DENVER - Chances are you know someone who's been the victim of a sex crime. The Colorado Coalition Against Sexual Assault estimates that one in two Colorado women are victims.
Colorado lawmakers are proposing a bill that would pay the medical bills of some rape victims. A medical check-up after an assault can be more than $1,000.
Three Democrats, two from the House and one from the Senate, suggest taxpayers provide $167,000 annually for the cause.
"This bill is imperative to sexual assault victims and survivors in Colorado," said Karen Moldovan, Program Manager for the Colorado Coalition Against Sexual Assault. "It's really integral that we have an infrastructure in place. That victims and survivors can come forward [and] get medical care and also have evidence collected that is extremely time sensitive."
In Colorado, if victims of sex assault come forward, their rape kit is covered even if they choose not to pursue legal action. But before the rape kit can be done, a nurse or a doctor checks the patient, and that bill could average $950. That cost is covered if the victim pursues criminal charges, but if not, the victim is responsible for the bill.
"We do hear from a lot of survivors who did go to the hospital, who did get medical care and then are left with these bills that can be absolutely devastating," Moldovan said. "We've talked to survivors who've had their credit destroyed as a result of these bills. I just really feel like there should be some assistance when a victim of this horrific crime comes forward and needs help."
House Bill 13-1163 would help those victims pay for the cost of the doctor visit if a rape kit is performed while they're deciding whether to pursue legal action.
Megan Chuhran was raped when she was in college. She was 19 years old.
"It took me about five days to call what had happened to me rape," she said. "I kept thinking I just had sex with him, that it was just drunk sex."
Chuhran said it couldn't have been the drinking. She may have been slipped a date-rape drug. Since she didn't go to an ER or a doctor right away, she will never know.
"I just kept thinking I can't afford to go," Chuhran said. "I had no health insurance. If I went, what would I say? I would have these bills that I couldn't pay. The thought of having to work more shifts didn't seem possible."
When she eventually went for a check-up, the doctor at Chuhran's school told her, "at least it wasn't a violent rape."
Chuhran's assault didn't happen in Colorado. The state where she went to school does not have legislation that pays medical costs for rape victims.
Chuhran, who has worked as a rape victim advocate and currently works for the Wings Foundation, says she's confident that this Colorado legislation, if passed, will help rape victims come forward.
"If the SAVE bill existed, I could've gone. I could've been seen. I could've been on a different road faster," she said.
SAVE stands for Sexual Assault Victim Emergency.
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