by Kris Van Cleave
April 28, 2014
(WJLA) - It happened on the campus of Bowie State, three days after Monica’s 20th birthday and during the first semester of her sophomore year.
“I was raped, I was overpowered when it happened, I was just trying to get out and get away,” she said.
Speaking to us via Skype, Monica agreed to tell us her story, but asked that we only use her first name:
“Once I got to the hospital, the lady, the nurse was arguing with the campus police because they said he wasn't the real police, so they couldn't do a rape kit on me.”
The forensic exam needed to gather crucial evidence after a sexual assault is the very evidence that can put an attacker away, but it is not a guarantee in Maryland – because only certain hospitals offer it.
“I thought I'd get help,” said Monica. “I was on my way to the hospital, I'm thinking everything is going to be okay, my parents are on their way, but I didn't get help.”
“If you've just been raped, you don't tend to get on the Internet and track down where is the best hospital for me to go to, you go to the hospital you are most comfortable going to, [and] we are falling down on the job,” said Lisae Jordan, who runs the Maryland Coalition Against Sexual Assault.
She explained: “They are told don't bathe, don't brush your teeth, don't go to the bathroom, don't have anything to eat or smoke…we have to bring you to another hospital.”
Currently, just 26 out of Maryland’s hospitals can give a sexual assault forensic exam. In Montgomery County alone, there are five hospitals; Suburban is the county’s trauma center, but does not offer forensic exams. To receive one, a victim would have to be shuttled to Shady Grove Hospital – the only one in the entire county that offers that exam.
“It’s not adequate, people are falling through the cracks,” said Montgomery County Delegate Ariana Kelly, herself a sexual assault survivor. She is vowing to fix the problem, starting with a newly passed law requiring hospitals to immediately develop a protocol to get a victim a rape kit.
“That plan is not going to be telling them they have to get back in their car and go to another hospital – it will be a plan that will support them,” she said.
Monica did not get a forensic exam until the day after she was raped. Her attacker was never prosecuted.
For a list of Maryland's SAFE hospitals, click here.