Lifestyle

A Dubious Product: A Rape Kit For Home Use

This story additionally ran on CNN. This story could be republished at no cost (details).

Alongside different “essential” family provides on the market on Amazon, there’s now a product supplied which may give customers pause: an at-home rape package.

The “PRESERVEkit,” listed for $29.95, is meant for individuals who have been sexually assaulted. It is marketed as “containing all of the tools and step-by-step directions needed for the proper collection of evidence if going to the police or medical facility is not an option.”

Few individuals — prosecutors or advocates for sexual abuse victims — assume this can be a good thought as a result of the proof collected can be ineffective in court docket and expose the alleged sufferer to medical dangers.

Oddly maybe, the corporate behind the package, the Preserve Group, is headed by a retired FBI particular agent, Jane Mason. She was motivated to make the product, in line with the corporate’s web site, after working with survivors of sexual assault in her personal investigations apply.

A New York startup has proposed an analogous product referred to as the “MeToo Kit.” This package just isn’t but out there, although people can place themselves on a waitlist for the product. No value has been made public.

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel was the primary legal professional normal to launch a statement saying the producer of MeToo Kits was “shamelessly trying to take financial advantage of the ‘Me Too’ movement.” She mentioned proof within the kits wouldn’t rise up in court docket.

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Nessel despatched a notice of intended action to the Brooklyn-based firm on Aug. 29, stating she had possible trigger to imagine the corporate was violating Michigan’s Consumer Protection Act. The MeToo Kits Co. was given 10 days to adjust to the act, together with agreeing to not promote the kits to Michigan customers.

Nessel’s communications director, Kelly Rossman-McKinney, mentioned the legal professional normal is conscious of PRESERVEkit, the product already out there on Amazon, and although “it’s not being marketed in as misinformed a way, we are likely to be pursuing them with similar requests as what we sent to MeToo Kits.”

North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein additionally launched a statement urging North Carolina customers to keep away from the MeToo Kits. His communications director, Laura Brewer, mentioned the workplace has launched an investigation into the product.

And Jude Foster, the statewide medical forensic coverage coordinator with the Minnesota Coalition Against Sexual Assault, mentioned her group has additionally been in dialog with Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison in addition to state regulation enforcement officers in regards to the kits.

Monica Beck, managing authorized counsel for the Fierberg National Law Group in Traverse City, Mich., agrees with the legal professional normal’s evaluation that at-home rape kits wouldn’t be allowed as proof in court docket.

“It brings up very serious evidentiary problems,” mentioned Beck, who represents survivors of sexual assault in civil litigations. “The kits bring up issues of chain of custody and whether the DNA evidence was properly collected.”

The chain of custody is a scientific course of meant to point out proof has been collected correctly by professionals and never been tainted. This offers a path of each one who has are available contact with the proof.

Beck mentioned that proof in sexual assault trials collected by skilled personnel is routinely attacked in court docket by rape suspects’ protection attorneys.

“Imagine what defense attorneys would do with evidence taken at home,” she mentioned. “Frankly, it’s hard enough for survivors to get justice, and this is just making it even harder.”

In an emailed assertion, Mason of the Preserve Group mentioned: “Crime victims give evidence to law enforcement that is admissible in court every day.” She mentioned the explanations proof is admissible in court docket differ and “a blanket statement that a victim collecting evidence of sexual assault with an at-home kit does not apply.”

Medical and forensic professionals say the kits pass over different facets of sexual assault exams which might be essential to survivors.

“We look at the victim from the top of the head to the bottom of their toes,” mentioned Julie Valentine, a forensic nurse and assistant professor at Brigham Young University who has performed sexual assault proof assortment exams. “The majority of victims also have physical injuries, and a big part of our examination is the assessment, documentation and treatment of those.”

Valentine mentioned nurses acquire not solely DNA proof, but additionally particles, reminiscent of carpet fibers, grass and the person’s clothes. They additionally may take photographs of accidents. She mentioned if instances are prosecuted, forensic nurses are referred to as to testify.

A sexual assault examination may embrace remedy to stop sexually transmitted infections and being pregnant. A psychological analysis or referral to psychological well being and different assist sources additionally may be concerned, mentioned Valentine.

“If we have victims who believe that they can collect evidence alone at home, not only do they collect evidence that is not admissible or helpful, neither do they get health care or the victim advocacy help,” Valentine mentioned.

Foster expressed concern about the price of the house kits. “In Minnesota, we have a state statute and also the Violence Against Women Act allows survivors to access a free medical exam after an assault,” she mentioned. “I have great concern that someone is trying to profit off of people when they have access to a free exam.”

The federal Violence Against Women Act requires states to offer free sexual assault forensic exams in the event that they wish to keep eligible for grant funding.

In an emailed response to questions, the founder and CEO of the MeToo Kit Co., Madison Campbell, mentioned if the corporate can increase sufficient cash, she want to give away the kits. But of the product’s price ticket, she mentioned, “It would be less than the cost of an Uber ride to the hospital.”

Campbell mentioned she is a sexual assault survivor and believes it must be the survivor’s proper to seize the proof within the consolation of their residence.

She additionally mentioned her firm was stunned on the backlash. “Our mission is to help survivors of sexual assault who do not have the ability or are willing to go to the police or the hospital to collect time-sensitive DNA evidence,” Campbell wrote by way of e mail.

An Amazon spokesperson declined to remark.

This story additionally ran on CNN. This story could be republished at no cost (details).

Victoria Knight: vknight@kff.org”>vknight@kff.org, @victoriaregisk

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