Trigger warning: sexual assault.
A controversial DIY rape-kit is rapidly raising concerns across the country. The Brooklyn-based startup, “Me Too Kit,” designed a way for sexual assault victims to be able to “collect evidence in a setting and at the timing of their choice.” According to Marie Solis of Vice News, the kit includes “swabs, a container for a saliva sample, and sealable plastic bags to store the materials. [It] would also include access to an app, meant to guide survivors through the process.”
This product met opposition from the state attorneys general of Michigan, New York, Virginia, North Carolina, and now Hawai‘i. The AGs are warning the public not to purchase kits for personal use, and New York and Michigan AGs have ordered the MeToo Kit company to cease and desist production, and to stop advertising.
“What this company fails to tell you is that in Hawai‘i, a forensic exam is provided at no cost to sexual assault victims, by a health care professional, with advocates who will help the victim understand the exam and criminal justice process,” said Hawai‘i attorney general Clare Connors. “Trained sexual assault forensic examiners and nurses, prosecutors, victim advocates, and police agencies from across the state work diligently to ensure forensic medical exam protocols are followed, minimize victim re-traumatization, address the needs of victims, test the sex assault evidence collection kits, and hold offenders accountable by ensuring the evidence collected can be used for prosecution purposes.”
In fact, the forensic exam, also known as a rape kit, is free in all states funded by STOP Violence Against Woman Grant Program, signed into federal law in 1994.
“This company is shamelessly trying to take financial advantage of the ‘Me Too’ movement by luring victims into thinking that an at-home-do-it-yourself sexual assault kit will stand up in court,” said Michigan attorney general Dana Nessel.
The founder of the company, Madison Campbell, argues that the product is still in the stage of development and can be improved. “I have no idea why this is happening,” said Campbell. “All I want to do is work with attorneys general, with survivors’ groups, with allies to get this right.” She plans to continue developing the kit despite the opposition.
“An assault leaves wounds that last for lifetimes, and this kit diminishes the seriousness of this crime to something trivial that can be processed alone,” commented the New York City Alliance Against Sexual Assault.
If you are a victim of sexual assault, call 911 and the sexual assault service provider for the Maui area, Child and Family Service Maui Sexual Assault Center, at 808-873-8624 (24-hour hotline).
Image courtesy State of Hawaii