Palin on Rape Exams: Not the Taxpayers’ Problem
According to the Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman, Sarah Palin, during her tenure as mayor of Wasilla, approved a policy to deny free forensic examinations for sexual assault victims. Former Alaska Gov. Tony Knowles disagreed with the policy, which was unique to Wasilla, and went on to sign a bill that "[made] it illegal for any law enforcement agency to bill victims or victims' insurance companies for the costs of examinations that take place to collect evidence of a sexual assault or determine if a sexual assault did occur."
If true (some conservative bloggers claim that the Frontiersman is a Palin-smearing sham, which I doubt, as the paper's digital archives go back quite a ways), Palin will have a hard time explaining her decision, even to her growing legion of fans. While she might have been uninvolved with the creation of the policy, she promoted Charlie Fannon to chief of police, and then (assuming she had at least some reservations with his decision) neglected to exercise her oversight authority when Fannon decided to charge for rape kits. The average citizen would likely agree that law enforcement agencies should spare no expense in investigating sexual assault cases, including finding out, via rape kit, whether or not a sexual assault actually happened. Demanding that a person pay for her own kit–which can cost anywhere from $400 to over $1,000–significantly reduces the odds that she'll get tested, which in turn reduces the odds that police will find the culprit and that prosecutors will be able to make the charges stick.
But the worst part about the decision to charge alleged victims is that it wouldn't have saved the city that much money:
According to [Wasilla Police Chief Charlie] Fannon, the new law will cost the Wasilla Police Department approximately $5,000 to $14,000 a year to collect evidence for sexual assault cases.
Cutting taxpayers' burdens and reducing the size and scope of government is–in most cases–a good idea. But forcing sexual assault victims to directly pay for some types of law enforcement services, and not others (unless Wasilla also directly charges residents to investigate burglaries, or violent crimes) is abusive and, in this case, clearly misogynistic. Furthermore, where the hell on earth is a multi-million dollar hockey rink a more important expenditure than protecting citizens?