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Free rape kits eliminate medical bill, retraumatization

By Carleigh Turner, Web Designer

In the wake of various publicized claims of sexual assault, Illinois is taking a positive step toward empowering victims to report their rapes.

As of Jan. 1, 2016, victims of sexual assault in Illinois will not be billed for purchasing a rape kit, allowing those who were unable to afford the evidence for the crime committed against them a voice and a chance to get the justice they deserve.

According to an article by CBS News titled, "For some sex assault victims, ordeal carries price tag," a college student who was raped two nights in a row said her rape kit cost her around $2,000, none of which covered by her insurance.

This service is integral for potential legal action and will hopefully allow all those affected by sexual violence to be less likely to forego justice for the crimes committed against them.

Miami University has its own definition for forcible sex offenses:

"Any sexual act directed against another person, forcibly and/or against that person's will; or not forcible or against the person's will where the victim is incapable of giving consent. -Forcible Rape, Forcible Sodomy, Sexual Assault with an Object and Forcible Fondling."

A rape kit, or sexual assault forensic exam, consists of bags and paper sheets for evidence collection, a comb, documentation forms, envelopes, instructions, materials for blood samples and swabs. If one plans on getting this exam, it is imperative that they do everything in their power not to destroy any evidence.

Bathing, showering, using the restroom, changing clothes, combing hair and cleaning up the violated area could make evidence invalid.

During the exam, a doctor or nurse will check for any injuries or evidence of force. If there are visible injuries, you may give consent to have pictures taken. These images can be used in trial in case any injuries have healed. Fingernail scrapings, as well as foreign matter on the body and clothes the victim was wearing, are also important evidence if the victim decides to continue with an investigation.

The rape kit may also include an internal exam where samples would be taken from the vagina, mouth or rectum to test for any remnants of sperm or semen.

According to the Rape Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN), 68 percent of sexual assault cases go unreported, making it one of the most under reported crimes from 2008-12.

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Yet, these staggering statistics are not the whole story.

When someone experiences the trauma of a sexual assault, many chemical reactions occur in the brain, often making it difficult for a victim to remember what exactly happened to them.

In traumatic events, it has been said the most effective way to cope is to relive the trauma then communicate it to others. However, the adrenal glands saturate the brain with opioid-boosting hormones in order to protect it from physical and emotional trauma, greatly affecting the victims' memory, according to a Huffington Post article titled, "What Sexual Assault Does To The Brain."

Because of this, it is of utmost importance that any victim of sexual violence takes all precautions necessary immediately after the assault. Acquiring these records will give the victim's case its strongest chance at obtaining justice.

The recent influx of publicized sexual assault cases and the firestorm they have caused is enough to make anyone nervous about reporting their own experience. However, not reporting an assault only perpetuates the notion that it is possible to get away with rape.

It is going to require much more cooperation between medical facilities, media outlets, victims and law enforcement if this issue is ever going to be dealt with. If society began to treat rape like it did the victims of shootings, the statistics mentioned earlier might look much different.

Just because somebody is breathing, does not mean they are alive.