GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — After getting a cease and desist letter from Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel’s office, the 23-year-old woman who invented an at-home sexual assault evidence kit is defending her company.
Madison Campbell is the founder and CEO of MeToo Kit Company based in Brooklyn, New York. She is a survivor of sexual assault. Following the attack, she chose not to report it to authorities.
“We just want to make sure that survivors you know, have that ability to not have to talk to anyone if they don’t feel like they are ready to because I know certainly I was not,” Campbell said.
The kits are still in the development stage and are not yet ready for purchase. Customers are able to preorder them online.
On Aug. 29, Nessel’s office sent MeToo Kit Company a cease and desist letter, claiming the company engaged in unfair trade practices. Among the reasons, the office said it was skeptical of the kit’s admissibility in a court of law.
“For us, if cell phone transcripts, social media and more can be admissible, we believe in the future, so can this,” Campbell said.
According to the MeToo Kit website, the kit provides materials needed to swab areas indicated in the instructions and to deposit saliva into a container. The kit also comes with sealable bags for clothes containing DNA evidence.
According to Campbell, she and her business parter, Liesel Vaidya are developing a mobile application to go along with the kit that can be used to document evidence.
“The individual would need to scan the barcode on the collection device and that would then start a time stamp and there would also be a place to put witness testimonies,” Campbell said.
While Campbell and Vaidya work to make sure the kit is legally sound, Campbell said she wishes Nessel’s office would have approached the company differently.
“We’re gaining insight into jurisdiction by jurisdiction to understand what chain of custody needs to be in order to be admissible,” Campbell said. “A significant portion of the development includes ensuring that the kit’s hardware and software can meet these legal standpoints and you know, we would love to work with the Michigan AG and AGs across the country in order to create the strongest possible product.”
Campbell said she and Nessel have the same goal: to protect survivors of sexual assault.
“We believe that this is a crucial time for allies who support sexual assault survivors to stand together,” Campbell said. “You know, to serve the population that chooses not to report or ends up outside the traditional criminal justice system.”
The company has not yet decided on a price for the kit, but Campbell said she hopes to make them as accessible as possible. Campbell said the company’s goal is to have the kits ready for sale by spring of 2020.
Another criticism from Nessel’s office is the kit does not explain that rape kits are free in Michigan for people who seek medical attention within 120 hours of the assault.
Campbell points out statistics from the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network that indicate only 20% of females assaulted at college, like Campbell was, report it to law enforcement.
“After my sexual assault, I did not even want to touch myself, let alone let anyone touch my body or console me,” Campbell said.
Though officials from other states have criticized the MeToo kits, Campbell said it was especially disappointing to get the letter from Michigan.
“Michigan, who is the home of Larry Nassar, you know had all these female students that did not think they were going to be believed,” Campbell said. “I think that we should be looking for alternative ways to address these humongous problems that are happening, instead of trying to take down you know, a two-female team under the age of 25 who’s just trying to help those people.”