Monday, September 22nd, 2014

Victim in rape ad not from Palin's town

A new TV ad from Planned Parenthood opens with a rape victim named Gretchen talking about how she was raped.

"I just didn’t think it would happen to me," she says. "I was drugged and raped."

The narrator then says, "Under Mayor Sarah Palin, women like Gretchen were forced to pay up to $1200 for the emergency exams used to prosecute their attackers."

But a Planned Parenthood spokesman told PolitiFact that Gretchen was not from Wasilla, the Alaska town that sought reimbursement for rape exams, and had not been assaulted there.

"She is a rape survivor, but she is not from Wasilla," said Tait Sye, a Planned Parenthood spokesman.

He added that she was "not raped there during the time this policy was in place."

He said Gretchen is from Illinois and did not have to pay for her rape kit.

Asked if it was misleading to have a victim in the ad who is not from Wasilla, Sye said, "The script is factual. It says 'as mayor, Wasilla charged.' So somebody like Gretchen would pay. The script speaks for itself."

He said the ad "does not claim that she is from Wasilla nor does it say she was victimized by this policy."

The ad blames Palin for a Wasilla policy that that sought reimbursement for forensic exams from victims of sexual assaults. Critics contend Palin supported the policy and have criticized her for allegedly being insensitive toward rape victims.

We checked it out with this Truth-O-Meter ruling and found the truth is murky. Although Wasilla had such a “rape kit” policy while Palin was mayor, there is no evidence that she explicitly endorsed the policy. But nor have we found any evidence that she opposed it.

The policy sought to have rape victims’ health insurance companies reimburse the city for the $500 to $1,200 cost of a forensic exam that is conducted after a sexual assault. Presumably, some of the cost might have been passed along to the victim through requirements for deductibles or co-payments, although victim advocates say they don’t know of anyone in the small town who had to pay such a fee.

The policy came to light briefly in 2000 when the Alaska Legislature passed a law that required state and local law enforcement agencies pay the full cost of the exams. Legislators and activists have said the law was prompted by Wasilla and several other communities with a similar policy.

There’s no evidence that Palin ever commented on the rape kit policy. Bloggers and other critics contend that she must have known about it because she approved the city budget. But city documents are inconclusive. The budget documents we reviewed were signed by Palin but don’t explicitly mention the policy.

In response to recent criticism, the McCain-Palin campaign said in a statement that Palin “does not believe, nor has she ever believed, that rape victims should have to pay for an evidence gathering test."

Yet the campaign has not provided any evidence that Palin ever opposed the policy.