This page is no longer used please use www.akleg.gov
21st Legislature(1999-2000)

Committee Minutes


HOUSE STATE AFFAIRS
Mar 09, 2000
SSHB 270-SEXUAL ASSAULT & SEXUAL ABUSE

Number 0873

CHAIR JAMES announced the next order of business is SPONSOR
SUBSTITUTE FOR HOUSE BILL NO. 270, "An Act relating to sexual
assault and sexual abuse and to payment for certain examinations
in cases of alleged sexual assault or sexual abuse."

REPRESENTATIVE ERIC CROFT, Alaska State Legislature, said there
is a proposed CS that makes minor changes and it should be
adopted for discussion.

Number 0903

REPRESENTATIVE HUDSON made a motion to adopt the proposed CS for
SSHB 270, version 1-LS1108\M, Luckhaupt, 2/25/00, as a work
draft. There being no objection, proposed CSHB 270 was before
the committee.

REPRESENTATIVE CROFT explained that the issue that brought the
proposed CS to his attention is forensic examinations after a
sexual assault. He recognized that sexual assault examinations
are a delicate and troubling issue so it is all the more
important that the committee consider it. He observed that
someone who has been sexually assaulted has already been
victimized once and the exam that is necessary to gather evidence
about the crime is, in some ways, a second victimization. He
reiterated that the forensic exam is unpleasant and
uncomfortable.

REPRESENTATIVE CROFT said that he had heard of victims being
asked to pay for the forensic exam with his/her health insurance.
He noted that it is not standard police practice [to request
payment for forensic exams] and the committee will hear testimony
from police agencies to that effect. He explained that the
request to pay is only for isolated incidents but it is
particularly troubling because it seems to indicate third level
victimization. He commented that if someone's house was
burglarized and the police came to investigate the crime, dusted
for fingerprints, and took pictures, the homeowner's insurance
would not be billed. Therefore, he added, charging a sexual
assault victim for a forensic exam does not seem ethical.

REPRESENTATIVE CROFT mentioned that the proposed CS makes very
small changes, for example, it defines the crime more
specifically. He indicated that the reason there is both a
sponsor substitute and a proposed CS to HB 270 is because it was
difficult to write the legislation even though the sponsor knew
what he wanted to accomplish. He informed the committee that in
the first draft the sponsor had written "a law enforcement agency
shall pay for the [forensic exam]" and that applied to both
adult and juvenile sexual assault. He emphasized that the
writing became complicated because there are various ways
agencies pay for sexual exams and for children there is a
compassionate model, Alaska Cares, that uses Medicaid money.
Therefore, he acknowledged, when the sponsor tried the approach
that told who would pay, some of these paying programs were
precluded.

REPRESENTATIVE CROFT remarked that juvenile victims were
problematical because from whom did agencies ask permission to
conduct a forensic exam. He reminded the committee that parents
must give permission for a juvenile to be examined and parents
sometimes are the prime suspect in juvenile sexual assault. He
added that parents can stop a sexual exam. He observed that
writing HB 270 just became so difficult in the juvenile area that
the sponsor left out the juvenile section and concentrated on
what the sponsor knew he could write correctly.

REPRESENTATIVE CROFT said that he is a member of the Standing
Together Against Rape (STAR) Board and that is where he heard
about some of these issues. He noted that there are many small
things that people can do for victims of sexual assault, for
example, providing clothes for a victim to use after the forensic
exam. He explained that when a victim goes to the hospital the
victim's clothes are seized as evidence. He commented that
providing clothing for victims is a small step but necessary
because otherwise the victim has to go home in a taxi dressed in
a hospital gown or borrow someone else's clothes. He mentioned
that he had tried to bring before the committee concrete examples
of what victims go through and how they can be helped and the
reason there are no direct witnesses is because it is difficult
to talk about the issue. He indicated that the proposed CS asks
all police agencies to conform to no charge for forensic exams.

Number 1393

CHAIR JAMES remarked that after hearing what sexual assault
victims must go through she is not sure she would report a sexual
assault because it sounds so awful and then to have to pay for
[the forensic exam is the outside of enough]. She added that she
supports the proposed CS as a good move in the right direction.

REPRESENTATIVE GREEN asked if the proposed CS only applies to
adults.

REPRESENTATIVE CROFT answered in the affirmative. He noted that
sexual assault crimes are generally perpetrated against adults
while statutory rape is in the section regarding juveniles.
However, he added, a juvenile sexual assault can fall under the
proposed CS guidelines so the proposed CS had to read both adult
victims and crimes that are non-statutory rape. He reiterated
that it had become very complicated to write a bill that applied
to juveniles which did not result in more harm than good,
therefore, the proposed CS only applies to adult victims. He
said that one of the problems in writing a bill that applied to
juveniles was the funding mechanism that is used in juvenile
cases and the other problem was who gives permission for the
juvenile to undergo a forensic exam.

Number 1597

REPRESENTATIVE GREEN said he understands from Representative
Croft that no one will be falling through the cracks if the
proposed CS is adopted.

DEL SMITH, Deputy Commissioner, Department of Public Safety,
testified in support of HB 270. He noted that it has always been
the position and practice of law enforcement to pay for the
collection of forensic evidence in support of a criminal
prosecution. Under no circumstances, he explained, has he ever
thought it appropriate to bill a victim or even by extension bill
the victim's insurance company. He commented that he does not
think that a victim ought to even see a bill related to sexual
assault whether it is on their insurance form or not. He
emphasized that a police agency investigating a crime should pay
because that is the cost of doing business in the collection of
evidence no matter what the crime; he does not know of any police
agency that has requested payment. The Department of Public
Safety paid $48,659 in fiscal year (FY) 1999 for sexual assault
exams in the state, and so far in FY 2000 the department has paid
$22,880. He indicated that paying for exams had never been an
issue in the department or in the Anchorage Police Department.
He reiterated Representative Croft's comment that Alaska Cares
handles juvenile sexual assault exams, and the department is
pleased with the proposed CS because it leaves payment of
juvenile exams with Alaska Cares.

Number 1750

CHAIR JAMES asked if she understood correctly that Mr. Smith is
saying that the department has never billed a victim for exams.

MR. SMITH replied that the department might have been billed, but
he has not found any police agency that has ever billed a victim.

CHAIR JAMES said she understood then that some other entity
billed victims and that the department did not think HB 270 was
necessary for the department.

MR. SMITH answered that he did not think HB 270 was necessary for
the Department of Public Safety under the current administration,
but he would feel more comfortable if there were a law that would
make sure sexual exam billings were discontinued.

Number 1789

CHAIR JAMES asked Mr. Smith if he believes that requiring payment
for the exams under the proposed CS will be not create a fiscal
note since the Department of Public Safety has been paying for
the exams already.

Number 1793

MR. SMITH replied that the proposed CS will not create a fiscal
note and he thinks the proposed CS is a good bill.

REPRESENTATIVE GREEN said he had heard Mr. Smith agree with the
sponsor who had presented a very convincing discussion about why
the proposed CS only deals with adults and that children would
not fall through the cracks. He asked what if "Maud" claims to
have been attacked, and the evidence does not trigger a police
agency authorized forensic exam. Nevertheless, "Maud" is still
convinced and she wants to prove sexual assault so she goes ahead
and has forensic evidence taken. In that case, he asked, would
the police agency still pay for the exam or would the individual
pay. Further, he added, the exam showed that "Maud" was in fact
sexually assaulted.

MR. SMITH answered that the agency should pay in all situations
where police are involved in the investigation. He noted that if
someone had a sexual assault examination done and then contacted
the police agency, it would be problematic in deciding who pays.

Number 1873

REPRESENTATIVE GREEN said that his concern is not that a person
would come in after getting a sexual exam but that a person comes
to the police first and claims to have been violated. He asked
if the person is automatically examined then or is a decision
made whether an examination is warranted.

MR. SMITH expected that if a person reports that he/she has been
sexually assaulted, unless there is some reason to believe that
he/she is making up a claim, the agency would agree to check to
see if in fact a sexual assault occurred since that is the point
of the examination. He believes that, as a police administrator,
an examination needs to be done if there is an allegation.

REPRESENTATIVE GREEN said that it sounds like the department is
effectively paying for exams now, as Chair James had observed.
Therefore, the proposed CS re-establishes that the department
will do this.

Number 1954

MR. SMITH replied that it is basically a policy decision and it
is current departmental practice.

REPRESENTATIVE HUDSON remarked that the proposed CS is a
compassionate statement, the cost is nothing, and it speaks well
to any woman who might be a victim. He said the proposed CS is
good legislation.

REPRESENTATIVE OGAN inquired as to how many sexual assaults
happen in the state in a year and how does Alaska rank per
capita.

MR. SMITH answered that he believed that Anchorage received 300
reports a year and he guesses that the number statewide might be
600.

Number 2058

LAUREE HUGONIN, Director, Alaska Network on Domestic Violence and
Sexual Assault (ANDVSA), said that not everyone knows what is
involved in a rape exam; it is not to be taken lightly. If a
person goes into the hospital for a rape exam right after the
event has happened, he/she still has the clothes on in which the
rape took place. She noted that the clothes will be taken from
the person and kept for evidence. She commented that the person
stands in the middle of the examining room on a white piece of
paper and the first thing he/she does is take off his/her
clothes. The clothes are laid on the paper, and the person is
brushed down because the person is the crime scene. The paper is
folded up, set aside, and becomes the beginning of a stack of
papers for evidence. Next someone takes a fingernail file and
goes under each of the person's fingernails to find skin or hair
identifying the perpetrator. Then the person's hair is combed to
look for evidence and then the person is examined for bruises,
scratch marks or cuts. A small comb is taken out of an envelope,
and the nurse combs the person's pubic hair, again, looking for
evidence. She observed that the person's body orifice is
examined for semen, and swabs are taken to collect evidence. She
stated that the person has to pluck his/her own pubic hairs in
order to identify that person's deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) to
see what is different from the perpetrator's DNA. A regular
gynecological exam is also performed to ascertain if there are
tears or injuries inside of the person.

MS. HUGONIN said that the sexual exam can take anywhere from 40
minutes to three hours depending upon the person's ability to be
able to endure someone's touch and examination after this
terrible experience. Sometimes, she added, a person is not
admitted right away to the examining room so the person could be
in the waiting room for three hours. Hopefully a person has the
company of a sexual assault intervention program advocate to wait
with, but that is not always the case. The examination process
can last from one hour to eight hours. It is hoped that when the
person is able to leave [the hospital], the person is able to
walk out and go home.

MS. HUGONIN mentioned that in the best of circumstances the
perpetrator is caught, evidence has been collected and used in
the prosecution to a good end, and the perpetrator is jailed.
She indicated that as the victim recovers from this heinous
crime, at every point where the victim has to relive it, the
victim does relive it because it is not something that can be
forgotten. She emphasized that it is incomprehensible that the
victim should have to relive the crime upon receiving a bill for
the assault exam from his/her insurance company. Just as Mr.
Smith had testified, billings have not come from police agencies
but have come from hospitals. She hopes everything can be done
to expedite the proposed CS because people must understand that
it is not acceptable for the system to re-victimize someone who
has gone through such a horrible experience.

MS. HUGONIN reminded the committee that last year there were 325
reported sexual assaults in Anchorage and 600 statewide. She
observed that in FY 99 her program saw 1000 victims of sexual
assault. She stated that not everybody reports and not everybody
gets exams done. Per capita, she added, Alaska ranks in the top
five for sexual assaults which is 2.2 times over the national
average in the FBI Uniform Crime Report.

Number 2408

TRISHA GENTLE, Executive Director, Council on Domestic Violence &
Sexual Assault, testified in support of HB 270. She said that
the council believes that the proposed CS needs to be on the
record so that when those rare situations do arise, hospitals and
police officers have clear direction not to charge sexual assault
victims for the exam. She noted that in those cases when a
victim wants an exam but the police do not think it is justified,
the victim can get a medical exam. She explained that a forensic
exam is a very specific process; in most parts of the state there
are sexual assault response teams available to cooperate with
police. She explained that sexual assault response teams are
made up of trained nurses, examiners, and advocates who are able
to meet with a victim. She acknowledged that there are times
when a victim is not sure he/she wants to go through with a
forensic exam, but he/she has health concerns so instead of going
through a forensic exam he/she chooses to go to a doctor for a
medical exam.

REPRESENTATIVE OGAN said he understood that a medical exam choice
on the part of a victim is a personal choice and would not be
affected by the proposed CS.

Number 2568

MS. GENTLE agreed with Representative Ogan's statement and added
that the victim's exam would not be identified as a sexual
assault exam.

REPRESENTATIVE OGAN commented he is puzzled as to why hospitals
are sending bills to victims when the exam has obviously been
ordered by a local police department.

Number 2591

MS. GENTLE answered that there have been changes in hospital
protocol, and hospitals have chosen to separate some of the costs
of sexual assault exams. Hospitals are adding sexually
transmitted disease (STD) and blood tests to the cost of sexual
assault exams, and the hospital makes a choice to bill the victim
for those charges. Police departments are willing to pay for
sexual assault exams, but it is an internal decision on the part
of the hospital as to who pays the hospital bill. She indicated
that there is an issue of insensitivity.

REPRESENTATIVE OGAN asked if Ms. Gentle planned to notify the
public, hospitals, and organizations that HB 270 has passed and
become law.

MS. GENTLE replied that her organization has many ways to
implement public notice and does have a committee that has been
working on sexual assault protocols.

Number 2833

REPRESENTATIVE GREEN inquired as to how many women refuse to go
through the lengthy forensic process of proving sexual assault.

MS. GENTLE answered that nationally about one in ten women choose
to report a rape, and surveys of general population reveal that
one in four women has been sexually abused in her lifetime. She
emphasized how important the advocate's role is in helping women
recover, and if a victim will call an advocate agency the victim
will get support. She remarked that advocate agencies help a
victim see what options are available and what the real picture
is. She stated that the proposed CS helps make sexual assault as
bearable as possible. She reiterated that a low percentage of
women report a sexual assault, even fewer go to trial, and even
fewer perpetrators are convicted.

REPRESENTATIVE OGAN asked if it were true that most sexual
assault victims knew the perpetrator.

Number 2960

MS. GENTLE replied in the affirmative but wanted to define what
"known" means. There is a new term called "acquaintance rape,"
and that could mean a best friend's husband or real relationships
where the man and woman know each other to an apartment building
acquaintance. She noted that a distinct grooming behavior
pattern is enacted to get into someone's confidence, although she
acknowledged that intimate partner violence is one of the biggest
crimes against women.

TAPE 00-19, SIDE B
Number 2967

REPRESENTATIVE HUDSON asked if the proposed CS also applies to a
male victim.

MS. GENTLE replied absolutely.

CHAIR JAMES noted that she had received information from an e-
mail that listed ten things to protect against sexual assault.
One of the protections was to be aware of what is happening
around one, for example, not walking alone in a parking lot.
Another protection is to keep the car and house locked, but the
best protection was to be aware.

MS. GENTLE mentioned that women's shelters are trying to help
people understand the importance of awareness. She indicated
that perpetrators are looking for vulnerable people.

Number 2687

REPRESENTATIVE OGAN made a motion to move the proposed CS for HB
270, version 1-LS1108\M, Luckhaupt, 2/25/00, from committee with
individual recommendations, the attached zero fiscal note, and
ask for unanimous consent. There being no objection, CSSSHB
270(STA) moved from the House State Affairs Standing Committee.