skin or whether or not they have two X chromosomes or and X and a Y.

    Btw, Matt I agree with this post, there are many true things about Palin that are extremely scary and need to be discussed. A hyperbolic, vitriolic half truth is utterly indefensible.

  26. #26 Pierce R. Butler
    September 11, 2008

    From http://talkingpointsmemo.com/archives/215898.php (go there for links to quote sources) -

    While Gov. Palin was Mayor of Wasila, Alaska in the late 1990s, the city’s policy was to charge rape victims for the cost of the ‘rape kits’ used to collect forensic evidence to help prosecute the rapists. Eventually the state had to step in and pass a law banning the practice. And according to former Gov. Tony Knowles, the law was passed specifically in response to Wasila’s policy. “There was one town in Alaska that was charging victims for this, and that was Wasilla,” says Knowles.

    But it appears this is another case whether Sarah Palin is lying or in this case deputizing press aides to lie on her behalf. In this case spokeswoman Maria Comella, when asked, told USAToday that “does not believe, nor has she ever believed, that rape victims should have to pay for an evidence-gathering test. Gov. Palin’s position could not be more clear. To suggest otherwise is a deliberate misrepresentation of her commitment to supporting victims and bringing violent criminals to justice.”

    Well, this just appears to be a confident statement of another lie. She does not and has never believed this, only it was her policy when she ran the city in question which was either the only or the most prominent in the state that held to this practice.

    (ed.note: This has been another edition of “Lying Sarah Watch”…)

    Kelson: The NSCE’s funding was cut by almost 25% during Bush’s time in office.

    Searching for that acronym, all I can find is the National Star Certificate Examination (Canada). If you mean the National Center for Science Education, that’s an independent advocacy group without government funding. The National Science Foundation’s funding surely has not been smiled upon by Cheney and his henchpersons… is that what you meant?

    In any case, before bashing the voters, please remember that a very strong case can be made that the putative results of last two national elections did not reflect the intentions of the electorate.

  27. #27 Matt Springer
    September 11, 2008

    There’s three obvious problems with the TPM article.

    1. It quotes as its source the governor Palin beat in the AK governor’s election. He’s approximately the most biased source possible.

    2. Especially given the small number (demonstrably 5 or less) of rape kits required in Wasilla before the law, it’s unlikely Palin would have known about this police procedure for a rare crime, even if what the former governor says is true.

    3. There’s still no actual record that anyone ended up having to pay anything. If one ends up being found, the police chief certainly had an awful policy and it would reflect negatively on this particular hiring choice of Palin. Much less so however, than (say) someone like Tony Rezko.

    For the record, NSF funding increased from $4b to $6b yearly under Bush.

  28. #28 elspi
    September 11, 2008

    As a mathematician, I was hoping for a little more intellectual honesty from a physics student. Your original post has been gutted. The proper thing to do is to say: “I was wrong, I stand corrected.” Instead you start blowing smoke.

    Carl Rove (or at the very least his minions) is running the McPalin campaign, and from experience we know that if any one of the three points you raised in #27 had any validity whatsoever (or even was unfalsifiable) then the McPalin campaign would have been screaming it.

    From their silence we can deduce that each of those 3 points is provable false.
    QED

    Ps
    Good bye and good riddance

  29. #29 Pierce R. Butler
    September 11, 2008

    There are three obvious problems…

    /Grammar fascist

    1) So the incumbent governor at the time the (purported) corrective law was passed is not to be taken seriously, but the police chief Palin appointed is?

    2) The mayor would not have paid any attention to the follow-up of probably the nastiest crime to occur in a year in her town?

    3) A really bad policy should be ignored because it may not have been implemented? Nobody’s been documented as having been harmed by global warming or spraying aerosolized uranium around the desert either, last I heard.

    Thanks for the correction about NSF funding. That’s so out of character for the Busheviks, there has to be a story there…

  30. #30 Pierce R. Butler
    September 11, 2008

    Addenda:

    1) What motivation would Knowles have had in 2000 to tell lies about a small-town mayor who wouldn’t run against him until 2006?

    2) What does it tell us about Palin if she ignored the follow-up of every rape in her small town during her entire mayoralty?

    3) Why did the police chief claim this would cost his department $5-14K/yr if nobody had previously ever paid anything?

    3a) Rezko? Got any other GOP talking points you want to throw in while you’re at it?

  31. #31 Matt Springer
    September 11, 2008

    The Rezko bit is a cheap shot designed to make a point: the people you hire sometimes do things you’d highly disapprove of, but you may not know about it until it’s too late. That’s life. I don’t think it’s Obama’s fault Rezko turned out to be a crook, and if this police chief turns out to have put budget above compassion I don’t think it would be Palin’s fault. Assuming it’s true, which there’s still no actual evidence.

  32. #32 minusRusty
    September 12, 2008

    Matt @ 19: “For Becca at comment #19: Rape kits are definitely more analogous in their legal purpose to ballistics testing than medical care. My point is that unlike ballistics testing, rape kits are (as far as I know) administered by private medical professionals rather than the police. This is what generated the billing problem, and produced the need for the law.”

    Posted by: Matt Springer | September 10, 2008 6:03 PM

    Phil @ #21:
    Matt,

    I’m unclear on the billing issue you’re perceiving. I could see it if it was the hospital billing the victim and not billing the city but the article states:
    The new law makes it illegal for any law enforcement agency to bill victims or victims insurance companies for the costs of examinations that take place to collect evidence of a sexual assault or determine if a sexual assault did occur.

    I just spent about an hour or so trying to find the legislative record on the bill that was passed (due to another forum I haunt), and here is what I found:

    LAUREE HUGONIN, DIRECTOR, ALASKA NETWORD ON DOMESTIC VIOLENCE AND SEXUAL ASSAULT (ANDVSA), JUNEAU, commented that these charges occur as a result of hospital accounting procedures. The range of costs can be from between $300-$1000 dollars. The direct charges usually result from the accounting procedures at the hospitals and not the law enforcement agencies. She noted that there has been some difficulty in Mat-Su [of which Wasilla is a part -R], Anchorage, Kenai and Sitka and possibly in Bethel. She was not aware of other parts of the State where there was a problem. Ms. Hugonin advised that this problem is not on going and pervasive, but that it does occur more than sporadically.

    [DEL SMITH, DEPUTY COMMISSIONER, DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC SAFETY] speculated that hospitals are not set up to administer a third party billing. He noted that his Department currently pays out approximately $50 thousand dollars per year for this type service. Representative Phillips read for the record, a statement from a woman in Juneau who had experienced the charges [i.e., receiving a bill] as indicated. The letter states that the medical costs should not become a deterrent for a woman to seek out the care that they need after a rape experience.

    Also note a final form of the bill, located here (search for HB0271, and go up a couple of paragraphs; the changes of the text can be traced if you start from the top down.):

    * Section 1. AS 18.68 is amended by adding a new section to read:

    Sec. 18.68.040. Sexual assault victim may not be required to pay for examination. A law enforcement agency, health care facility, or other entity may not require a victim of sexual assault under AS 11.41.410 – 11.41.425 who is 16 years of age or older to pay, directly or indirectly, through health insurance or any other means, for the costs of examination of the victim necessary for

    (1) collecting evidence using the sexual assault examination kit under AS 18.68.010 or otherwise; or

    (2) determining whether a sexual assault has occurred.

    Hope that helps.

    -Rusty

  33. #33 A
    September 12, 2008

    With many insurance companies not so supportive of even preventative care, I’d think every one of them would reject a claim for any procedure not directly related to restore a patient’s health, so they’d certainly not pay for a rape kit.
    (Your insurance may be better, but I had to pay for all my shots before visiting a tropical country; but they’d have paid ~<80% of the cost had I returned with Cholera, Yellow Fever etc.[The 20% co-pay would still have bankrupted me])
    Having more costs recovered from victims (or perpetrators, should they be able to pay) is a hallmark of Republican ‘small government’ policies.
    It allows for bigger tax cuts for those, who don’t use or need public services.

    “DNC’s team of operatives [UPDATE: This is disputed..."
    it is not disputed, it has been debunked as another lie.
    Now about the bridge to nowhere.... (hint: the time line of that is not disputed, though the media seem to be confused
    that 2005 [Congress drops it] comes before 2006 [Palin campaign for Gov. supports it] and 2007 [Alaska government drops it, for lack of federal funding].)

  34. #34 Mitch. P
    September 12, 2008

    My wife has worked and volunteered for a number of different rape crisis centers, and has been on a number of SART[*] calls as an advocate. So I asked her what usually happens in her experience

    She says it is fairly standard that police departments eat the cost of the exam/kits, though they sometimes try to pass the cost to the victim if they believe it was a false report. (She then went on a rant about how the exam is such an unpleasant experience that she can’t imagine that anybody would file a false report.) So insurance is seldom, if ever, billed in the cases she’s familiar with.

    [*] SART=Sexual Assault Response Team, the team of doctors/nurses/police/advocates who perform the exam and gather evidence so it can be used to investigate and prosecute the crime.

    So, this isn’t really much of an issue, except that this is a case where government needs to fund these as a part of normal police investigations.

  35. #35 Mitch P.
    September 12, 2008

    Oh yeah.. and Go Obama/Biden ’08

  36. #36 Brian Schmidt
    September 12, 2008

    John McKay at #9 nailed it – Matt is making huge assumptions without any basis of support. I’ve yet to see a refutation here.

  37. #37 bullfighter
    September 13, 2008

    I have a blog dedicated to fighting against bullshit. Today I exposed your post and debunked it. Feel free to comment or respond.

  38. #38 Matt Springer
    September 13, 2008

    Fair enough, and I’ve left a comment at your post. I think it’s pretty unconvincing; a long winded way of trying to squeeze a pretty thin case out of a couple sentences by one employee in an 8-year-old article. The simple fact that nothing resembling further evidence against her has appeared after all this smoke-blowing is telling by itself.

  39. #39 Pierce R. Butler
    September 13, 2008

    Nice work, minusRusty!

    Palin Signed Off on Budget to Charge Rape Victims for Exams

    By: Lindsay Beyerstein Saturday September 13, 2008 10:30 am

    As mayor of Wasilla, Alaska, John McCain’s running mate signed off on a budget charging rape victims for their own sexual assault exams. Police Chief Charlie Fannon, a Sarah Palin appointee, made the change.

    Congratulations to Jacob Alperin-Sheriff of the Huffington Post who found the smoking gun, and to the Daily Kos commenters who first raised the issue.

    Palin’s spokesperson claimed that Palin did not support charging rape victims for their own exams and implied that her boss was unaware of the policy. The State of Alaska later passed a law outlawing the practice. Ironically, the state had to ban victim-pay rape exams in order to qualify for funding under the Violence Against Women Act, one of Democrative vice presidential nominee Joe Biden’s signature legislative achievements.

    Bolding added; go to original for more links.

    [Note from Matt: Refuted already.]

  40. #40 bullfighter
    September 14, 2008

    Matt Springer

    I’ve left a comment at your post.

    You did? So are you a “graduate student of physics at Texas A&M” (as you claim here) or “a member of the Reformed Church in the U.S. (RCUS) in Golden Valley, Minnesota”? Not saying it’s impossible to be both, but it would seem a bit inconvenient to travel from Texas to Minnesota every Sunday.

    [Matt replies: Well then the other commenter is clearly not me, no? I see your analytical skills are as sharp as ever. ;) ]

  41. #41 bullfighter
    September 14, 2008

    Nice glass house, Matt.

  42. #42 Pierce R. Butler
    September 14, 2008

    If that’s a refutation, then Alberto Gonzales’s declaration of total amnesia during his infamous Congressional testimony is an acquittal and a beatification.

    The budgetary data given indicates that the city of Wasilla did not pay for any rape kits during that year – which means either that the PD did not investigate a single rape during that period, or that whatever investigation(s) they did conduct were done without a kit, or that any kit(s) used were paid for by someone else.

    The previous year’s “contingency” spending had come to $11,625. When that figure dropped by more than 98% under Palin’s appointee, are we to conclude that Palin donned a cape and mask to prowl the unmarked streets of Wasilla, protecting innocent citizens from evildoers – or that a way was found to externalize expenses?

    “…nothing about any applications of the contingency fund…” is at best giving Palin the benefit of the doubt – and if we’ve seen one thing demonstrated over the last eight years, it’s that when it comes to ideologically driven Republicans, there is no doubt to give.

  43. #43 Matt Springer
    September 14, 2008

    “which means either that the PD did not investigate a single rape during that period, or that whatever investigation(s) they did conduct were done without a kit, or that any kit(s) used were paid for by someone else.”

    Remember the crime data? There was only one sexual assault that year. Though we’d need more information to say for sure since sexual assault covers a wide range of crimes, it’s entirely possible that there wasn’t a single rape in that period.

  44. #44 Pierce R. Butler
    September 14, 2008

    It’s not clear whether that “crime data” (cases that made it to court) means that there was only one rape investigated, but the statistics (Alaska has the most rapes per capita in the US) make it rather unlikely that “there was only one sexual assault that year” in Wasilla.

    If only there were a wolf pack of Democratic investigators digging into Palin’s record (or even a competent press corps)…

  45. #45 Betul
    September 16, 2008

    I don’t think there is any problem on issuing politics in science blogs. Science is for life, politics totally effects life, so how could one separate the two (or why shoud we?) Besides, I think it is always helpful to hear scientists’ perspective on politics, despite all the people who don’t even have any idea on politics but endlessly speaks about it.

  46. #46 minusRusty
    September 19, 2008

    Matt Springer: Remember the crime data? There was only one sexual assault that year.

    Okay, Matt, I’m trying to figure this out. In the original post, you said:

    in the four years Palin was mayor before this law was passed, there were only five sexual assaults.

    with a link to the stats. But looking at the stats under the column for Sex Assaults, I see a lot more than that.

    Specifically, 1996 (11), 1997(18), 1998(10), 1999(10).

    How did you derive _your_ numbers, quoted above??

  47. #47 Matt Springer
    September 19, 2008

    Looking at the data, your numbers seem to be right. I know I’m capable of reading numbers(!) so something’s wrong somewhere. I think I know where. You’ll see the date on this post is 9/10. The “last updated” date on the crime stats page is 9/17.

    I’ve just checked the archive.org record, and it does look like the numbers have been changed. Something’s afoot, and I’d like to know what just as much as you.

  48. #48 minusRusty
    September 20, 2008

    Yeah, something’s afoot. I wish we were in a position to find out what.

  49. #49 Cultmember
    September 22, 2008

    I e-mailed the city of Wasilla asking them why it changed, and got this response: “Our Police Chief has just updated the website!” At least they answered. Now I’m probably on a list kept by the FBI or the Secret Service.

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