Whose rape kit? Stabilizing the Vitullo® Kit through positivist criminology and protocol feminism

Renee Shelby*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Science and Technology Studies (STS) scholarship has increasingly focused on the rape kit, with scholars critiquing the gendered biases that are enacted through the medico-legal exam and how the kit itself serves as a technoscientific witness of rape. However, little scholarship has focused on the discourses surrounding the early US Vitullo® Kit. This article traces the stabilization of the kit from 1973 to 1987, attending to how community advocates embraced technoscientific protocols to intervene in medico-legal evidence collection. I bring insights from criminology in conversation with STS, to examine archival records associated with the Vitullo® Kit. I argue the kit emerged as a strategic feminist and positivist criminological intervention, in which discourses about the perceived reliability and objectivity of protocol technoscience were believed to counter gendered stereotypes embedded in the justice system. This project, sheds new light on the neglected contributions of community advocates in developing this kit.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)669-688
Number of pages20
JournalTheoretical Criminology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Nov 1 2020


  • Forensic
  • gender and crime
  • protocol feminism
  • rape kit
  • sexual violence

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Law


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