Newspaper finds Grady Memorial billed rape victims for exams: 8 things to know

An investigation by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution found Atlanta-based Grady Memorial Hospital improperly charged 732 rape victims for forensic exams, a violation of state law.

Here are eight things to know about the investigation.

1. Willoughby Mariano, an Atlanta Journal-Constitution reporter, began investigating the hospital this spring after learning it had kept DNA and evidence for 1,500 potential rape victims, failing to report possible sexual assaults to the police. The hospital also withheld the rape kits when victims asked the kits be released to law enforcement, according to the report. However, Grady Memorial announced in July it would release 1,000 rape kits to law enforcement.

2. The investigation uncovered that Grady Memorial, which is the county's only rape crisis center, improperly billed 732 patients for sexual assault forensic medical exams, which can last up to six hours, according to the report. A total of 593 uninsured patients were billed and 139 insured patients were billed.

3. Billing victims for forensic exams is a violation of state law. Since 2011, hospitals in the state have been prohibited from billing patients directly or indirectly for this service, according to the report. Instead, hospitals are required to bill a special state fund for forensic rape kits.

4. Hospital officials were unavailable to comment, according to the report, though hospital spokeswoman Lindsay Caulfield told AJC refunds were issued to patients who had paid bills as of June 9, after the newspaper inquired about the charges. She did not provide information on victims who paid out-of-pocket expenses, according to the report, though one patient told AJC he or she has not been reimbursed.

5. The head of Grady Memorial's rape crisis center told Nicole Jenkins, director of victim services at Georgia's Criminal Justice Coordinating Council, that the hospital was not billing patients regularly, according to the report.

6. One victim interviewed had to pay more than $1,000 for the rape kit after the charge went through her private insurance. That charge included a walk-in fee. The victim said she cannot recall being informed by the hospital she was entitled to free evidence collection.

7. Fulton County, where Grady Memorial Hospital is located, has no local sexual assault response team, according to the report. Research indicates a response team can increase the chances of identifying and convicting rapists.

8. State Rep. Scott Holcomb (D) said in the report he plans to advocate for changes to state law to improve the tracking and testing of rape evidence, and officials need to ensure Grady and other hospitals never charge another victim.

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