MEDIA STATEMENT: CCASA WARNS AGAINST AT-HOME/DIY FORENSIC EVIDENCE “RAPE KITS”
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 20, 2020
Contact: Jolene Cardenas,
Director of Communications and Community Engagement
Colorado Coalition Against Sexual Assault (CCASA)
Direct Line: 720.330.8922
CCASA WARNS AGAINST AT-HOME/DIY FORENSIC EVIDENCE “RAPE KITS”
DENVER, CO – Recent concerns about the spread of COVID-19 has created an opportunity for privately owned businesses to profit on distribution of At-Home or Do-It-Yourself rape kits. The Colorado Coalition Against Sexual Assault (CCASA) wants to emphasize to survivors and advocates that there are no medical or legal benefits to using these types of kits for gathering forensic evidence. There are many risks associated with at-home kits, including limiting options for survivors to receive full services, STI and HIV testing, emergency contraception, and other health needs.
In its September 2019 statement, the National District Attorneys Association (NDAA) characterized victim-collected evidence as having “little chance of admissibility in a court of law,” and noted that use of these kits may not only “prevent prosecutors from holding offenders accountable” but “exacerbate revictimization for those who turn to the criminal justice system.” It is crucial to note that these kits will likely not stand up in court. The exam must maintain a chain of custody to be able to be admissible to labs or courts. Recently, multiple attorneys general around the U.S. have issued cease and desist orders against them for this specific reason.
Also, in regard to admissibility concerns, medical forensic exams must adhere to specific windows in which they can efficiently collect evidence. Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners (SANEs) are trained to be able to assess when it is appropriate for an exam to still take place. Where a forensic nurse is physically present during the collection of evidentiary material, the nurse may accurately attest to that material’s collection and transfer. The nurse’s direct oversight ensures strict maintenance of chain of custody and, thus, maximizes the admissibility of the evidence in court.
Tests are currently still accessible to survivors both within and outside of hospital settings. Medical forensic exams across Colorado are still currently widely available with some slight modifications. Some SANE sites are not located at hospitals. If a survivor utilizes a DIY kit rather than going to their local medical/SANE center, they will not be automatically connected to local, confidential advocates.
When survivors are able to access trained SANEs, the experience can go beyond medical treatment and forensic evidence collection to mitigate the trauma they’ve experienced as SANEs are trained to provide information and resources that can assist survivors in their healing. CCASA maintains that At-Home/DIY test kits may provide survivors with false hope that they might be able to seek justice when the chances are very slim. We encourage survivors to reach out to their local advocacy program (visit https://www.ccasa.org/gethelp/) for information about how they can obtain a forensic medical exam by a SANE or other trained medical professional.
Interviews with CCASA staff available upon request.
The Colorado Coalition Against Sexual Assault (CCASA) provides leadership, advocacy, and support to address and prevent sexual violence.