An investigation reveals that, for nearly two years, a city hospital illegally billed scores of sexual assault victims for rape kits that are used to gather evidence of the assaults. The state attorney general said Tuesday that he is expanding the inquiry to determine if other hospitals have broken the law, too. NY1's Michael Herzenberg filed the following report.
The Brooklyn Hospital Center broke the law repeatedly, illegally billing 85 of 86 suspected sexual assault victims for medical tests to determine if the assaults took place, according to State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.
"This is pure and simple discrimination based on the type of crime," Schneiderman said. "Victims of sexual assault — women or men — have to know it's safe to come forward. They will not be charged."
In addition to determining if a sexual assault occurred, the kits collect evidence like DNA for prosecutions.
"How traumatic is sexual assault, and it's re-traumatizing to have bills arrive in the mail asking you to pay for basically what is collection of evidence of a crime scene, and that crime scene is a woman or a man's body," NOW-NYC President Sonia Ossorio said.
State law requires a victim be given the choice of billing her or his insurance company or the state Office of Victim's Services.
But for nearly two years, the hospital did not do that, the investigation says, and even sent at least one victim's bill to collections. His investigation began in January after that victim contacted the Alliance Against Sexual Assault.
"She said she wanted to make sure that justice was served for herself, but she also wanted to make sure that this experience did not happen to anyone else," said Josie Torielli of the NYC Alliance Against Sexual Assault.
The Brooklyn Hospital Center, which is part of the Mount Sinai Health System, has agreed to repay, with interest, the victims who were charged, and change procedures so this will not happen again.
Schneiderman is also asking ten other hospitals for records to determine if they broke the law, too.
"We have anecdotal evidence," he said. "Now we are going public and sending notices to other hospitals, contacting hospital associations to make sure that the word gets out."
The attorney general is also asking for the public's help in furthering his investigation, asking victims who have been billed for these services to come forward by going to the website ag.ny.gov or calling 1-800-428-9071.