City Charges Strip Clubs For Rape Kits

Sexually oriented businesses, including strip clubs and modeling studios, now have to pay the city a five dollar fee for every customer who comes in. The fee will help the city pay for analyzing rape kits.


The per customer fee of $5 is expected to generate $1-3 million annually for the city.

Councilmember Ellen Cohen authored similar legislation during her time as a state representative and brought this ordinance to city council.

She says the money will not only help address the backlog of 6,000 rape kits in the city, but also provide a source of funding for future kits.

“If you do a kit from start to finish, and not all kits will be done from start to finish, but if it was, it would cost at least $1,100 per kit.”

The new ordinance applies to any business that provides nude or semi-nude entertainment and alcohol.

Cohen was CEO of the Houston Area Women’s Center for 18 years. She says she’s personally seen how sexual assault affects

“Being raped is about certainly one of the most horrible things you can imagine. Following that with the invasive rape testing, it’s not like something you see on Law and Order where they close a curtain and five minutes later they come out with the evidence, it’s terrible and it’s horrible. And so we have all these untested kits, all these people who are not getting any kind of satisfaction, any kind of justice.”   

Some sexually oriented businesses says they plan to sue the city to overturn the ordinance. They say the fee unfairly links strip clubs to sexual assaults.

The Texas Supreme Court declared the state version of the law constitutional and the United States Supreme Court declined to review that case.


Laurie Johnson

Laurie Johnson


Laurie is a native Houstonian who started her career at Houston Public Media in 2002. Laurie has covered a wide variety of topics for HPM, including the crash of the Space Shuttle Columbia, Hurricanes Katrina and Ike, and numerous elections. She is a frequent contributor to NPR and has been...

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