My Turn: Over-the-counter rape kits harm survivors

For the Monitor
Published: 2/25/2021 9:11:43 AM

A bill to repeal the ban of over-the-counter rape kits is back on the table after survivors worked tirelessly last year to close the door on this issue. Granite Staters must stand with survivors of sexual violence to strongly oppose this harmful legislation.

New Hampshire legislators spoke overwhelmingly in favor of banning these at-home kits in 2020 and took great strides to protect survivors. It is unconscionable that survivors must once again share their stories to validate what was a clear-cut decision made in the best interests of our state.

Survivors deserve comprehensive medical care by experts at no cost, something that has long been available in New Hampshire. Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners (SANEs) are registered nurses certified in documenting and collecting forensic evidence. Their work greatly assists the prosecution should the survivor choose to report their sexual assault. It’s an erroneous misconception that survivors must report to law enforcement to qualify for a SANE exam; survivors have the option to remain anonymous, can choose which parts of the exam they want to proceed with, and can stop the exam at any time.

Further, SANEs provide survivors referrals for essential follow-up care, including medical treatment and counseling. A kit bought on a store shelf can’t do that.

Instead, these at-home kits shift 100% of the responsibility to survivors during the most traumatic time in their lives. The kits set survivors up for failure as they alone try to collect and preserve evidence of their assault, only to learn that it cannot be used in court.

By offering these kits, survivors are more vulnerable to scrutiny and blame. Every decision they make when using these at-home kits will be dissected and challenged by the defense, causing further re-traumatization.

Why, as Granite Staters, do we ever want to put survivors in that situation?

The most impactful thing we can do as a state is stand with survivors and educate our communities about the best resources and services available.

Allowing the sale of over-the-counter rape kits is not furthering New Hampshire’s response to sexual violence – it is muddying the waters. I urge you to call your state senators to oppose Senate Bill 65 and tell them survivors deserve better.

(Brian Harlow lives in Concord.)

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