Veteran’s Day Special: We love our soldiers so much, they too have to pay for their own rape kits

Sorry to conflate two issues, because in the same breath that I was going to post something for Veteran’s Day to remind us of the soldiers in Iraq and that we must hold a new administration accountable to get them the fuck out, this article popped up on my screen, and, well, it is really not cool.
We were outraged to find out Palin allowed rape victims to be charged for their own rape kits, but we didn’t know she learned how to do it from the Pentagon. According to Penny Coleman at Alternet, TRICARE, the Pentagon’s healthcare plan doesn’t cover rape kits either.

Currently, forensic examinations are not covered for beneficiaries in civilian health care facilities through TRICARE medical plans because TRICARE “may cost share only medically or psychologically necessary services or supplies. Forensic examinations are not conducted for medical treatment purposes, but for the preservation of evidence in any future criminal investigation and/or prosecution.”
The decision to treat rape kits as purely evidentiary, ignoring the very real medical and psychological benefits to the victim, is reprehensibly primitive thinking. Making sure that those legislative changes happen as planned would be a long overdue step out of the primal ooze that has slimed our military in the eyes of our citizens and the world.

Disgusting.

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21 Comments

  1. eruvande
    Posted November 11, 2008 at 4:30 pm | Permalink

    WOW.
    I am unclear…are rape kits covered on-base, or is it only off-base kits that are not covered?
    How odd that with the American fetishizing of the military, we still pay them peanuts and don’t take care of them in the battlefield or out of it. Disgusting.

  2. Danyell
    Posted November 11, 2008 at 4:50 pm | Permalink

    I’m really not surprised. If the military paid for rape kits then they’re have to acknowledge and legitimize the claims of rape victims. :(

  3. paperispatient
    Posted November 11, 2008 at 5:00 pm | Permalink

    From what I read on Alternet, I believe it’s off-base kits that are not covered, but I’m not completely certain.

  4. BooRadley
    Posted November 11, 2008 at 5:51 pm | Permalink

    I thought the police department should be paying for the kits, not health plans, military or otherwise.

  5. somethingrational
    Posted November 11, 2008 at 5:56 pm | Permalink

    well this is outrageous…
    im assuming this includes “dependents” as well… which means wives and daughters arent covered either.
    being the wife of an airman im grateful for the medical coverage we have. he is covered for everything on base. however, i am not allowed to be treated on base because we have “standard” coverage and cant afford to pay out the ass for the gold plated coverage plan.
    the fact that i am not covered for a rape kit is highly disturbing to me and only adds to the fact that PAPs arent covered either. while there is some coverage for the PAP it is considered part of your yearly deductible if you havent paid that all off. which is awesome bc my yearly falls in the beginning of the year.
    just more proof of how much the military loves women!
    i guess i shouldnt be complaining too much though. considering theres an obscene amount of people who have no medical coverage and cant afford medical care because of it.

  6. Livia
    Posted November 11, 2008 at 6:01 pm | Permalink

    When I was assaulted in South Korea, I did not have to pay for my rape kit, but then again the examination was done in the military treatment (medical) facility. Although I would like to see a system in place to ensure that military personnel and dependents have no problems obtaining sexual assault forensic examinations, I don’t necessarily think TRICARE, as essentially a medical insurance provider, is the right vehicle. Rape kits should be provided at no cost to the victim via the appropriate investigating organization. In the interim I support TRICARE setting aside funds to cover this, but it should be covered by a non-medical pot of money because it is, in essence, a non-medical procedure. The decision makers in Wasilla apparently believed the victim’s insurance should cover sexual assault forensic examinations. I believe this sets a bad precedent, as a victim’s ability to seek redress under the law should not be connected to insurance status. Instead, as rape is a community problem, the community should set aside funds to cover the investigation. In short, I see nothing wrong with the quote, although I would like to see a system in place to ensure military personnel and dependents have access to rape kits as needed. I am not entirely convinced this is an issue, as the linked article and the post did not indicate how many, if any, military personnel or dependents end up paying for their own rape kits.

  7. Brandi
    Posted November 11, 2008 at 6:03 pm | Permalink

    I agree with BooRadley. It is the responsibility of law enforcement agencies and not medical insurance to cover the cost of rape kits. They’re for forensic evidence, not medical purposes.

  8. SarahMC
    Posted November 11, 2008 at 6:20 pm | Permalink

    My first reaction to this piece was outrage, but then I thought about it and realized – rape kits are not healthcare; they are methods of evidence collection. Therefore, there is no reason for health insurance companies to cover the cost. The departments conducting criminal investigations should be paying for the kits.

  9. aabbey
    Posted November 11, 2008 at 6:34 pm | Permalink

    Like others have said, two months ago we were disgusted that rape kits were being treated as chargeable medical expenses, not evidence in a crime. That paying for a rape kit, with insurance, or without it, would be as unreasonable as paying to have your house dusted for fingerprints and fibers after a crime.
    And now we want Tricare to cover it? That doesn’t make any sense.
    Off-post, civilian law enforcement can cover it, as they have dual jurisdiction with the military in most crimes, and if they refuse, CID can negotiate with them and pick up the tab themselves, as they do for cases on post. That negotiation may be difficult, but there it is. I have never heard of anyone in the military paying for a rape kit. Articles like this, on Veteran’s Day, only serve to widen the gap between feminists and the military. Nobody can say a word about happy female soldiers who like their jobs, but will pick on the slimmest evidence to demonize the military. The sad thing is that this discredits feminists in any real efforts they may make to help solve the real problems that do exist in the military.

  10. Livia
    Posted November 11, 2008 at 6:52 pm | Permalink

    I liked this comment because I think there is a certain amount of hand-wringing and feeling sorry for women in the military. Are some female soldiers exposed to horrific misogyny? Yes, unfortunately. Do some women in the military have negative experiences with sexual assault and harassment that gets swept under the rug? Again, unfortunately, yes. However, there are a number of women who are happy and proud to serve, myself being one of them. In addition, the military doesn’t always do wrong by women. After I was attacked in Korea, the military paid for me to go home and visit my family. They also approved and paid for my relocation back to the United States so that I could be closer to my family. I doubt that many civilian overseas jobs would do the same thing, especially at no cost to the employee. Not to diminish the stories of women who have had negative experiences in the military, but not all women in the military are victims at the mercy of misogynist male overlords. Many of us feel empowered and proud of our service.

  11. aabbey
    Posted November 11, 2008 at 7:11 pm | Permalink

    Thanks! Glad to hear I’m not the only one. I know too many women who have been sexually assaulted, but the problem now is rarely with the investigation or the higher chain of command…it’s the reprisals, social and otherwise, in the unit. And I don’t know how to fight that, because the upper levels are sure as hell trying.
    I’m going to be commissioned in May..and I can say that the time (God, almost 4 years!) that I’ve spent living in a military environment has been simultaneously the most wrenching, empowering, frustrating, and meaningful time in my life. I’ve suffered through nasty gender harassment, and I’ve had great male friends. I’ve had dirtbag officers lie to me and my company about said gender harassment investigations, and I’ve known others who went to the mat for me in a huge way.
    I am proud of what I will do, and I don’t think that automatically makes me the tool of an evil, unjust organization that shouldn’t exist. I believe that if more large feminists groups positioned themselves as resources for commanders, and not adversaries, more progress could be made. Not counting on that. :-)

  12. CarlyAEB
    Posted November 11, 2008 at 8:23 pm | Permalink

    From past discussions, I, too, was under the impression that the local law enforcement agencies were responsible for the charges incurred with rape kits. Usually when a rape or assault occurs on government property, the military police are considered the law enforcement agency, and rape kits would be taken at a military treatment facility and thus covered by Tricare. Off-post, the local police are the law enforcement agency, and any fees would be the responsibility of the city. I agree with others in that a victim’s health insurance should not be billed for this type of thing; what happens to those who don’t have insurance?
    It may not always be obvious to those outside of the military community, but there is progress being made. I am not sure about other branches, but the Navy has SAVI, which is a victim advocacy program. SAVI encourages victims to report rapes and sexual assults, and it also ensures they receive prompt medical care, counseling if they want it, and “assistance regarding safety and assignment.” The psychological affects on the victim are incredibly important, which is one of the reasons SAVI exists. It’s available to all military members, their spouses, children, and even intimate significant others. I can’t speak for all regions, but this is something that is taken very seriously where I live and I have seen it work well. I work as a volunteer for a different program and had to undergo a bit of training regarding SAVI, and I was quite impressed. Many of the topics covered were things that are discussed on Feministing every day, and I was thrilled to see them covered in a military training program. Things have come a *long* way in the past few years, but there is still a lot more work to be done.
    Another poster mentioned her PAPs not being covered under Tricare Standard. When military family members enroll in Tricare, they’re offered “Standard” or “Prime”. Prime has no deductibles or fees, and Prime enrollees are usually seen at military hospitals. Paps and birth control (yay!) are both completely covered under Prime. I’m a Prime enrollee and I’ve had nothing but great experiences with my doctors at my current military treatment facility, and I have never been made to feel like my health or concerns did not matter. This is obviously not the case at all locales, though, and I hope that this is also something that will change. I would encourage women who feel like they are not receiving adequate care to file a complaint with Tricare and to request a different doctor.

  13. Livia
    Posted November 11, 2008 at 9:00 pm | Permalink

    Congratulations on your Commissioning! You are currently enlisted? I am an officer, never been on Active Duty while enlisted (although there was some time in the Guard), and sometimes I wonder if things are somehow worse for enlisted women. I sometimes read atrocious stories, such as what happened with Maria Lauterbach, and I wonder if enlisted women are more exposed to harassment. I also wonder if, since I have served primarily in a medical community, I have been protected from the probably more sexist combat arms environment. My experience in the Army, while certainly not always sunshine and roses, has been primarily good. I feel as though I have gained a lot of confidence in myself, and had a lot of opportunities and positive experiences as a result of my time in the military. Growing up I never would have thought I would have travelled to all the places I’ve travelled, or jumped out of an airplane, or pursued a Ph.D., but I’ve been able to do all those things as a result of being in the military. I sometimes wonder if my experience is abnormal, because I know some women (and men) have a hard time because of the military, but I have felt rather fortunate.
    Again, congratulations and thank you for your service.

  14. aleks
    Posted November 11, 2008 at 9:46 pm | Permalink

    So are rape kits not paid for by the military, which would be hideous, or just not by the military’s healthcare system? Having rape kits paid for by medical insurance rather than investigative offices is, in case Feministing has forgotten, what those evil psychos were trying to do in Wasilla.

  15. chewey
    Posted November 11, 2008 at 11:47 pm | Permalink

    This is off the topic of rape kits, but since it is Veteran’s Day, I just want to give a friendly reminder that Soldier does not equal service member. Soldiers are in the Army and make up about 34% of the armed forces, so when we talk about what the “soldiers” are going through, we exclude the other 66% of service members, which includes Marines, Seamen, Airmen, etc.
    It would be like calling the entire GLBTQ community gay, when that really only covers part of the members.

  16. Posted November 12, 2008 at 9:04 am | Permalink

    I’m at USMA, not prior service, never enlisted. I don’t like to advertise that, so I get cryptic. :-) I wonder about enlisted women, too. It must suck. I was in Korea for four weeks this summer at Suwon with an ADA unit (my future branch), and so many of the junior enlisted women were falling into the old slutty or lazy traps (all the typical sexism/lack of respect issues are rampant at USMA, more so that the Regular Army, I’ve heard), unfairly, but stupidly, too. The women NCOs were absolutely kickass and respected, though you wonder how they were treated years ago even with great performance. I did airborne before that, and sergeant airborne had all of the females in a kind of doublebind where he kind of inappropriately flirted with us and ran his mouth about girls, but treated us slightly better than the guys–definitely better than the girls in the other platoon some of whom were targeted to be dropped from the course, so what were we gonna say? We all graduated, even a few who shouldn’t have. (My roommate, an E-4 at the Kennedy school, fell out of every run.)
    ADA is combat arms-lite, so I can’t really speak to combat arms…but I think varies based on the professionalism of the leadership. It can be better in a more focused, aggressive unit than a more laid-back support/service support unit, or masculinity issues can run crazy.

  17. Discontented_Clownfish
    Posted November 12, 2008 at 11:58 am | Permalink

    Um, health insurance isn’t supposed to cover rape kits – that’s the responsibility of law enforcement. Haven’t we had this discussion a bunch of times on here re: Palin? She wanted to charge victims’ health insurance for rape kits so the police wouldn’t have to pay and many people (rightly) were outraged. As a Tricare enrollee, I would NOT want Tricare to pay for a rape kit if I needed one since that would mean it would be in my medical file forever. Since I have Prime, I am unclear on how things work with Tricare Standard, but lots of health insurance companies raise rates/copays when insurance is used.
    So, yeah, on base I guess it all gets paid for by the government, whether through the military police or Tricare, but still – this seems to just be attacking the military for no reason. Like other posters have said, the military is far from perfect, but quit acting like the military is inherently horrible for all women! And maybe for VETERANS DAY, you could post something that honors the sacrifices service members and their families make, or at least call attention to an actual issue.
    Also, please stop calling all service members “soldiers.”

  18. ArmyVetJen
    Posted November 12, 2008 at 3:12 pm | Permalink

    I think the two of you both hit the nail on the head. Very often Oficiers have a different experience than enlisted. In fact in the examples that Livia gave about her treatment in Korea I was surprised because most women I know who were assualted/raped were not given such treatment (being sent home to be with family… etc). I encourage you to seek out the stories of other women so the breadth of the problem is fully available to you.
    I think when we are activily involved in the military we go into a state of mind that says we can complain about it, but no one else can. (Like being from Buffalo, god that place sucks, but don’t YOU say anything bad about it..!) It seems dishonest to say bringing up this topic hurts the organizing of feminists both inside and outside the military to end this problem. Silence of women in the military hurts the organizing.
    Patty McCann, quoted in the Alternet peice, read the information pertaining to the Kits while at Winter Soldier (www.ivaw.org/wintersoldier).
    Within the week after reading that information straight from teh site it was taken down.
    You can watch the video of it at http://ivaw.org/wintersoldier/testimony/Divide+To+Conquer%3A+Gender+and+Sexuality+in+the+Military
    Also, TRICARE SHOULD cover these kits to ensure all service members have these kits covered. In ths case that local law enforcement does not or in the case that a service memebr is out of the country there should be stop gaps in place.
    As a side note in the National Guard you don’t get healthcare at all.

  19. Livia
    Posted November 12, 2008 at 9:25 pm | Permalink

    Hi,
    I’m afraid I could not get the link to work, even after cutting and pasting to the address bar.
    As I said, I think there should be a pot of money in place to ensure the kits are paid for off post, if they are not provided by the treating hospital. However, because it is fundamentally for the purpose of forensic evidence collection, it should not be provided by the victim’s insurance. I do not want rape kits to ever be notionally linked to health insurance. Rape kits should be a community responsibility, not the responsibility of the victim in any way, shape, or form. I DO NOT want more and more communities like Wasilla, where politicians think it’s ok to say “oh, we’ll just let the victim’s insurance pay for evidence collection.” Should TRICARE cover prophylactic emergency contraception and STD medications, necessary medical care, counseling, and whatever else the victim might need? Hell yeah it should (although I think that communities should also have funds set up to cover these expenses for victims of violent crimes, and many already do). Forensic evidence collection, however, should be paid for with the same pot of money that pays for murder investigations, robberies, assaults, etc.

  20. utjah
    Posted November 24, 2008 at 10:19 am | Permalink

    As a college student and a survivor, I feel that this military treatment of rape is absolutely disgusting. The military should not require rape survivors to pay for a rape kit: it not only belittles the effects of rape on an individual, it also shifts the responsibility to where it is wrongfully placed, on the survivor rather than on the rapist.
    However, the military isn’t the only place that this is seen. Many survivors everyday are forced to pay for their own rape kits. Why should a survivor have to pay for something that was completely out of their control and in no way their fault? They shouldn’t. The responsibility of paying for these tests are not the responsibility of the survivor, no matter the case. Not only is there a huge responsibility shift by making the survivors pay for their own rape kit, there are some cases where the survivor cannot afford to have a rape kit, then what? Rape kits are not purely evidentiary, they can have very real and very big medical and psychological benefits to the survivor, as the author of this blog so elegantly puts. If a survivor cannot afford one, and therefore doesn’t get one, he/she cannot receive any benefits and still must suffer the tragic aftermath of rape.
    I commend the author who started this blog. It is truly disgusting to see one of our biggest and strongest governmental agencies treating rape kits as purely evidentiary, and denying any medial or psychological benefit to them. Not only are they denying this, they are in turn denying the very real impact that rape has on so many men and women in our society and they are placing the blame on the rape survivors. Thank you, Samhita, for bringing attention to this issue!

  21. utjah
    Posted November 24, 2008 at 10:22 am | Permalink

    As a college student and a survivor, I feel that this military treatment of rape is absolutely disgusting. The military should not require rape survivors to pay for a rape kit: it not only belittles the effects of rape on an individual, it also shifts the responsibility to where it is wrongfully placed, on the survivor rather than on the rapist.
    However, the military isn’t the only place that this is seen. Many survivors everyday are forced to pay for their own rape kits. Why should a survivor have to pay for something that was completely out of their control and in no way their fault? They shouldn’t. The responsibility of paying for these tests are not the responsibility of the survivor, no matter the case. Not only is there a huge responsibility shift by making the survivors pay for their own rape kit, there are some cases where the survivor cannot afford to have a rape kit, then what? Rape kits are not purely evidentiary, they can have very real and very big medical and psychological benefits to the survivor, as the author of this blog so elegantly puts. If a survivor cannot afford one, and therefore doesn’t get one, he/she cannot receive any benefits and still must suffer the tragic aftermath of rape.
    I commend the author who started this blog. It is truly disgusting to see one of our biggest and strongest governmental agencies treating rape kits as purely evidentiary, and denying any medial or psychological benefit to them. Not only are they denying this, they are in turn denying the very real impact that rape has on so many men and women in our society and they are placing the blame on the rape survivors. Thank you, Samhita, for bringing attention to this issue!

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