A Brooklyn startup is under fire after promoting a controversial new product — a DIY at-home rape kit named the “MeToo Kit.”
The startup, which markets its product as an empowering purchase for sexual violence survivors, is accused of co-opting the #MeToo Movement and using its messaging as a way to mislead and profit from sexual assault victims.
According to the MeToo company website,
“The MeToo Kit empowers survivors of sexual assault to document crucial DNA evidence within their chosen space of safety and in a timely manner, thus preserving the documentation at the standard by which courts would deem admissible and allowing the survivor to quickly shift their focus to self-care support and recovery.”
The kit, which is not yet for sale, includes a swab, a container for depositing saliva, and packaging in which to seal articles of clothing and all other items. It is billed as appropriate for universal use and, according to the kit’s creator, “does not need any specialized training” to administer. Cost is not listed, but the site promises a “pocket-friendly” price. The company also provides a MeToo mobile app for use in tandem with the kit that offers step-by-step guidance and support.
The MeToo kit has quickly sparked outrage among legal and sexual assault experts alike. Michigan’s Attorney General Dana Nessel has already issued a cease-and-desist letter to MeToo Company, arguing that “this company is shamelessly trying to take financial advantage of the ‘Me Too’ movement.”
The New York City Alliance Against Sexual Assault also condemned the kit’s release, saying in a statement,
“We find the ‘MeToo Kits’ not only morally and legally irresponsible, but completely misleading to survivors of sexual assault.”
I’m inclined to agree. Though I can maybe, maybe understand the company’s objective to quickly collect evidence when time sensitivity is an issue, or to supply an alternate method of support when a victim isn’t ready to reach out to a trusted professional, overall this product is ethically sticky at the very least. Opportunists looking to profit off someone else’s trauma is certainly nothing new, and I can’t help but think that the MeToo Company may just be a scam hoping to take advantage of vulnerable victims.
After all, the site explains that the MeToo Kit can, “collect DNA samples and other tissues, which upon testing can provide the necessary time-sensitive evidence required in a court of law to identify a sexual predator’s involvement with sexual assault.”
However, according to the fine print of the startup’s own website, the DIY rape kits likely won’t even hold up in court.
To instruct rape victims to comb through evidence of their own attack, to parse out instructions in a mobile app and package up their worst trauma into neat and tidy containers is grossly problematic in its own right. But to ask them to pay for this service only for their home-collected evidence to be deemed inadmissible in court? It’s truly unconscionable.
To boot, the site suggests that everyone should buy a rape kit as a precautionary method. As the site explains,
“You do not need to buy a fire alarm for the 364 days you do not have a fire, you buy it for the one day you do.”
You can even pre-order your very own rape kit on their website (coming soon!).
For now, the MeToo Company is sticking by its controversial product. The website states,
“We trust this to be a deterrent for sexual assault. We also trust this to be so well received; that households across the world are buying these for themselves and loved ones, not only as a viable resource but as a symbol of protection and hopeful deterrent for assault.”
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Feature art by Vecteezy