Rape Kit Exams not being given on campuses to Baltimore-area students
By Noel Bader
Unfortunately, there’s no question that sexual assaults occur on college campuses across our country. However, it may come as a surprise to many that UMBC — along with several other Baltimore-area schools — do not have rape kit exams available to students.
Rape Kit Exams are a process of collecting data and evidence from victims no later than 120 hours after their attack, and compiling that information into a report that can be used in a court of law. Although these are usually performed in hospitals, many universities are beginning to implement them on campuses.
Why doesn’t UMBC have these exams for students? Director of University Health Services, Jennifer Lepus, puts it simply, “From the criminal involvement standpoint, we just don’t have all the equipment to do it the way it needs to be done.” Professionals at hospitals perform these exams very frequently, whereas trained personnel on campus would be much less experienced because of the lower frequency of reports.
In addition, unlike nearby hospitals, UHS is only open from 8am to 5pm, and time is of the essence when it comes to reporting sexual assaults. The faster victims get the exam done, the more evidence there will be that can be used against an attacker.
This doesn’t mean that UMBC is ignoring victims; UHS is actually helping them more than ever. Lepus adds, “We do everything … free STD testing, free counseling and free cab vouchers for transportation to hospitals.” Students who contact UHS after an assault can also be provided with an advocate to accompany them to Greater Baltimore Medical Center or Mercy Hospital to have the exam done.
UHS even recently implemented Haven, an online course that teaches the students and staff required to take it about prevention and intervention when it comes to sexual assault, along with a wide variety of other topics having to do with relationships.
Voices Against Violence Program Coordinator Rina Rhyne believes offering rape kit exams would increase their availability to students. “If it were offered on campus, students wouldn’t have to go to great lengths to get it done,” she said. However, she also agrees that the argument that students would be less likely to report because they have to go to a hospital is becoming obsolete.
Although victims may be hesitant to report due to privacy, UMBC’s goal is to make students feel as safe and comfortable as possible when going to the hospitals and through the report process. “We have a team of trained professionals to connect victims with resources and walk them through all the options they have,” said Mickey Irrizary, Health Education Coordinator.
While all three UHS representatives agree that in the future they are open to having on-campus exams, as of now it just makes more sense that victims go to hospitals where professionally trained doctors and nurses can take care of them.