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Washington legislator seeks to ban off-the-shelf sexual assault evidence kits

Rep. Gina Mosbrucker (R-Goldendale) testifies on March 8, 2023 about her bill that would ban the sale of over-the-counter sexual assault kits in Washington.
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Rep. Gina Mosbrucker (R-Goldendale) testifies on March 8, 2023 about her bill that would ban the sale of over-the-counter sexual assault kits in Washington.

Republican state Representative Gina Mosbrucker (R-Goldendale) is targeting a New York company that sells sexual assault evidence kits to the public in Washington.

Mosbrucker says the products sold by Leda Health are inferior to kits used by nurses who are trained to take samples from rape victims.

“The person who’s doing it themselves is under the impression that they can do it themselves, mail it in and get prosecution. So, we’re traumatizing them twice," she said.

Mosbrucker is looking to ban the company from selling its wares in Washington. She says the company selling the kits targets college students and has sometimes charged inflated prices.

She presented her bill to a Senate committee on Wednesday.

“One of the biggest concerns is the chain of custody. When we collect evidence, forensic evidence, we have to track that evidence all the way through to prosecution and what this product does is it stops that chain of custody," she said.

Mosbrucker says no courts in the country have accepted evidence from one of the at-home tests as evidence in rape trials.

Opponents, such as Paris Crawford, who works for Leda Health in Washington, say as many as 70% of women who are sexually assaulted don’t tell police or their doctors about their attack.

“There can be many reasons to not report, maybe being under the influence, not wanting to be touched after being assaulted, thinking there’s no evidence left, due to using the restroom, showering or brushing teeth, as well as lack of education in what to do in the face of a sexual assault," she said.

She says at-home tests are preferred by victims who don’t want to endure an examination in a hospital.

Debra Carlson Chamberlain, who testified as a private citizen, said at-home kits make collecting samples more convenient than the current process. She criticized attempts to ban the product from store shelves.

“It removes survivor choice. It removes autonomy under the guise of protection. How can Washington close the door on a potential game changer or sexual assault before it’s given a chance?” she said.

The bill was approved unanimously in the state House. It hasn’t yet been scheduled for a vote in the Senate.

Doug Nadvornick has spent most of his 30+-year radio career at Spokane Public Radio and filled a variety of positions. He is currently the program director and news director. Through the years, he has also been the local Morning Edition and All Things Considered host (not at the same time). He served as the Inland Northwest correspondent for the Northwest News Network, based in Coeur d’Alene. He created the original program grid for KSFC. He has also served for several years as a board member for Public Media Journalists Association. During his years away from SPR, he worked at The Pacific Northwest Inlander, Washington State University in Spokane and KXLY Radio.