Michigan AG subpoenas startup behind at-home rape kits
Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel’s office issued a subpoena Tuesday to a small, New York-based startup that’s getting plenty of press for marketing an at-home, DIY sexual assault forensic medical exam.
The Me Too Kit company (which founder Madison Campbell described to Fox17 as “a two-female team under the age of 25 who’s just trying to help those people” in response to receiving a cease-and-desist letter from Nessel's office last month) hasn’t actually sold any of these kits yet.
But their marketing materials and pitch to investors created a firestorm in recent months, with experts calling the concept an “obvious attempt to monetize the #MeToo movement ... that could have a disastrous impact on survivors of sexual assault.”
While their Me Too Kit website is now “under construction,” the company initially promised “the first at-home kit for commercial use,” which would “empower survivors to accurately collect evidence in a setting and timing of their choice,” according to exhibits in the AG’s subpoena petition, which an Ingham County judge approved this week.
Also included: a mockup of the kit’s packaging, which reads: “Swab. Spit. Seal.” And materials for a “University Pilot Program” that describe the kits as “an empowering adjunct resource to any university’s sexual health and safety strategy on campus.”
The AG’s subpoena demands Me Too Kit turn over the number of Michiganders who may have signed up for the company’s wait list to buy the kit; any communication the company’s had with Michigan schools or businesses about potentially purchasing the kits; as well as evidence to back up the claim that Me Too Kit has “spoken with many district attorneys, criminal defense lawyers, civil lawyers, and our legal team and trust with the utmost certainty this will be admissible in court,” as the company claims.
The company did not respond to Michigan Radio’s request for comment.
In a statement urging schools not to buy the kits (if and when they do hit the market,) the Campus Advocacy and Prevention Professionals Association said several “members’ campuses have been contacted” by the startup.
“Me Too Kit’s marketing is compelling, because they present real problems,” CAPPA’s statement says. “We agree that survivors should be empowered with multiple choices and options. The company also discusses how many survivors do not want to go to a hospital shortly after being sexual assaulted, evidence collection can be retraumatizing, not all hospitals use well-trained staff following best practices, and our country has a large rape kit backlog. However, the Me Too Kit is not a solution to these problems, and their claims are misleading at best and exploitative at worst.”
And the National Alliance to End Sexual Violence issued an equally critical statement.
“A forensic medical exam consists of forensic evidence collection, a full medical exam, STI and pregnancy prevention options, STI treatment, and treatment for medical injuries,” the NAESV says. “Access to a rape crisis center or campus advocate is available when being examined in a hospital or medical center but is obviously not included with the Me Too Kit... Forgoing these other much needed services, the focus of the kit seems to be largely placed on DNA identification. When 8 out of 10 rapes are committed by someone known to the victim, DNA identification is by no means the only necessary part of a forensic exam.”