Virginia Attorney General warns about at-home rape test kits

Posted at 5:53 PM, Sep 10, 2019
and last updated 2019-09-10 21:36:08-04

NORFOLK, Va. - A new company is hoping survivors of rape and sexual assault can preserve evidence from the safety of their home, but Virginia's Attorney General Mark Herring is telling people to stay away.

"These kits, according to a lot of health care professionals, law enforcement and survivor advocacy groups, leave a lot out and they have a lot of concerns," said Herring.

The kits allow survivors to preserve DNA evidence following a rape or sexual assault from home. "Our mission is to help survivors of sexual assault who do not have the ability or are willing to go to the police or the hospital to collect that time sensitive DNA evidence," said Madison Campbell, a co-founder of MeToo Kit.

Campbell is 23 and founded the company based on her own experience as a survivor of sexual assault in college. "For me, I didn't feel like I was capable of talking to anybody about this," she said. "I didn't want anybody to console me and I was incredibly scared to have anyone touch my body, and I know that I'm not alone."

Right now, the product is still in its early stages, Campbell said. It's not currently for sale, but they're hoping to launch in early 2020.

Related: #METOOATODU project offers healing for sexual assault survivors 

Critics argue the test would be inadmissible in court and might delay a survivor from going to a health care provider. "I do think it's important to give survivors more options and choices and to put them in control, but it's also important that they get the medical treatment and support that they need," said Herring.

Often times, survivors can take the tests under the supervision of a nurse, who can then testify in court about the reliability of the testing.

Michelle Walters is the Program Director of Crisis Services at the YWCA of South Hampton Roads and believes the MeToo Kit could run into a lot of problems. "The court is not going to accept this stuff," Walters said. "Defense attorneys could shoot holes through it, and it's just not going to be in the best interest of our survivors at all."  Walters advice is to "stay away. Stay away."

MeToo Kit is still working on finding out a way to be admissible in court, Campbell said. "We're looking forward to working advocacy groups, with Attorneys General, with prosecutors - in order to ensure that by the time we launch, this will be admissible in a court of law," she said.