OLEAN, NY – Southern Tier Health Care System, Inc. (STHCS) and its Sexual Assault
Forensic Examiners (SAFE) program are joining the call against the use of at-home sexual
assault evidence collection kits.

The New York State Coalition Against Sexual Assault (NYSCASA) first issued the warning last week, cautioning consumers against the release of the “MeToo Kit” by a Brooklyn-based company. Law enforcement officials and health professionals alike do not condone the use of such products.

 “The product’s origins may be rooted in good intentions, but the availability of these kits mayact ually inhibit the forensic evidence-gathering and criminal justice processes,” said Donna Kahm, President and CEO of STHCS, which administers the SAFE program at local acute-care hospitals in Allegany, Cattaraugus and Chautauqua counties in collaboration with regional law enforcement and victims’ services agencies.

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“Please, leave these jobs to the professionals in the interest of protecting survivors of sexual assault, placing more perpetrators in jail and beginning the healing process through compassionate care,” she said.

The “MeToo Kit” claims to offer an evidence collection kit that can be administered at home by
a survivor of sexual assault. Currently, this company is marketing their kits to colleges and
universities across the nation as the “the first at-home kit for commercial use.” It is highly
problematic for a number of reasons, NYSCASA officials said.


 
Evidence collected using the “MeToo Kit” may not be admissible in court. In addition, the use of
this product would pose significant issues related to the integrity of the evidence collected,
protection of the chain of custody and privacy protections afforded to survivors of sexual assault.
The “MeToo Kit” cannot take the place of hospitals and medical centers that provide essential
medical services to survivors of sexual assault and access to additional resources, including
victim advocacy and crisis counseling, which are all outside the scope of this product.

Furthermore, this product is being marketed with the phrase "MeToo" to capitalize off of a
movement meant to empower survivors, when the product could actually cause harm to survivors
of sexual assault, according to NYSCASA.

Advocates and allies across the nation are extremely disturbed by this and have cautioned
colleges and universities from purchasing the product, NYSCASA officials said. Under the
Violence Against Women Act, states must provide forensic examinations at no cost to survivors
of sexual assault to remain eligible for a critical funding source. The product could also pose an
expense to survivors and is not subject to state or federal regulations.

The SAFE program coordinated through STHCS is a NYS Department of Health (DOH)-
approved collaborative effort involving hospital-based SAFE centers, rape crisis centers, law
enforcement, prosecutors' offices and other appropriate service agencies. It is available 24/7 to
begin compassionate treatment and evidence collection promptly when a survivor of sexual
assault seeks care at Olean General Hospital, Jones Memorial Hospital and UPMC Chautauqua
WCA Hospital in each of the region’s three counties. SAFE adheres to the following standards:

 Provides timely, compassionate, patient-centered care in private settings that provide
emotional support and reduces further trauma to the patient. 
 Provides quality care to patients who report sexual assault, including evaluation,
treatment, referral and follow-up. 
 Ensures the quality of collection, documentation, preservation and custody of physical
evidence by utilizing a trained and DOH-certified sexual assault forensic examiner to
perform exams. 
 Utilizes an interdisciplinary approach by working with rape crisis centers and other
service providers, law enforcement and prosecutors' offices to effectively meet the
needs of sexual assault victims and the community.
 Provides expert testimony when needed if patients choose to report crimes to law
enforcement; and
 Improves and standardizes data regarding the incidence of sexual assault victims seeking
treatment in hospital emergency departments. 

In 2018, the SAFE program provided services to 36 sexual assault survivors at UPMC
Chautauqua WCA, Olean General Hospital and Jones Memorial Hospital. The program now has
15 specially-trained and certified SAFE providers at the three hospitals. SAFE continues to
recruit and provide training to help nurses achieve and maintain sexual assault nurse examiner
certification.

“Our providers deliver the highest level of care and sensitivity, as well as an excellent track
record for criminal prosecution rates,” Kahm added. “Simply put, at-home kits fall short of
meeting these critical needs for survivors of sexual assault.”

Southern Tier Health Care System is 501(c)(3) not-for-profit rural health care network serving
Allegany, Cattaraugus and Chautauqua counties. Its mission is to improve the health and
wellness of our rural communities. For more information on the SAFE program, visit
www.sthcs.org/safe.html.