With reported rape across the city up about 25 percent for the year, Assemblywoman Aravella Simotas (D-Astoria, Long Island City) this week issued a strong call on Gov. Andrew Cuomo to sign her Sexual Assault Survivors Bill of Rights, which passed both the assembly and state senate last June.

    Simotas’ ire was stoked after learning that acting State Attorney General Barbara Underwood found that seven hospitals illegally charged rape survivors up to $3,000 for their kits. State law prohibits hospitals or other medical providers from billing sexual assault victims for the cost of a forensic rape examination unless those individuals choose to have the bill sent to their insurance.

    The state has since settled the incidents with the hospitals and repaid the assault victims, but Simotas is vexed.

    Assembly Member Aravella Simotas

    “This languishing legislation, that I sponsored in the Assembly, would give sexual assault survivors a copy of a Bill of Rights and it would clearly tell then that the forensic examination is free, as well as HIV post-exposure therapies and emergency contraception,” Simotas said.

    “One of the most disturbing aspects of this is that a new law might have prevented this travesty but it has been waiting for the governor’s signature for six months, after passing the Assembly and the Senate in June 2018. Until the governor signs it, the law will not take effect,” she added.

    The hospitals that illegally charged the rape survivors for services rendered were  Brookdale University Hospital Medical Center, Columbia University, Montefiore Nyack Hospital, New York Presbyterian/Brooklyn Methodist Hospital, New York-Presbyterian/Columbia University Irving Medical Center, Richmond University Medical Center, and St. Barnabas Hospital.

    As part of the settlement, these hospitals also agreed to implement written policies to ensure that sexual assault survivors do not receive bills for their rape examinations in the future.

    Gov. Andrew Cuomo

    Cuomo spokesperson Hazel Crampton-Hays responded that the governor was proud to champion groundbreaking reforms last year, including legislation to increase sexual assault kit storage from 30 days to 20 years.

    “This specific bill, along with the hundreds of bills passed by the legislature last session is currently under review by counsel’s office, but there should be no doubt that protecting survivors of sexual violence is a top priority for this administration,” Crampton-Hays said.

    The outrage over the legislation comes as there has been 1,633 reported rape incidents citywide thus far in 2018 as compared to 1,311 at this time last year – a 24.6 percent increase, according to official New York City Police Department statistics.

    In Queens, reported rape is up nearly 22 percent for the year, according to NYPD statistics.

     

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