Clarify state sex assault laws now

Daily Editorial Board

Last week, Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson sent letters reminding state hospitals that they should not bill sexual assault victims for forensic medical exams. A report compiled by the Minnesota Coalition Against Sexual Assault found that many hospitals in Minnesota were violating laws which required them to charge patients’ counties of origin for these expenses.
 
 
Swanson said victims often receive bills due to confusion with the law. She gave hospitals two weeks to justify who they’ve billed. 
 
 
Meanwhile, the Minnesota Hospital Association, an organization representing more than 147 hospitals, has released a statement reaffirming its commitment to protecting sexual assault victims and to working with hospitals to guarantee they obey the law. The group also pledged to lead important training programs for hospitals in order to ensure they have a clearer understanding of state and federal sexual assault laws. 
 
 
Two steps must occur in order to best ensure violations like this don’t occur in the future. First, Minnesota ought to clarify the language of its sexual assault laws. Personal confusion can result from misinterpretation, but problems don’t occur at such a great extent unless the law itself is unclear. 
 
 
Second, counties need to work closely with law enforcement agents, courts and hospitals in their area. Greater cooperation between these different levels of society would help address many of the concerns Swanson raised. It would also protect sexual assault victims from paying charges for which their home counties are responsible.