American women who have been raped or sexually assaulted pay almost $1,000 (£780) in medical bills after reporting the crime to authorities, a new study has found.
Insurance providers paid over $9m (£7m) for sexual assault related medical services in 2013. The average amount spent on treatment for each victim was $6,735 (£5,235).
Of this figure, survivors paid an average of $950 (£741) or 14 per cent towards the cost of that treatment, while insurance providers paid the remaining $5,789 (£4,517), researchers found.
The findings were published in the American Journal of Public Health.
When Congress authorised the Violence Against Women Act in 2005, provisions were added to ensure that survivors of assault could not be charged for medical examinations, sometimes called rape kits, whether or not the assault is reported to the police.
However, survivors often need treatment for related medical issues, which are not covered by the legislation.
“With other violent crimes, victims are not responsible for paying for the damage that results from the crime,” said lead author Ashley Tennessee, of the Medical University of South Carolina. “Many people know sexual assault is an issue, but they’re often unaware that victims have to pay for associated medical charges.”
She added: “This financial burden adds to the emotional burden of sexual assault. This is an area that society has missed, and we have a moral right to help victims.”
Ms Tennessee and colleagues looked at hospital billing records for privately insured women in the US who were victims of rape in 2013. T
Overall, about 88 percent of the 1,355 victims incurred charges on the day they visited the hospital, and 27 per cent paid more than 25 per cent of those costs. About seven per cent paid more than 50 percent of the cost. After visiting the hospital, about 63 per cent of the patients incurred more charges up to a month after the incident, including prescriptions, further medical care and mental health services.
Last year, one American woman was forced to crowdfund medical fees incurred after she was raped.
"I was attacked over a year ago and today I got a hospital bill for my emergency room visit," she wrote on her GoFundMe page. "I'm not financially able to afford the bill. I would really appreciate any help I could get."