Coping with Sexual Assault: Adding Financial Insult to Injury
By an Anonymous Sexual Assault Survivor in Roaring Fork Valley, Colorado
On Saturday, May 21, 2011, I was sexually assaulted. Being left with medical bills that were beyond my capability to pay was devastating. Not only was I emotionally distraught, dealing with guilt and shame, but the financial burden only compounded the hurt. I struggled to find a way to pay these bills for over a year. It made me question why had I even gone to the hospital that morning.
“The next memory I have is hearing a man’s voice. He said, “How are you feeling?” I was half-asleep and remember mumbling something like “Fine.” Then the man said, “I have to go now.” I did not see who this man was at the time, all I heard was a voice. When I did finally wake up a few minutes later, I was in a state of shock. I had no memory of what happened to me and how I got from dancing in the bar, one flight of stairs below, to this apartment. Where was I? Whose apartment was I in? My shirt and bra were still on me, but my pants and underwear were on the floor. This made me scared. “What happened to me?”
“I got out of bed and quickly put on my underwear and pants. I looked on the bed and saw a pool of blood on the comforter near the top of the bed, close to the pillows. There was also a few blood stains on my shirt. At this time, I was so scared and shocked and confused. I walked out into the kitchen to try to see a picture or figure out where I was. I saw a picture on the kitchen counter of a man that I recognized from town. I found the door that led outside and walked out. I looked up and realized I was right outside of a bar in town. I was shocked and scared. How did I end up there? I still had no memory at all of how I ended up at the apartment or what happened inside the apartment.”
I was a victim of being drugged with BDP (sedatives) and sexually assaulted. I needed help, and I needed resources. I sought financial assistance from Colorado’s Crime Victim Compensation Program to help cover the expenses associated with this assault
Colorado’s Crime Victim Compensation Program was created by state statute (C.R.S. §24-4.1-101) in 1981. Colorado has a decentralized system, which means that crime victim compensation programs exist in each of the state’s 22 judicial districts. The judicial district where the crime occurred is responsible for accepting and reviewing victim compensation applications. The crime must be one in which the victim sustains mental or bodily injury, dies, or suffers property damage to locks, windows or doors to residential property as a result of a compensable crime. The victim must cooperate with law enforcement officials. The police must be notified within 72 hours after the crime occurred. The injury or death of the victim was not the result of the victim’s own wrongdoing or substantial provocation. The application for compensation must be submitted within one year from the date of the crime; six months for property damage claims.
I complied with every single one of these requirements. I was shocked to learn that my local victim compensation board denied my claim as they concluded that there was not enough evidence to prove that a crime had been committed. Not only was this financially stressful to be denied reimbursement, but it was humiliating. Why did they not believe what I said? Why would I make this up? I applied through the appropriate procedure, documented my case, had witness accounts, but still was just sent a letter saying “denied.”
Medical expenses from a sexual assault are vast. In addition to two separate hospital bills which included going to the hospital the morning after the assault and then being directed by police to an additional hospital for a forensic exam, I paid my own fee to have my lab results tested by a private lab to determine if I had been drugged. After the trauma, I also needed to talk to a professional counselor and deal with symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder and anxiety. This has cost thousands of dollars.
I urge the Colorado Legislature to ensure that all medical expenses that a sexual assault survivor incurs as a result of going to the hospital for a forensic exam are covered. In addition, expenses for therapy, lab tests, and any additional necessary medical treatment should be included as well. This is essential and necessary to help victims of sexual assault deal with the trauma and end the suffering.
About the SAVE Bill: The Sexual Assault Victim Emergency Payment Plan, HB 1163, will assist victims of sexual assault with some medical costs that are incurred at the time of receiving a medical forensic examination. View the SAVE Bill Fact Sheet for more information about the bill and how you can get involved! For more information, contact Karen Moldovan, Program Manager, at email@example.com.