Legislators: Rape victims left paying thousands in hospital bills

Legislators: Rape victims left paying thousands in hospital bills

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - According to the Centers for Disease Control, one in every five women in the country is sexually assaulted at some point. That troubling number was the focus of the Senate Women & Children Committee on Monday at the State Capitol.

There were harsh words from Committee Chair Sen. Karen Carter Peterson to leaders with the Louisiana Commission on Law Enforcement; Executive Director Joey Watson and Supervisor of the Crime Victims Reparations program Bob Wortz.

"You are not the right person to lead this agency. I've just decided that," said Peterson. "You don't know what the budget is. You can't tell me how to stop people from violating federal law but yet you are over a law enforcement commission? You should not be making $87,000 a year and doing this job if you can't protect women."

Both men hesitated in answering specific questions about their agency and money allocation when it comes to sexual assault victims in Louisiana.

Legislators wanted to hear from rape victims themselves and the problems they encounter.

A student from New Orleans detailed her recent trip to Destin with co-workers and spoke at the public hearing without giving her name. "For two nights in a row, I was raped and sexually assaulted. These were people I thought I trusted, that I worked with, thought I knew."

Or a mother telling legislators via phone about her virgin daughter who was violently raped and said when she called the East Baton Rouge Sheriff's Office, she was put on hold and transferred to the Baton Rouge Police Department, who told her because she did not live within city limits, they could not help her. With no one but the Sexual Trauma Awareness and Response, or STAR, coming to her aid, the mother took her daughter to a hospital, but the bills afterwards just piled on.

"This totaled $4,257.70 after our daughter had been violated," said the mother. "If our homes are broken into, we're not charged for evidence collected."

The other victim also had medical bills.

"I found out it was pretty much at least around like $2,000 of which my insurance covered none of it at all," said the victim. I barely go see a doctor because the co-pay is $20, let alone paying $2,000 for something I never asked for."

"It pains me to know that yes there are people in Angola who have committed heinous acts that get free medical treatment," said Peterson.

In response to Monday's hearing, the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals said they will introduce legislation next April to try and stop billing sexual assault victims.

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