Report suggests changes in policies for sex assault cases
MARYLAND – Local officials applaud the improvements made in Maryland regarding sexual assault evidence kits but they also admit there are areas with a long way to go. This comes after a state committee released its yearly report detailing new policies and procedures for the testing, tracking, and retention of these kits as well as additional support and resources for victims of sexual assault.
“Really the challenges that we are facing are really the drug induced sexual assaults,” says Captain Rich Kaiser with the Salisbury Police Department.
Law enforcement officials continue to face difficulties when it comes to investigating sexual assault cases. “There are agencies in the state that either don’t have the funding to get kits tested where maybe they operate their own lab,” says Kaiser.
These comments come after Maryland’s Sexual Assault Evidence Kit Policy and Funding Committee submitted its 2020 Annual Report this week.
“I think some of the biggest concerns was making sure the state had a uniform policy on the collection, testing and retention of sexual assault examination kits,” says Ajene Turnbull, the Assistant State’s Attorney with the Wicomico County State’s Attorney’s Office.
Local agencies like the Salisbury Police Department say they’re satisfied with their protocol. “I think that what we’re doing now is very efficient when it comes to submitting sexual assault kits for testing,” says Kaiser.
But officials with the Wicomico County State’s Attorney’s Office say there’s still room for improvement at the state level. “I think the room for growth really comes with making sure that all the agencies work together. Making sure that victims know their rights. Making sure they are aware of services they will need through out the law enforcement or trial process,” says Turnbull.
The State Committee says it wants to put more focus on sexual assaults involving drugs and alcohol this year as well as creating an independent review process for untested kits. Prosecutors say any progress made to help victims is a good thing – but they understand it’s not easy adjusting laws for cases that are so sensitive.
“Every case comes in and every case is different. And to create a uniform policy that would encompass every possible situation might be impossible but I think they’re going to work on that and that’s why that may not have been taken care of at this time,” says Turnbull.
Officials also applauded the state’s pilot program that helps victims who may have been exposed to HIV, get access to medication. But they also say they were disappointed this year that key legislation did not pass. We’re told that legislation would have made things more efficient by limiting testimony that could be given in court regarding sexual assault DNA.
Officials say they’re also hoping this state committee will enact policies to make it easier for victims to get connected with important resources.
Life Crisis Center and For All Seasons are two of our local resource centers. See information for those centers below.