NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — There has been intense backlash over at-home sexual assault evidence collection kits. After legal concerns, two companies have stopped selling the products, but there are still some on the market. These at-home kits have sexual assault victim advocates upset.
Betsy Mangum, a victim advocate with the Sexual Assault Center in Nashville, said when someone is a victim of sexual assault, it’s important to take the proper next steps. This includes getting a forensic exam performed by a sexual assault nurse examiner, or SANE nurse.
The SAFE clinic in Nashville ensures survivors receive treatment for physical injuries, a mental health evaluation, resources and medication to prevent pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections.
"They come in and they do head-to-toe examinations, they look for strangulation which is extremely dangerous and can lead up to life-threatening problems down the line," said Mangum.
During this process nurses also preserve potential DNA evidence. With these at-home kits, advocates worry it wouldn’t protect chain of custody and evidence. Although you don’t have to report the crime right away, advocates say there is limited time for you to take the exam. SANE nurses are able to safely store evidence should you decide to report it later.
"Here we have a witness who is usually the advocate with the victim, and they sign off knowing where the swab came from," said Mangum, " it's then sealed in the evidence locker. But, with at-home kits, it is only your own word so it becomes he-said she-said. How does the defense attorney know it's even your DNA?"
The SAFE clinic keeps their kits locked away with only certain people having approved access. If you want to go to the SAFE Clinic, it's located at 101 French Landing Drive in Nashville. The clinic is 24/7. If you need to reach the Crisis & Support line, call 1-800-879-1999.