Her handpicked sheriff (she had fired his predecessor for disloyalty) decided to save Palin's city budget a few thousand dollars by singling out rape victims to pay for their own criminal investigations. (See the Huffington Post
for new evidence that Palin signed off on the policy.) The policy so bothered the Alaska legislature that it passed a state-wide statute to ban the practice
, signed into law by Governor Tom Knowles.
Palin did not charge any other crime victims for the privilege of law enforcement. When the Wasilla police fingerprinted a house that had been burglarized, they did not present the owners with a bill for their services. But rape, of course, is different. As an on-line reader of Wasilla's local paper wrote in response to the issue:
To weed out the false accusations women make with respect to sexual assaults, many towns have and are charging for rape kits. I have worked enough rapes to know when the town ho cries foul just to be vindictive and YES she should be charged.
Violence against women is an epidemic in America, with rates of rapes, beatings and murders not that different from many of the countries that we condemn as uncivilized because of how they treat women. Studies show that about 1 in 4 women will be beaten by a partner in their lifetime, and 1 in 6 will be the victim of rape or attempted rape.
Governor Palin either does not believe this or does not care. Which state has more than double the national rate of rape, and the highest per capita murder rate of women by men? You guessed it. Alaska.
Not only is Joe Biden better on this issue, he has been the nation's most vocal champion for ending violence against women. Biden drafted a federal statute that banned local communities from charging for rape kits (contained in a crime bill that McCain voted against.) Biden spent years of his Senate career authoring and passing the Violence Against Women Act ("VAWA"), a law that created federal enforcement of interstate domestic violence and stalking, and, more importantly, brought massive funding to local police departments to protect women. Since VAWA, the domestic violence murder rate has decreased substantially. Joe Biden has saved countless women from rape and murder.
The women attracted to Sarah Palin's candidacy and the brash Annie Oakley figure described by Camille Paglia are not discouraged by Palin's positions on feminist cultural issues. But these same women are tired of a government that ignores the constant violence against them. These are the women who watch Lifetime movies and Martina McBride video "Independence Day" celebrating escape from domestic violence as part of American freedom. They understand the humiliations heaped upon women by cynical cops, and will be horrified at the thought of paying a backbreaking fee for a rape exam of their daughters. This may be the issue that makes clear that Palin's exuberance at breaking the glass ceiling conceals something darker.
Associate Professor and Director,
Tulane Law School Domestic Violence Clinic.
Former Assistant U.S. Attorney