Advertisement

Federal and Maryland officials warn against use of at-home ‘MeToo’ rape kits targeting local college students

Authorities are blasting the at-home rape kit marketed by the New York-based MeToo Kit company
Authorities are blasting the at-home rape kit marketed by the New York-based MeToo Kit company (Courtesy MeToo Kit company)

A Brooklyn, New York-based startup company called MeToo Kit is getting lambasted from federal and state officials and anti-sexual assault groups for marketing the first-ever “sexual assault evidence kit for at-home use."

Baltimore County State’s Attorney Scott Shellenberger said that his office is “adamantly opposed to the use of these kits" and that it is “highly unlikely” the kits would ever be admissible in court. Maryland’s attorney general has advised against using it. The National Alliance to End Sexual Violence said the company was trying to take advantage of the #MeToo movement.

Advertisement

The MeToo Kit company co-founder Madison Campbell wrote The Baltimore Sun in response to the criticism that the product is in early stages of development and that it has not yet been distributed. She hopes to work with law enforcement and legislators to make sure the product is admissible in court.

Campbell, 23, said she developed the product because she is a survivor of sexual assault. She said the assault happened in college and this product is meant to help, not take advantage of survivors.

“Personally, after my sexual assault, I did not even want to touch myself—let alone let anyone touch my body or console me. I am not alone, and there are plenty of individuals out there that share similar stories,” she wrote The Sun.

The MeToo Kit company’s website advertises a kit that allows “privacy, security and affordability” with at-home mouth, anal and vaginal swabs. The company says victims can then take the swabs and their clothes to a Title IX office or police station, but that it can not guarantee the evidence will be admissible in court. It has a “pilot” program for universities and a submission form to get on a waiting list to order the kits.

A University of Maryland spokesperson said that the MeToo Kit company reached out to the school, but that it is not going to take part in the pilot program.

Lisae Jordan, director of the Maryland Coalition Against Sexual Assault, said the company has advertised its products to local colleges and that such do-it-yourself kits are “completely and totally irresponsible” and “strongly discouraged.”

“Among other issues, the kits also do not protect chain of custody and evidence integrity, do not include evidence testing, do not address victim privacy, and do not help prevent sexual assault,” she continued.

Shellenberger, who is a member of the Maryland Sexual Assault Evidence Kit committee, said he is reaching out to colleges advising them not to use the at-home kits and instead, is encouraging students to report to the hospital and law enforcement after a sexual assault.

The Department of Justice official wrote that even promoting such kits “misleads victims into delaying or forgoing a forensic exam, which is necessary for ensuring proper evidence collection and prompt treatment of a victim’s injuries and other post-assault concerns.”

Campbell wrote that she is not suggesting survivors forgo a health exam.

“We believe that every survivor should be encouraged to seek proper healthcare after an assault and we encourage users to do this, however, there is still a large portion of survivors who never get the chance to go to the hospital," Campbell said in a written statement.

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel warned the MeToo Kit company last week that it is in violation of the state’s Consumer Protection Act. Nessel sent a Notice of Intended Action to the company, giving it an opportunity to immediately cease and desist from engaging in unlawful business practices. Her notice was later distributed to all states’ attorneys general by the National Association of Attorneys General.

Campbell wrote that she would like to work with Nessel and others to make the at-home kits admissible.

“If cell-phone transcripts, social media and more can be admissible — we believe in the future so will this,” Campbell wrote. “An at-home forensic test has never been done before, and we want to work with the correct institutions to ensure we make this admissible.

Advertisement

"We believe in survivor’s right to self-test so much, we are willing to go to court to fight this.” Campbell added.

Campbell said the company received financial support from the San Francisco-based Alchemist Accelerator to develop the product.

Advertisement
Advertisement