Leda Health’s mission is to increase support for survivors of sexual assault. As a survivor of sexual assault working alongside a dedicated group of allies, we, at Leda Health, believe fundamental change is necessary in sexual assault prevention, care, and healing. We view the issue of sexual assault through a survivor-focused lens, and we firmly believe in empowering survivors with the tools and resources necessary to take control of their healing and justice. That is why we have developed self-administered sexual assault evidence collection kits. We believe that making this resource available is critical to incidents that would otherwise go unreported, untreated, and unsolved.
Staggeringly, only an estimated 30% of survivors report their sexual assault to authorities, and this figure is much less for members of marginalized communities and people of color. In Maryland, over 1,800 rapes were reported in 2020—think of all the incidents that go unreported. This is an astronomical figure that deserves immediate attention, particularly in service of women of color, who are much less likely to report sexual assault than white women.
That’s why it’s critical that our communities, including healthcare providers, non-profit organizations, legislators, and colleges and universities, come together to empower survivors with more resources. Accordingly, over the past few months, we have been meeting with community leaders and legislators across Maryland, particularly in connection with underserved communities, to discuss incidents of sexual assault, complex problems facing survivors, and the potential benefits of self-administered sexual assault evidence collection kits. Throughout our meetings, one thing has been abundantly clear – people want access to as many resources as possible to help sexual assault survivors . We believe that providing this option to survivors is critical, and we hope to partner with healthcare stakeholders to ensure that survivors are able to find and use this tool in a way that is responsible and compliant with applicable rules and regulations.
In May of 2023, a bill dealing with sexual assault evidence collection and preservation was passed and signed into law by Maryland Governor Moore. The bill changes requirements for the storage and preservation of sexual assault evidence collection kits and requires the Maryland Sexual Assault Evidence Kit Policy and Funding Committee to issue a report, on or before December 1, 2023, making certain recommendations concerning dealing with self-administered kits. In light of this bill, we have met with the Maryland Attorney General’s office so that the Sexual Assault Evidence Kit Policy and Funding Committee is equipped with all information necessary to make informed recommendations.
We believe it’s critical to have self-administered sexual assault evidence collection kits available at public access points, including hospitals, colleges and universities, and non-profit centers, and we are working to ensure that can happen under the current law. (Leda Health acknowledges that Maryland’s new bill does not codify, approve, or authorize for sale self-administered kits or provide that such kits will be made available at the State of Maryland’s expense.) Leda Health’s self-administered kits are to help survivors of sexual assault have more tools when a tragic incident happens . Results will not be available on the Combined DNA Index System (“CODIS”).
At Leda Health, we are deeply invested in supporting survivors of sexual assault including the loved ones of those impacted and their communities. We are encouraged that various states, including in Maryland, are assessing the value and benefits of self-administered kits so that, together, we can ensure that survivors have as many resources as possible to pursue self-validation and clarity in a way that respects their individual needs.
1 Significantly, a number of community leaders and legislators support self-administered sexual assault evidence
collection kits and believe they would positively impact their communities.
2 While there is precedent for the admissibility of self-collected evidence in courts of law, it is not yet clear whether
and to what extent courts will accepts results from Leda’s kits.