History of Science & Technology, Including Fossils, Minerals, & Meteorites

History of Science & Technology, Including Fossils, Minerals, & Meteorites

View full screen - View 1 of Lot 45. The Martha Goddard Rape-Proving Evidence Collection Kit.

The Martha Goddard Rape-Proving Evidence Collection Kit

Lot Closed

April 28, 06:46 PM GMT


12,000 - 18,000 USD

Lot Details


[Martha Goddard]

[THE MARTHA GODDARD RAPE-PROVING EVIDENCE COLLECTION KIT] Vitullo Evidence Collection Kit For Sexual Assault Examination. Citizens Committee for Victim Assistance, 1982. 

Cardboard clamshell box (6 1/2 x 10 1/2 inches) with printed paper label to upper cover, opening to reveal a variety of implements for collecting and recording genetic evidence including combs, slides, swabs, envelopes, labels, and bags, as well as printed instruction sheets, patient information forms. 

WITH: Typed letter signed "Marty Goddard", to Mary Sladek (Dreiser), dated August 25, 1981, on letterhead of the Citizens Committee for Victim Assistance (CCVA), offering her a job as Associate Director of the CCVA. 

AND: Printed invitation and RSVP card to a CCVA luncheon honoring Phil Donahue, at the Ritz-Carlton in Chicago. 


In the early 1970s, Goddard worked in Chicago as a victim's advocate. At the time, each year in Chicago rapes were committed over 16,000 times every year, with the vast majority of those rapists walking away; the victims left without justice, and with no systematic way to prove that the rapes had occurred, the police often did not believe the victims. Goddard changed that forever. Realizing that the problem wasn't a lack of evidence, but rather, a lack of standardized way to collect and preserve evidence, she set about developing a rape evidence collection kit, and presented her design to Louis Vitullo, a Chicago police sergeant who worked at the city's crime lab. 

When presented with the designs for the kit, Vitullo yelled at Goddard and rejected her idea, but then realizing the great potential, used her designs to make the kit himself, taking personal credit for the invention. 

Martha Goddard's rape evidence collection kit revolutionized the conviction of sexual assault perpetrators and standardized the compassionate treatment of rape victims without revictimizing them. She is owed an enormous debt of gratitude. 

But credit for the idea was not what Goddard was after; her mission was to advocate for the rights of sexual assault victims, and to make sure that the kits were distributed and used as widely as possible. To this end, she founded the Citizen’s Committee for Victim Assistance (CSVA) which raised funds for and advocated for the use of the kits invented by Goddard, but which now bore Vitullo’s name. One of the great supporters of the CSVA was perhaps surprisingly, the Playboy Foundation.

The full story of the development of the kit, Goddard’s role in developing and promoting it, as well as her tireless advocacy for sexual assault victims, and the heartbreaking latter half of her life was brilliantly told in the June 17, 2020 New York Times article by Pagan Kennedy, “The Rape Kit’s Secret History.” In that article, Kennedy mentions the very kit on offer here:

"Writing this, I dreamed of one day seeing one of the original kits displayed in the Smithsonian, among the parade of great American inventions. Mary Dreiser told me she might have saved one of the kits distributed in the 1980s. I asked her to hunt for it, and there it was, in the back of a closet, yellowed after decades in storage.”

We wholeheartedly agree with Kennedy, that this ingenious invention, (which bears echoes of another great American invention developed by a woman and credited to men: the Home Pregnancy Test, invented by the brilliant Meg Crane in 1967), ranks amongst the “parade of great American inventions,” and hope that going forward it will be better known as “The Martha Goddard Rape-Proving Evidence Collection Kit."


Mary Dreiser (née Sladek)


Pagan Kennedy, "The Rape Kit's Secret History". The New York Times,  June 17, 2020 https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/06/17/opinion/rape-kit-history.html

Opinion, "The Woman Who Pioneered the Rape Kit". The New York Times, June 26, 2020. https://www.nytimes.com/2020/06/26/opinion/letters/rape-kit-marty-goddard.html 

Monique Brouillette "What happened when a journalist tracked the origins of the rape evidence kit." Nieman News, November 4, 2020. https://nieman.harvard.edu/stories/what-happened-when-a-journalist-tracked-the-origins-of-the-rape-evidence-kit/

Jessica Ravitz. "The Story behind the First Rape Kit". CNN. November 21, 2015. https://www.cnn.com/2015/11/20/health/rape-kit-history