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It has come to the Georgia Network to End Sexual Assault’s (GNESA) attention recently, correspondence from a business promoting the use of do-it-yourself (DIY), at-home sexual assault evidence collection kits have been distributed throughout various states. GNESA is writing to express our continued concern for these over-the-counter rape test kits. Despite the national COVID-19 pandemic, we object to any promotion, sale, free distribution, or use of the DIY sexual assault evidence kit for the following reasons:
● The medical forensic exam comprises significantly more than evidence collection. Exams focus on the health and well-being of the survivor. No aspect of the DIY kit addresses pregnancy, Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV), sexually transmitted disease (STD) prevention, or the short- or long-term physical and mental health consequences that result from sexual violence victimization.
● DIY kits discourage the survivor from seeking critical health care and advocacy services.
● DIY kits are falsely marketed as an easy way to collect “evidence” when no reason exists to believe the “evidence” collected would be admissible in a court of law.
● The Official Code of Georgia (O.C.G.A. §17-5-72) states that: A victim shall have the right to have a free forensic medical examination regardless of whether the victim participates in the criminal justice system or cooperates with law enforcement in pursuing prosecution of the underlying crime. A victim (patient) “shall not be required to pay, directly or indirectly, for the cost of a forensic medical examination. The cost of a forensic medical examination shall be paid for by the Criminal Justice Coordinating Council, Crime Victims Compensation program (https://cjcc.georgia.gov/victimscompensation). The Sexual Assault Forensic Examiner shall maintain chain of custody of all forensic evidence until all evidence is turned over to the receiving law enforcement agency (unless other arrangements are made based on a community’s protocols or procedures). We believe in a victim centered approach in supporting survivors. This support includes but not limited to appropriate medical, victim advocacy and law enforcement services provided by trained professionals. Survivors deserve no less.
Despite the challenges that COVID-19 presents, a patient who has experienced sexual assault—like any person experiencing a health emergency—will have access to the examination and treatment they need. Sexual Assault Nurse/Forensic Examiner (SANE) programs are open and caring for patients, adapting the location and delivery of care as needed. SANEs/SAFEs are working closely and collaboratively with emergency departments, advocacy, and law enforcement to ensure the patient knows where to receive care. Clinicians have a responsibility to remove barriers to care for all patient populations across the lifespan. During this moment of the national pandemic, we must continue to express fidelity to patients by ensuring essential access to trauma-informed medical care and justice for patients who experience violence. We find it unconscionable that companies are taking advantage of this national emergency to create barriers to critical medical care by promoting incorrect, misleading, and potentially harmful information. If you have any questions or concerns you would like to discuss, please do not hesitate to contact GNESA at (404) 815-5261 or email at email@example.com.