Can take-home DIY rape kits help stop sexual assault?

The company said it can return results within 30 days as opposed to US hospitals, which provide results after an average of two years.

Madison Campbell (L) Liesel Vaidya (R) co-founders of Leda Heath  (photo credit: LEDA HEALTH)
Madison Campbell (L) Liesel Vaidya (R) co-founders of Leda Heath
(photo credit: LEDA HEALTH)
With the country shocked by the alleged gang-rape of a 16-year-old girl in Eilat, Israeli investors and an American company are offering an innovative and controversial new product – a take-home rape kit.
Leda Health, formerly known as MeToo Kits, claims to offer rape victims a new path to gather evidence after a sexual assault.
The kit comes with an app that guides the victim through the samples collecting process. Samples are then sent to the US company via FedEx and sent to labs in California and New York, Israeli investor David Bar-Aharon said.
The company said it can return results within 30 days as opposed to US hospitals, which provide results after an average of two years.
Referring specifically to the alleged rape in Eilat, another Israeli investor in Leda Health, Eitan Hoffman, said the hospital in the southern city does not have a specially designated room to collect samples from rape victims.
“If the victim had our kit that issue would have been solved,” he said.
Hoffman and Bar-Aharon are partners in O Ventures, a venture capital fund that invests in start-ups with social implications. The O stands for the Hebrew word “ohev,” love. Both explained they love the idea of helping victims seek closure and justice.
According to the Association of Rape Crisis Centers in Israel, 1 in 3 women is sexually assaulted during her lifetime and 1 in 7 women is raped during her lifetime.
In California, a woman submitted samples from a DIY kit to the police as part of an ongoing investigation, bimonthly magazine Mother Jones reported in April. The product she used was produced by Preserve Kit, another company that manufactures DIY rape kits. The process was viewed via Zoom by a forensic nurse and performed while a detective waited outside the victim’s door to collect the samples.
Under its former name of MeToo Kits, Leda Health was hit by a cease-and-desist letter in 2019 from Michigan Attorney-General Dana Nessel, who warned that the marketing materials might lead victims to believe that the samples collected at home would be admissible in court. MeToo changed language on its website so it would not be seen as making promises of what its kits could do, Mother Jones reported at the time.
Hoffman and Bar-Aharon said they were told by Leda Health’s legal team that collected samples may be admissible in court, as long as they are relevant and reliable.
Nevertheless, they said there was interest in the DIY kit.
“Leda Health gets a lot of interest from college campuses in the US,” Hoffman said. “They hope that by having rape kits on campus, sexual assaults will drop.”
Leda Health was founded by Madison Campbell after she endured a sexual assault outside the US. She is convinced that having such DIY rape kits available would contribute to justice being done.
Tamara Hoffman, a fellow investor in the company and Eitan’s sister, said she thinks Leda kits will ultimately create a greater social impact as, while they may not prevent rape, “the democratization of such kits will act as a deterrence and perhaps certain attackers may think twice before committing an assault.”.
Yael Sherer, head of the war against sexual violence in Israel lobby group, slammed the claims, saying she thinks “they just want to make a buck.”
Sherer said no court would accept evidence collected by the victim as it goes against the principle of a neutral collector. She called the idea of a rape victim performing a self-examination correctly while following an app “absurd,” comparing it to a self-performing colonoscopy.
“In Israel we need to fight to get the [Institute of Forensic Science] to accept a video-call from a hospital room,” she said. “Such kits would be impossible here.”
She also slammed the idea that having such rape-kits around campus will reduce sexual assaults. Citing the 2015 example of Brock Turner, who raped a young unconscious woman behind a dumpster.
Sherer said rapists don’t view their actions as a crime and don’t believe they will ever pay a price for them, making the argument they may reconsider because kits are available very unlikely.