Tuesday, Aug. 4, 2020 - Montgomery County’s Victim Assistance and Sexual Assault Program (VASAP), part of the County’s Department of Health and Human Services, and the Maryland Coalition Against Sexual Assault (MCASA) have produced a guide on how to access sexual assault forensic exams (also known as SAFEs or “rape kits”), services, and counseling during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Sexual assault is a traumatic experience that can leave survivors concerned about what they should do next. The questions and fears that survivors have after an assault are often overwhelming and scary, and the additional stressors of the COVID-19 pandemic have created new barriers to getting help. Help for sexual assault survivors has continued, even in the face of stay at home orders.
The guide provides survivors with information on what to expect during a forensic exam and how services have been redesigned to prevent the potential spread of COVID-19. The informational guide is available at www.VASAP.org.
"The pandemic has not stopped sexual violence and Montgomery County and MCASA are working together to ensure that all survivors get the help they need," said Lisae C Jordan, Esq., executive director of MCASA.
Adventist Health Care Shady Grove Medical Center Forensic Medical Unit Forensic continue to provide exams and medical care. Survivors can report directly to the hospital and are treated in designated private areas. The Montgomery County Police Department’s Special Victims Investigations Division is available to support survivors who want to report a sexual assault to the police for investigation. The department recognizes that survivors may disclose an assault immediately, within days or even years after an assault occurred. Specially trained detectives conduct thorough investigations, regardless of when an assault took place.
For more information on the Victim Assistance and Sexual Assault Program, visit www.vasap.org or call 240-777-1355. The 24/7 VASAP hotline is 240-777-4357.
The Victim Assistance and Sexual Assault Program assists victims of crimes such as rape/sexual assault, homicide, driving while intoxicated (DWI), carjacking, torture, hate crimes, arson, larceny, robbery, auto theft, and vandalism. The program provides information and referrals, advocacy, crisis and ongoing counseling, support, and compensation services for victims of crimes committed in Montgomery County or crime victims who live in Montgomery County. Assistance is also provided to the victims’ families and significant others. Staff also works to educate the public about issues related to sexual assault and rape, human trafficking and labor servitude and other crime victimization issues. Speakers are available to participate in meetings and forums geared to public education.
Additional support is available through the Maryland Coalition Against Sexual Assault, the state sexual assault coalition. MCASA’s core members are the State’s 17 rape crisis centers, and the Coalition also represents the voices of many other member professionals, programs, and service providers working with sexual assault survivors. MCASA includes the Sexual Assault Legal Institute (SALI), which provides direct legal services to victims of sexual violence across the state of Maryland. SALI attorneys and advocates are available to support sexual assault survivors during the COVID-19 pandemic. Information on MCASA and SALI’s services can be found at https://mcasa.org.