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Banning at-home rape kits would push survivors deeper into a flawed system

SHARE Banning at-home rape kits would push survivors deeper into a flawed system
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In this Feb. 8, 2017, file photo, Utah State Crime Lab Director Jay Henry holds a sexual assault evidence collection kit following a committee meeting at the Utah State Capitol, in Salt Lake City. The Legislature is considering a bill that would ban the sale of at-home rape kits.

Rick Bowmer, Associated Press

My name is Brooke. I am 22. I live in Utah. In 2017, I was raped. Being an advocate for women, I thought I knew the steps I needed to take to get help. I went to one hospital, but left after being shamed by a nurse. I went to a second hospital — still wearing the clothes I was raped in. I endured an 8-hour rape kit where I was not able to talk to a sane nurse until questioning from law enforcement concluded. I hoped that the system would protect me, but I was wrong. My detective never called, and when I finally called them, I discovered my case was deemed a “he said/she said” situation. My rapist was never questioned. The system gave me nothing but trauma and false hope. I regret allowing myself to be subjected and traumatized by the state that swore to protect me.

Going into those hospitals that night was a traumatic step to take. Instead of going to the hospital, I needed to go home, to be held by my family and try to feel safe again. Even if I had been in the care of the best providers at the hospital, I would not have been able to feel safe. I was surrounded by strangers, cold rooms and white walls while being subjected to what felt like a second assault by a medical instrument in a stranger’s hands. On top of the fear and shame I felt from walking into the hospital, I felt like my interactions with law enforcement were not in my best interest. I had no legal counsel, no support and no idea how hopeless I would feel when they deemed my case a “he said/she said.”

An at-home rape kit gives survivors the option to take the power back by taking control over their body and their care, in a place they deem safe. I was one of the 12.7% of survivors who does seek medical attention. Most survivors never even walk into the hospital — probably out of the same fear and shame that I felt that night. The at-home rape kits are not a perfect solution for everyone, but as my story and the story of many survivors shows, neither is the current system. What the at-home rape kits do offer to survivors is more choice and control. Just as a survivor is a victim to their rapist, I was a victim to a flawed system. 

My name is Brooke and I am sharing my story because survivors deserve a choice. All survivors, both those who go through the system and those who do not, deserve the exploration of a better solution. The Utah Legislature wants to ban buying at-home rape kits. They say it gives survivors false hope. Instead, it boxes survivors even more into a system that has failed so many of us. As survivors and loved ones we need to contact our legislators and demand they vote no on HB168, which seeks to enable a system that has continually failed us all. 

Brooke H. is a rape survivor from Utah.