PHOENIX — Governor Doug Ducey urged the immediate halt to the “shameful” practice of charging sexual assault victims for forensic nurse visits and the cost of collecting evidence.
The Governor said during his 2022 State of the State Address:
“A few years ago, when we learned of the massive backlog of untested rape kits – we worked in a bipartisan manner to clear that backlog, and to make sure victims were prioritized. But as we’ve learned, government bureaucrats often find a way around the law – in this case, some counties are charging these women – these victims – up to $800 in processing charges, and sending the bill to collections. It’s shameful, so we will be cracking down on this government abuse and with your help, tightening the law.”
Victims of sexual assault have been charged as much as $800 for a forensic nurse visit and the collection of evidence that will later be used by prosecutors. There is no other crime where a victim is charged for the collection of evidence.
In counties across the country and right here in Arizona, there are examples of women being charged for forensic nurse visits where evidence placed into sexual assault kits used in investigations and trials is collected.
In any other type of criminal investigation, no portion of evidence collection cost is passed along to the victim and it shouldn’t be here either.
“Victims of violence deserve competent and compassionate care without the burden of determining how to pay for that care,” said Jenna Panas, CEO of the Arizona Coalition to End Sexual and Domestic Violence. “Fully covering the costs of medical forensic exams is victim centered and contributes to a more positive experience with our criminal justice system as well as their overall healing. ACESDV enthusiastically supports the efforts of the Governor to change the experience of survivors of sexual assault in Arizona.”
“Victims of sexual assault should never get a bill for a medical examination,” said Trevor Umphrees, executive director of the Arizona Child and Family Advocacy Network. “Thank you Governor Ducey for taking the lead on this important issue – we look forward to working with you and the Legislature to make this compassionate standard a reality across Arizona.”
In 2016, the Governor established the Sexual Assault Evidence Collection Kit Task Force, to address the unacceptable injustice of untested rape kits in Arizona.
Arizona in 2017 worked in a bipartisan manner to clear the backlog of untested rape kits. To accomplish this goal, the Governor signed legislation to establish time limits, standards and reporting requirements for the processing of rape kits to ensure all future kits are tested.