Mosbrucker bill would ban do-it-yourself rape kits

Rep. Gina Mosbrucker, R-Goldendale, wants to make sure companies don’t profit at the expense of sexual assault survivors in Washington state. The 14th District lawmaker has introduced legislation that would ban the sale of do-it-yourself (DYI) rape kits.

“In recent years, several companies have sought to profit by selling over-the-counter, do-it-yourself ‘evidence collection’ kits. Makers of these kits have marketed them as an alternative option to sexual assault kits conducted in a hospital setting by a trained professional. However, these do-it-yourself kits are not admissible in any Washington court,” said Mosbrucker, ranking member of the House Community Safety, Justice and Reentry Committee. “There is simply no replacement for legitimate rape kits that are done at a hospital by a medically-trained forensic professional or Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner.”

After Leda Health Corporation of Brooklyn, New York marketed the kits to a University of Washington sorority, Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson issued a “cease and desist notification” in October 2022. The notification ordered the company to stop advertising, marketing and selling it’s “Early Evidence Kits” to Washington consumers. Ferguson noted in the order that “Leda’s Early Evidence Kits are ineligible for testing by the Washington State Crime Lab as they are self-administered, and face numerous barriers to admission as evidence, including on the basis of potential cross-contamination, spoliation, and validity.”

Mosbrucker noted several concerns about the kits, including:

  • They do not contain the elements of a sexual assault kit identified in Washington law, specifically photographs, blood and urine samples;
  • There is no precedent for self-collected DNA evidence being admissible in criminal court and the kits are generally not admissible because of chain-of-custody issues;
  • While professional examinations are conducted at no cost to sexual assault victims at health facilities and hospitals in Washington state, private companies are profiting by selling the DYI kits. By Washington law, sexual assault kits are supposed to be free for survivors — not a product that victims pay money to receive; and
  • Private companies have no access to the FBI’s criminal justice database, CODIS, which can create a DNA profile of the suspected perpetrator from sexual assault evidence kits.

“These kits provide a false sense of security to victims who have just gone through a traumatic experience and harm the potential for a successful prosecution of the rapist. There is no comparison to the actual sexual assault evidence kit administered by trained medical professionals who provide these examinations at no cost,” Mosbrucker added. “Rape is a crime serial by nature and often results in physical and/or mental trauma. Sexual assault survivors need more than a simple and inadequate over-the-counter test. It is reprehensible that any company would try to profit from victims when they are most vulnerable. This bill would stop companies from selling kits that create false expectations and could impose further trauma.”

House Bill 1564 would prohibit over-the-counter, at home, and/or self-collected sexual assault evidence kits from being sold or provided to the public, including college students who have been targeted for marketing of DYI kits.

A public hearing on the bill will be held Feb. 7 in the House Community Safety, Justice and Reentry Committee.

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