‘I feel violated’: Woman whose rape kit DNA was used to charge her in unrelated crime sues San Francisco
SAN FRANSISCO, CALIFORNIA: In 2016, a woman provided a DNA sample to the San Francisco Police Department after being sexually assaulted. Five years later, she was charged with property theft after officials previously stored her DNA in their internal database.
Now, she has filed a new federal lawsuit with an identity, 'Jane Doe.' The suit was filed on Monday, September 12. The woman went on to state she never consented for it to be used for any other investigative purpose and feels "Violated all over again and no longer has faith in the police."
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The rape survivor spoke to The Sun and said, "I want to create awareness. I want people to know about this problem with the system. It's been a long time, I feel like I'm ready, I can talk about it now. Honestly, I still feel violated. I feel like it was a slap in the face because you go to somebody to confide in them and it's just like, wow, this was going on. This is nasty." Further, she added, "I didn't want to call the police [when I was raped], I didn't wanna talk, but I co-operated with them. I feel like people are now going to be skeptical [to come forward]. They'll be like, 'Do you remember what they did to the girl?"
She then explained, "What are these people doing with your DNA, what's really going on? That's like a big question. You don't trust people. My mind just goes on and on. I have to stop myself from thinking and stressing about this, it's a weird situation to be in."
Why storing the DNA of a rape or assault survivor is an unethical practice?
Doe's attorney Pointer said in a press conference on Monday, September 12, "This unethical use of DNA samples violates crime victims' federally guaranteed Fourth Amendment rights against unlawful search and seizure. This is a clear example of government overreach. He further added, "This practice creates distrust in the public and heightens the harm done to sexual assault victims, who in many instances already fear going to the police."
Civil Rights Attorney Adanté Pointer stated that he has taken on the case and further assured the victim would likely be seeking damages in the millions. The attorney also explained that he did not want to discourage victims to speak up about their concerns. However, he hopes the lawsuit will bring about a system change so that San Francisco Police and others are no longer allowed to use crime victims' DNA in any other way.
San Fransisco Police Department has not made any public statement regarding the same. The suit filed by the survivor read, "This case brings to light the San Francisco Police Department's shocking practice of placing crime victims' DNA into a permanent database without the victims' knowledge or consent." The city and county of San Francisco and the local police department, Chief of Police Bill Scott and Crime Lab Director Mark Powell, are among a few on the long list of defendants. The suit also stated, "There are reportedly thousands of people who are being subjected to this arbitrary, unlawful unconstitutional invasion of privacy."
What happened to the woman who filed the suit?
A forensic report was allegedly sent to police in December 2021. This report denoted that the DNA allegedly resembled the sample taken from Plaintiff Doe in 2016 who reported a sexual offense that happened to her. Later, the officials arrested the woman on burglary allegations, the lawsuit stated, "evidence of probable cause for the warrant rested in large part on the DNA match obtained."
The investigation team then arrested and charged Doe with several burglaries. However, all charges were later dropped by District Attorney Chesa Boudin. The attorney stated, "This practice treats victims like evidence, not human beings. This is legally and ethically wrong."
Meanwhile, Police Chief Scott Bill has earlier told the media that the officers would institute new guidelines so that victim DNA would no longer be used in unrelated investigations. He revealed at a police commission meeting that he had found 17 crime victim profiles, 11 of them from rape kits, that were matched as potential suspects in unrelated investigations.