DNA from Rape Kits Is Now Being Used to Connect Survivors to Crimes

San Francisco police used DNA from a woman's rape kit to arrest her for a felony property crime.

DNA from Rape Kits Is Now Being Used to Connect Survivors to Crimes
Photo:Jeff Chiu (AP)

As if rape survivors needed any more reasons to hesitate reporting the crime, San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin announced Monday that the city’s crime lab put a sexual assault victim’s DNA from her rape kit into a database for potential criminal offenders — and it was used to connect the survivor to a recent felony.

The San Francisco Chronicle reported the woman’s DNA was taken as a part of a rape kit “years ago,” but linked someone to a recent property crime. The DA’s office found out about the re-entry last week.

The case in question was announced with a lot of vagaries to protect the sexual assault victim, but Boudin did say she was arrested on suspicion of a felony. Officials said this crossover wasn’t included in the waiver a victim signs at time of DNA collection. “Even if it were mentioned somewhere in the fine print, is that an appropriate waiver to seek from a victim who’s just come in and reported a sex assault? Absolutely not,” Boudin said.

Boudin said he isn’t sure how many times this horrific privacy violation has occurred. The office is said to be investigating how often police may have done this. While I understand wanting to get ahead of such terrible news, it seems like having an estimate might be nice, as it is the obvious follow-up question to such disclosures. Or maybe having a timeline of how long such a review will take would be helpful, because, again, it is a horrific violation of privacy.

“We want San Francisco to be as safe as possible, [and] we want survivors of sexual assault to feel comfortable and safe reporting and cooperating with law enforcement,” Boudin said, according to the Chronicle.

While this is a kind sentiment, it’s not one that’s rooted in reality. The state of California reported nearly 14,000 untested sexual assault evidence kits in 2020. Eighty-four percent, or 11,654, of those kits were from assaults reported to law enforcement agencies.

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