San Francisco D.A. Says Police Misused Sexual Assault Victim's DNA Sample, Charged Her with Unrelated Crime

The city's top prosecutor called the alleged practice "legally and ethically wrong"

San Francisco Police cars
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San Francisco's top prosecutor has accused the city's police force of utilizing the DNA of rape victims to connect some of them to unrelated crimes, PEOPLE confirms.

A statement issued Monday by District Attorney Chesa Boudin insists that, on at least one occasion, San Francisco police kept DNA samples collected from women who'd been sexually assaulted and tapped that information in their efforts to develop suspects in other crimes.

The statement acknowledges officials still have no idea how widespread the practice has been.

Boudin's office only recently became aware of the issue after investigators linked a woman to a property crime using DNA she had submitted as a sexual assault victim.

Boudin denounced the practice, noting that crime labs typically destroy DNA samples from sexual assault victims once they've been processed.

But according to Boudin, who will host a press conference on the matter later this morning, the police have been holding on to those samples.

"Rapes and sexual assault are violent, dehumanizing, and traumatic," Boudin said in the statement. "I am disturbed that victims who have the courage to undergo an invasive examination to help identify their perpetrators are being treated like criminals rather than supported as crime victims."

Boudin said victims of sexual assault should feel protected when they report crimes perpetrated against them.

"We should encourage survivors to come forward — not collect evidence to use against them in the future," he said. "This practice treats victims like evidence, not human beings. This is legally and ethically wrong. My office is demanding that this practice end immediately, and is encouraging local and state legislators to introduce legislation to end this practice in California. We remain committed to doing everything in our power to support survivors of sexual violence."

According to the statement, this practice likely disproportionately affects women of color, as research shows they are more prone to sexual violence and more reluctant to report it.

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A spokesperson for the San Francisco Police Department did not respond to requests for comment.

The statement also quotes state Sen. Scott Wiener.

"Sexual assault is one of the most traumatic experiences anyone can undergo," Wiener said. "Coming forward after a sexual assault to provide a rape kit can be re-traumatizing. Too many people decide not to take that step, given the trauma. Yet survivors can at least be assured — or so they thought — that the sample they provide for a rape kit will only be used for the sexual assault investigation and not misused for other purposes."

Wiener said he will be working with Boudin's office "to address this problem through state legislation, if needed."

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