The financial costs of sexual assault

Media Credit: Anna McGarrigle | Senior Designer

Updated: Feb. 10, 2015 at 2:22 p.m.

The White House estimates that sexual assault can cost a survivor between $87,000 and more than $240,000 on top of an emotional toll that is difficult to quantify, reports say.

Most experts say rape will cost a survivor about $150,000, a total based on studies that also put a price on emotional distress and loss of productivity. A sexual assault can also come at a price for academic success, making it nearly impossible to fully measure the impact, experts say.

Bruce Kellison, a researcher at the University of Texas at Austin who conducted a study about the financial impact of sexual violence, said because college students are often assaulted by people they know, the costs extend far beyond medical bills.

“You have this enormous and hard-to-value issue of lost productivity,” Kellison said. “Especially when you’re a student, that can mean anxiety around continuing to take classes on the campus where you were assaulted, or the stress and anxiety of seeing your attacker.”

College students face costs that experts can’t quantify, like the effects of having to drop out, Kellison said.

“If the assault leads to skipping class or your campus job, reduction or change in the value you get of the college degree, that has an economic cost as well,” he said.

Sexual assault survivors often pay out-of-pocket costs like counseling fees or medical care for cuts or broken limbs that occurred during the attack, Kellison said. He added that in most cities, like D.C., choosing to get a forensic medical exam is free, but survivors will need to cover other medical expenses.

About 81 percent of women and 35 percent of men report long-term mental health problems like post-traumatic stress disorder following a sexual assault, according a 2010 report by the Centers for Disease Control.

Most survivors can receive free counseling sessions or contact a trained advocate through a local rape crisis center. The Network for Victim Recovery of D.C. employs trained advocates who can support a survivor in the courtroom or at the hospital following an attack. The D.C. Rape Crisis Center runs a 24-hour hotline for survivors.

In the District, survivors can also call the D.C. Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner Call Center for a free Uber ride to MedStar Washington Hospital Center, where they can have a forensic medical exam.

That’s an important resource for college students who have to pay for traveling from campus to a medical center, said Donna Greco, the training and technical assistance director at the National Sexual Violence Resource Center.

A survivor may feel unsafe in his or her home or apartment after an attack, and relocating could entail more costs.

“We often say that no one plans to be sexually assaulted, so it’s not like we’re moving through our world preparing economically or emotionally,” Greco said.

Jeanine Marie contributed reporting.

This post was updated to reflect the following correction:
The Hatchet incorrectly reported that the D.C. Rape Crisis Center employs advocates who support survivors in court or at the hospital. DCRC is actually a 24-hour hotline for survivors. Due to an editing error, The Hatchet incorrectly reported that survivors can call the D.C. Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner program for a free Uber ride. The hotline is actually called the D.C. SANE Call Center. We regret these errors.

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