Madigan: sexual assault survivors won't pay for exams

Attorney General Lisa Madigan highlighted a new law that will prohibit health care
providers from directly billing sexual assault survivors for the collection of evidence related to
their attacks. House Bill 3848 was passed by the General Assembly unanimously and signed into law Monday, Aug. 24.

The new law, initiated by Madigan, ensures compliance with the federal Violence Against
Women Act of 2013 (VAWA) and removes a barrier that may prevent sexual assault survivors
from going to the hospital after the crime.

“I strongly encourage anyone who is sexually assaulted to go quickly to a hospital emergency
room for necessary care and to collect evidence of the crime,” Madigan said. “This law assures
that in the aftermath of a sexual assault, a survivor will not be sent a bill for those critical ER
services that play an important role in helping law enforcement make an arrest and work to
achieve justice for the survivor.”

Following a sexual assault, survivors are urged to go to hospital emergency rooms for a medical
forensic examination. This is an invasive examination that can last four to six hours and
involves the collection of physical evidence from the survivor’s body.

The physical evidence, collected through what is commonly referred to as a “sexual assault
evidence kit” or a “rape kit,” is then sent to a crime lab for testing. The test results are a critical
part of a criminal investigation and may later be used in a criminal prosecution.

HB 3848 expressly prohibits hospitals, emergency room physicians and other providers of sexual
assault services from charging the survivor or sending the survivor a bill. Hospitals must also
provide a written notice to survivors when they are discharged, explaining that they may not be
billed and providing information regarding who to contact if they receive a bill. Under the new
law, fines may be imposed on providers who bill or refer a survivor to a collection agency.

The law brings Illinois into compliance with the VAWA, which requires Illinois to certify that
sexual assault survivors are not being billed for medical forensic examinations as a condition of
receiving federal grant funds. Failure to comply with VAWA could result in the loss of these
federal funds which are used to provide services to victims, to train law enforcement officers
and prosecutors, and to train Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners (SANE), who work with victims
to gather evidence and help them begin the recovery process.

Madigan’s effort to draft and ensure passage of this new law builds on the work she has done for
over a decade to protect survivors of sexual violence, strengthen their rights and increase the
likelihood of successful prosecutions of sex crimes. Madigan has led the effort to significantly
increase the number of trained SANEs in hospitals throughout Illinois and has worked to pass
legislation to mandate the testing of sexual assault evidence kits, as well as to improve college
responses to campus sexual assaults. Madigan’s office provides funding for dozens of
organizations that offer critical services to survivors.

The new law goes into effect Jan. 1, 2016.