Technologies Against Assault
Using biotechnology to empower survivors of sexual assault
Technologies Against Assault
Technologies Against Assault (TAA) introduces biotechnology to sexual assault kits to confirm evidence collection during the hospital examination and validate survivor experiences earlier in the process. With $25,000, TAA will be able to purchase materials and set up a lab space in order to prototype our technology and bring these kits to hospitals in 2017. Given your support, we will continue to fight the barriers that survivors face in reporting sexual assault.
What is it like to report sexual assault right now?
The process of reporting sexual assault differs by state. Though nationwide movements have started to standardize procedures and reduce gender-based bias, a crucial aspect that has received little attention is the sexual assault examination. A typical examination takes place in a hospital and is ideally conducted by a Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) who is trained in evidence collection. However, inadequate resources means that a SANE is not guaranteed for every survivor.
A survivor’s examination can last between three to eight hours. Immediately following the long and invasive examination, it is impossible to tell whether the biological and clothing samples will produce any forensic evidence. This means that survivors leave the hospital without critical information that could help in deciding whether or not to continue reporting their assault. Finally, the nationwide turnaround time for forensic testing ranges from 3 months to over 1 year.
Our mission is to use biotechnology to reduce the forensic turnaround time, empowering more survivors of sexual assault to seek medical attention.
About the Founders
Bella Okiddy and Richard Park are biomedical engineers at Brown University and will graduate in May with Master’s and Bachelor’s degrees, respectively. If you’d like to get the know the founders more, please click this link (link to come!) to an interview by the Swearer Center @ Brown University.
Technologies Against Assault, a Benefit Corporation
As a Benefit Corporation, or B-Corps, TAA’s social impact mission is always on our minds. It’s what guides our growth and our technology, but bringing our kits to hospitals is only the first step. Introducing biotechnology where there was once no technology comes with a set of challenges. Here are our solutions.
Survivor Support. Our technology has the potential to provide a wealth of information for the survivor during the sexual assault examination. We recognize the importance of correctly interpreting this information and are simultaneously prototyping our technology while also developing a sustainable program to ensure that use of our technology is always performed by trainedSexual Assault Nurse Examiners (SANEs).
Hospital Adoption. The sexual assault examination and kit have evolved over many decades, and we believe that our technology is the next step in that evolution. To ensure the smooth transition from existing kits, we are prototyping our technology so that there is minimal disturbance to the foundational elements of a sexual assault examination which include: survivor testimony, physical examination, clothing and biological specimen collection, and empathetic support.
Legal Ramifications. Sexual assault cases are notoriously difficult to prosecute, and a source of this difficulty stems from how a hospital examination is conducted and how evidence is handled. To guarantee that our kits meet and exceed the legal requirements of sexual assault kits, we are prototyping with the help of survivor advocate networks and trained legal professionals. In addition, we will incorporate the knowledge gained through prototyping into our sustainable SANE Training Program.
“I see only positive things that are going to happen from this.… If a person, someone on the fence that wouldn’t have reported, uses your product, maybe they might [reconsider].”
– Commanding Officer, Providence Police Special Victims Unit
The Technology in Technologies Against Assault
TAA’s technologies seek to reduce barriers to reporting and reduce forensic turnaround time. We create these technologies using a science called microfluidics. Microfluidics is the use of small volumes of biological sample in small channels, reducing the overall cost and time of evidence collection and analysis. Over the past several decades, microfluidic research has grown exponentially in personalized medicine and in diagnostics of cancer, HIV, influenza, and other diseases.
TAA will be the first to bring the power of this technology directly to the sexual assault examination.
We are biomedical engineers at Brown University who will graduate this coming May. We have an extensive knowledge of microfluidics and 8 years of combined scientific research experience. To further help prototype the technology, we have enlisted an expert scientific advisory board:
Director of Biomedical Engineering, Dr. Anubhav Tripathi @ Brown University, also recently named a Fellow of the American Institute of Medical and Biological Engineering,
Supervisor, Cara Lupino @ the Rhode Island Department of Health, Center for Forensic Sciences
At this time, we are processing our patent and are excited to share details of our technology with an update for all our supporters soon!
Why $25,000? and the Embark Fellowship @ Brown University
In early March, we were awarded the Embark Post-Grad Fellowship from Brown University for our venture, Technologies Against Assault, due to its potential as a high social impact project. For the Fellowship,if we’re able to raise $25,000 through this campaign, Brown University will match the $25,000. So for every dollar you can contribute, it’s like you’re giving two!
The bulk of the funds from the campaign will go towards setting up our lab space. That includes all of the equipment, materials, and chemicals we’ll need to rapidly prototype our technology and share our final product with you in 2017.
We’ll also use part of the campaign funds to establish and maintain professional connections within the New England area. We’re located in Providence, RI, and have established networks with the Providence-based survivor networks, RI Department of Health Center for Forensic Sciences, and the police. We have gained a lot from this community, and are excited about the possibility of traveling to nearby areas and learning from their differences and similarities.
We would like to sincerely thank the Swearer Center for their support throughout the past month in helping to organize the campaign.
We also thank Video Producer Alex Braunstein of One Little Did Multimedia for her tremendous work on our campaign video and story.
And lastly, we thank our translators: Rachel Ga Yeon Lee, Ivonne Kwesiga Muganyizi, Sandra Kimokoti, Lucia Hernandez, Dalia Ruiz, Aileen Hiroko Frotten,Jacobé Huet, Mathieu Delisle, and Charles Gaulin!