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Sex. Celebrity. Politics. With Teeth

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.