There’s a lot of DIY stuff out there – brewing beer, creating your own makeup, composting your own waste – that seems kinda silly, but they’re mostly harmless. If you really want to learn to make your own yarn from an alpaca, knock yourself out. (Just don’t hurt the alpaca.)
But this latest offering? This is sick. And dangerous. And it’s gonna hurt a LOT of people.
A story in Buzz Feed News reported that New York’s attorney general and the attorneys general of several other states are asking the makers of MeTooKit and Preservekit do-it-yourself rape kits to stop advertising their products for fears that companies are misleading sexual assault survivors.
Complaints about the DIY kits have been raised by law enforcements, medical professionals, and advocacy groups for sexual assault victims. These groups worry that the kits will deter victims from seeking professional help. Further, they argue if the evidence of a rape or sexual assault is not collected in the correct way, the evidence may not be admissible in court. North Carolina and Virginia have sent warnings to the makers of the kits.
The attorneys general claimed that the advertising for MeTooKit makes the following inaccurate claims on its website, “including the kit’s ability help sexual assault survivors collect forensic evidence that may be admissible in a court of law and that the kit would act as a ‘hopeful deterrent to assault.’”
May be admissible?
A “hopeful deterrent”?
What in the actual h*ll do EITHER of these things mean?
Rape kits aren’t like “make your own kombucha” kits: they’re designed to gather evidence from rape victims to ensure that the perpetrator is caught. There is specific documentation that needs to be filled out, and the scientists who work in crime labs need to analyze it.
And before you ask why a criminal defense lawyer would want evidence collected that proves someone is guilty of rape:
- I’m a defense lawyer, not a monster. If someone is raped, that victim deserves justice.
- If I’m defending a client against a sexual assault charge, the evidence d*mn well better be accurate and in order, because his or her life could be on the line.
Further proof that DIY kit creators are taking advantage of rape survivors
Most states – Maryland among them – offer rape kits and forensic examinations for free to sexual assault survivors.
So, just to recap: there are people who are selling untested, unproven DIY rape kits claiming that they’re trying to help survivors, even though this service is available FOR FREE, where you can be guaranteed it’s done correctly?
Will these rape kits even be admissible?
I have no idea. Actually, it might come down to the chain of custody. The government must be able to prove that the evidence was properly collected and that the evidence couldn’t have been tampered with in any way from the date of the evidence collection through trial.
I’ll let Vice explain why this is already a logistical nightmare:
“Experts say conducting a rape exam isn’t as easy as ‘Swab. Spit. Seal.’ When survivors of sexual assault request a rape kit at a hospital, it’s performed by a licensed medical professional, who has received training specific to the examination. Those licensed professionals are then required to keep the kit in a secure area unless the patient wants them to turn the kit over to law enforcement, at which point authorities would log the evidence and store it according to protocol. Each point of contact with the evidence is important to the admissibility of it.”
What the makers of DIY rape kits have to say
Madison Campbell, the founder of MeTooKit and a sexual assault survivor, says many survivors don’t report sexual assaults and rape due to fear, embarrassment, and shame.
The Preservekit is a commercial kit made by Preserve Group, a New Jersey-based company. The company states their product is designed for sexual assault victims “to collect evidence in the immediate aftermath of the crime if going to the police or hospital is not an option and to use at a later date within the judicial system.” The founder, Jane Mason, asserts that 77% of survivors do not report their assault.
I’m not saying that there isn’t a real problem with sexual assault. I’m not saying that survivors don’t deserve more options. I’m not even saying that rape kits are perfect – I mean, look at the hot mess in Baltimore.
But this? This giving of false hope and fake security to women and men who have just be violated, and making them pay money for it?
I don’t know, man. It might be literally legal, but it seems figuratively criminal to me. And I’m pretty sure everyone loses in this scenario.
At Drew Cochran, Attorney at Law, we work to uphold the laws so that justice is possible for everyone. If you have been accused of rape or sexual assault, you need a lawyer – fast. Call 410.777.8103 or fill out our contact form to schedule an appointment with a defense lawyer in Annapolis or Ellicott City.
And remember: Keep Calm – and Call Drew.