This weekend the Maryland Senate passed my legislation (HB 963) to establish process for treating sexual assault survivors in EVERY hospital in Maryland.
What’s that you say, every hospital in Maryland doesn’t currently treat victims of sexual assault?
That’s true! This is an issue I’ve been working on since my days as Executive Director at NARAL Pro Choice Maryland. Only one hospital in every county is designated to provide forensic medical exams for sexual assault survivors.
In Montgomery County, under the current law only Shady Grove Hospital is fully equipped to handle victims of sexual assault. If you are raped and show up at Holy Cross, Suburban, Montgomery General, or Washington Adventist Hospital, you may not be able to get access to a sexual assault forensic exam. These exams are vital pieces of evidence if victims wish to pursue charges against their assailant and without these exams, rapists are allowed to walk free.
Showing up in the Emergency Room at these other hospitals, you might be told to get back in your car and drive yourself to Shady Grove Hospital. Or in instances of trauma, you could be taken to Suburban Hospital and then transferred to Shady Grove, all the while being advised not to bathe or use the bathroom so as to not tamper with the evidence from the rape.
Thanks to this legislation, which passed both houses unanimously, every hospital will now have to establish a protocol for treating victims of sexual assault.
Furthermore we will bring together members of law enforcement, medical professionals, and victim advocates to make recommendations for further system improvements, to make sure we are not putting unnecessary burdens on the victim.
For more information on this legislation watch this in-depth news coverage:
I want to thank Maryland Coalition Against Sexual Assault (MCASA), Maryland Nurses Association, NARAL Pro-Choice Maryland, American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynocologists (Maryland Chapter), Physicians for Reproductive Choice and Health, and especially the Maryland Hospital Association, among others for all of their work in helping to get this legislation passed and on to the Governor’s desk.
I would also like to thank all of the my colleagues on the Montgomery County Council, especially Councilmember Hans Reimer and Councilmember Nancy Navarro for their help prioritizing this issue.
Delegate Ariana Kelly