Following a sexual assault, survivors can receive a Sexual Assault Forensic Exam (SAFE). The objective of a SAFE is to provide medical care and collect potential forensic evidence that may be used to identify the perpetrator. However, after experiencing significant physical and emotional trauma, many survivors are reluctant to subject themselves to a SAFE.
Just before the Covid-19 pandemic, some companies introduced controversial self-administered sexual assault kits. Professionals across the country, including forensic nurse examiners and attorneys, fear that survivors will utilize these kits instead of seeking critical medical care that is available for free. Additionally, professionals are concerned that these kits do not adequately explain whether evidence collected will be usable in court, creating false hope for survivors.
“Self-administered sexual assault kits are a commercial product that purport to allow survivors to collect evidence of rape. Some survivors are reluctant to go to a hospital to have a physical exam, and others have trouble getting an exam because of the nursing shortage and other barriers,” said Lisae C. Jordan, executive director and counsel at MCASA.
Now, Maryland lawmakers are considering legislation that would result in the attorney general’s consumer protection division and the state’s Sexual Assault Evidence Kit Policy and Funding Committee working together to look at whether the marketing for self-administered kits is misleading to survivors.
“MCASA supports the decisions of survivors, [but] it is vital that these decisions be informed and based on correct information."
HB758/SB789 would extend the time law enforcement agencies and hospitals must preserve sexual assault evidence kits to 75 years, and broadens the definition of a 'kit' to encompass historical evidence collected prior to the creation of the modern sexual assault evidence kit. Additionally, law enforcement would be required to store any at-home sexual assault evidence kits and evaluate their potential use in an investigation. HB759/SB615 would create a mandatory statewide tracking system for all sexual assault evidence kits allowing sexual assault victims and their representatives to track the progress of kit testing, and require agencies to report information for that system. These bills are making their way through the legislative process, and MCASA continues to advocate for their enactment.
MCASA advocates annually in Annapolis for legislation that promotes justice for survivors of sexual violence, and is committed to resolving these issues and supporting transparency of rape kit testing in Maryland. To learn more about MCASA's advocacy efforts in Annapolis, visit our website.
If you had a sexual assault forensic exam and would like to receive updates about the testing of your kit, you can contact MCASA: