New York

Brooklyn-Based Startup Faces Backlash for Marketing First-Ever DIY Rape Kit

What to Know

  • A Brooklyn-based startup, MeToo, is marketing a DIY rape kit as “the first ever sexual assault evidence kit for at-home use"
  • According to MeToo, the kit is easy to use, secure, provides privacy and affordability
  • The kit has already proven to be controversial as Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel blasted the DIY assault kits

A Brooklyn-based startup, MeToo, is marketing a DIY rape kit as “the first-ever sexual assault evidence kit for at-home use.”

Although the company does not currently offer any kits for sale, the idea of a DIY rape kit has brought along with it an avalanche of backlash and questions as well as those who say they idea should not be completely ruled out yet.

According to the company's website, the kit helps victims regain control and allows for evidence collection to take place “within the confines of a survivor’s chosen place of safety,” while also providing them with additional means of support via apps.

“The MeToo Kit is designed to address the problem associated with traditional sexual assault kits available to survivors. Most importantly, our kit empowers survivors to accurately collect evidence in a setting and timing of their choice,” according to the company’s website.

According to MeToo, named after the #MeToo movement against sexual harassment and sexual assault, the kit is easy to use, secure, provides privacy by allowing “precisely the information you want to share” and affordability -- although the website does not provide planned pricing.

Individuals who use the kit are asked to swab certain body parts indicated in the instructions, spit into the included container and seal all of the collection, as well as clothing articles, in the packaging provided before sending them to the designated location, according to the company's website.

However, the kit has already proven to be controversial -- receiving backlash from across the country. 

In a scathing response, the New York City Alliance Against Sexual Assault said, in part: “We find the ‘MeToo Kits’ not only morally and legally irresponsible, but completely misleading to survivors of sexual assault. Sexual assault forensic examinations are deeply invasive and sensitive processes that require advanced training.

"The examinations do not only serve to collect evidence; but also as a way for medical professionals to provide treatment for sexually transmitted infections and other physical and emotional injuries, which these kits do not," the alliance's statement goes on to say.

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel also blasted the assault kits, issuing a warning Thursday, arguing that certain things should not be do-it-yourself projects.

Nessel contends there are flaws with the idea of an at-home rape kit and also alleges that the company is in violation of several sections of Michigan’s Consumer Protection Act.

“This company is shamelessly trying to take financial advantage of the ‘Me Too’ movement luring victims into thinking that an at-home-do-it-yourself sexual assault kit will stand up in court,” Nessel said in a news release. “Nothing could be further from the truth. Career prosecutors know that evidence collected in this way would not provide the necessary chain of custody.”

Additionally, Nessel issued a Notice of Intended Action letter to the MeToo kit company, giving them "an opportunity to immediately cease and desist."

Nessel's letter also goes on to say that "an at-home evidence kit does not address the health care needs of many sexual assault survivors" she is skeptical that the results from the kits will be admissable in court.

The New York Attorney General Office did not respond to News 4’s requests for comment.

In a statement to News 4, MeToo said it is working to develop a product to support survivors of sexual assault who would not otherwise report to law enforcement and medical professionals.

Additionally, in the statement, MeToo acknowledges and "wholeheartedly agrees" with Nessel that reporting to law enforcement and going through a medical forensics exam are the "best option to helping bring perpetrators to justice."

"We also recognize that, in the immediate aftermath of such a traumatizing event, some survivors may be hesitant or unwilling to go through this reporting and exam process," MeToo's statement reads in part, adding: "That is the problem we are working to solve -- giving survivors more time and choice, without sacrificing the evidence needed to bring their perpetrators to justice."

Although the director of the New York State Office of Victim Services Elizabeth Cronin did not directly address the kits, she told News 4 it is important for sexual assault survivors to get help in person, while also noting that the results of sexual assault kits conducted at hospitals do not go to the police unless the victim consents. 

"It's important that the victim not feel alone and that they be provided with all of the resources that we have available to assist them at this difficult time," she said.

While there were those who were against the kits, others weren't so quick to oppose the idea.

"I don't think a woman doing it at home should change anything. It's a DNA test, you can't really argue with that," Brooke Lamantia said.

An immense back log concerning rape kits has been an ongoing problem in the country.

News 4 previously reported in March that the languishing evidence in over 100,000 sexual assault cases around the country were sent for DNA testing with money from a New York prosecutor and federal authorities, spurring over 1,000 arrests and hundreds of convictions in three years, officials said at that time.

It is estimated that around 155,000 or more sex assault evidence kits still await testing across the country, and thousands of results have yet to be linked to suspects, according to the previous report. Many who have been identified can't be prosecuted because of legal time limits and other factor.

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