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Companies Pull At Home Rape Kits After Being Told They’re Helping Rapists

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel's office sent a "cease and desist" letter to one of the companies on Aug. 29.

Seaside Park, NJ – Two companies hawking at-home rape kits appear to have ceased sales amid backlash from legal experts, victims’ advocates, and state attorneys general in at least three states.

The “PRESERVEkit,” which was being sold on Amazon for $29.95, was 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,” CNN reported.

Meanwhile, a New York-based company created a second do-it-yourself rape kit option, the “MeToo Kit,” which hasn’t hit the market yet.

That company has been creating a waitlist for its product, CNN reported.

Michigan Assistant Attorney General Darrin Fowler fired off a “cease and desist” letter to MeToo Kits on Aug. 29, blasting the company for putting victims and potential criminal cases at risk.

Fowler noted that the company failed to explain that rape kits are free for sexual assault victims who seek medical attention within 120 hours of having been assaulted.

“An at-home kit does not address the health care needs of many sexual assault survivors,” Fowler wrote. “The medical examination is significantly important because it can identify and treat injuries and provide medications for the prevention and treatment of pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases, and injuries.

“Medical professionals can also help victims identify resources for emotional support,” Fowler added.

The assistant attorney general also criticized the company for claiming that evidence collected with a do-it-yourself kit would be admissible in court.

“Your marketing campaign also assumes and misleads victims into thinking that they are collecting all the evidence that could be collected from the assault,” Fowler wrote. “While your website suggests the at-home kit results will be admissible in Court, we are skeptical about that proposition.”

Convincing victims to collect their own inadmissible evidence could allow rapists to get away with their crimes.

Fowler argued that the product “appears destined to delay sexual assault victims from seeking prompt medical attention.”

The assistant attorney general accused the company of engaging in unlawful trade practices, and demanded that they not sell the kits to Michigan consumers.

“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,” Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel said in a statement. “Nothing could be further from the truth.”

“Career prosecutors know that evidence collected in this way would not provide the necessary chain of custody,” Nessel continued. “And it is unlikely any private lab would have access to CODIS [Combined DNA Index System, a national DNA data base created and maintained by the FBI], which would significantly limit the ability to identify unknown perpetrators or repeat offenders.”

The Michigan attorney general reiterated that at-home kits are of “absolutely no benefit” to victims, and argued that some of the company’s advertising tactics “actually demonize the process that allows the justice system to work.”

New York Attorney General Letitia James followed suit on Sept. 11, and sent “cease and desist” letters to both PRESERVEkit and MeToo Kits, the Philly Voice reported.

Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter did the same on Sept. 12.

“These products have potential to re-victimize survivors of a despicable crime,” Hunter said in a statement. “These products are not admissible in court, break the chain of custody for evidence collection in sexual assault cases and mislead consumers as to the products’ usefulness, among many other faults.”

“While it is my hope that the intention behind these products is to assist, and not profit off of sexual assault survivors, I am deeply concerned about the way in which these kits are being promoted,” he added.

The following day, a statement on the PRESERVEkit website stated that the company would “not be selling this product while we review the legal concerns,” the Philly Voice reported.

The PRESERVEkit listing on Amazon indicated that the product was “currently unavailable” on Wednesday morning.

“We launched the PRESERVEkit because we believe there is a real need in our society to help the 77% of sexual assault survivors who don’t come forward and report the crime,” PRESERVEkit co-founder and retired FBI agent Jane Mason wrote on the company’s website.

“All of us have seen the news over the last few years that sexual assault survivors do come forward some time after the crime,” Mason said. “Many who did not save any evidence have been vilified by society because they could not corroborate their allegations with forensic evidence.”

Mason pointed to former White House intern Monica Lewinsky’s semen-stained blue dress as proof that such evidence could be “gratefully accepted.”

“Because of cease and desist letters, untruths all over the media and in press conferences, and the hostile and threatening atmosphere this has created, we regret to say we are removing most of the information from our website,” Mason wrote. “We will be back as soon as possible because we are going to continue to help the 77%.”

Holly Matkin - September Thu, 2019


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