SF District Attorney

DA Boudin Denounces Practice of Violating Rape Victims’ Privacy and Misusing Sexual Assault DNA Evidence

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CONTACT: 

Rachel Marshall / 415-416-4468 / Rachel.Marshall@sfgov.org

Director of Communications / Policy Advisor / Assistant District Attorney

SAN FRANCISCO, CA—Today, District Attorney Chesa Boudin denounced a recently-discovered use of sexual assault victim DNA evidence.  District Attorney Boudin learned that a law enforcement database with DNA collected from sexual assault victims is searched and used to identify possible suspects. The crime lab attempts to identify crime suspects by searching a database of DNA evidence that contains DNA collected from rape and sexual assault victims.  District Attorney Boudin condemned the practice of using rape and sexual assault victims’ DNA to attempt to subsequently incriminate them.  District Attorney Boudin is committed to working with law enforcement partners to address this and called for local and state legislation to stop this practice. 

“Rapes and sexual assault are violent, dehumanizing, and traumatic. 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,” said District Attorney Boudin.  “We should encourage survivors to come forward—not collect evidence to use against them in the future. 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.”

“Sexual assault is one of the most traumatic experiences anyone can undergo,” said California State Senator Scott Wiener.  “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.  If survivors believe their DNA may end up being used against them in the future, they’ll have one more reason not to participate in the rape kit process. That’s why I’m working with the DA’s office to address this problem through state legislation, if needed.”

“There are already enormous barriers for victims of rape to come forward to report the crime. Any DNA evidence collected from victims of rape must not be used for any other purpose than investigating the rape itself and of course must never be used against the victim herself,” said District 9 Supervisor Hillary Ronen. “I have asked to the City Attorney to draft legislation to prevent DNA evidence—or any sort of evidence from a victim’s rape kit—to be used for anything other than investigating that rape.  Rape victims’ DNA should be protected at all levels of government, anywhere.”

About Sexual Assault Testing

When victims of sexual assault report a sexual assault, they are often asked to consent to undergoing a sexual assault examination. During this examination, biological evidence from bodily fluids, fingernail scrapings, and bite and scratch marks is collected from the victim’s body. The victim submits their own DNA sample in order to exclude DNA that comes from the victim, as opposed to the suspect. 

Research reveals that only a small percentage of sexual assault victims undergo sexual assault testing.  Sexual assault testing is an invasive and traumatic process for many sexual assault survivors. For this reason, many survivors are reluctant to undergo such a personally invasive process. Victims of sexual assault consent to their DNA collection for this purpose, not so that their DNA will be retained in a local law enforcement database permanently to be searched years later.  Using victims’ DNA in order to potentially incriminate them in the future further dissuades sexual assault survivors from undergoing what is already a very difficult and emotional process.

Nationally, there is a concerning backlog in rape kit testing, as hundreds of thousands of collected rape kits remain untested.  It is shocking that during the time many rape kits were going untested in San Francisco, those kits that were being tested resulted in the DNA of rape victims being saved for future, unrelated investigations.

“The police violate a victim’s privacy when they put her DNA profile in a criminal database and then maintain that profile to use for reasons that have nothing to do with the case they are investigating,” said Michael Risher, of Counsel at the ACLU Northern California.  “Federal law rightly prohibits the police from uploading these types of samples into the national Combined DNA Index System (CODIS), which is used to match DNA samples collected from crimes scenes with those collected from people convicted of or in some cases arrested for crimes.  Local agencies that maintain separate databases should follow this sensible rule to ensure that victims’ DNA is not retained and used for unrelated purposes. This is especially important for California law-enforcement agencies like SFPD because, unlike the federal Constitution, the California Constitution expressly protects privacy rights and victims’ rights.”

This Practice Disproportionately Impacts Marginalized Communities

Research shows that Black women are disproportionately impacted by sexual violence—and are particularly reluctant to come forward to report sexual violence to the police. Members of the LGBTQIA community are also disproportionately impacted by sexual assault and face additional barriers to reporting these crimes, in part due to lack of trust and a history of being overlooked by law enforcement.  This makes eliminating barriers to reporting and undergoing sexual assault testing even more important.

“Our legal system is not designed to support survivors of sexual violence and this is another example of that truth,” KellyLou Densmore, Director of the Office of Sexual Harassment and Assault Response and Prevention (SHARP).  “Many survivors already choose not to share their experiences, particularly transgender people and cisgender women of color, LGBT people and other marginalized groups who may distrust police and face other significant barriers to receiving support after sexual assault.  I am disturbed to learn that DNA from rape kits is being retained to use against survivors in the future, and I commend DA Boudin for drawing attention to this shameful practice.” 

“Black Women Revolt Against Domestic Violence (BWRADV) objects to a victim’s rape exam, known as a SART exam, being used to self-incriminate past survivors of sexual assault and rape,” said Pamela Tate, Co-Executive Director of Black Women Revolt Against Domestic Violence.  “Rape survivors do not give law enforcement a blanket waiver of their rights to not self-incriminate.  This type of misrepresentation will have a chilling effect to Black women and women of color in reporting crimes of sexual assault.”

“It can be especially frightening for crime survivors who are immigrants or non-native English speakers to come forward to report a crime like domestic violence or sexual assault,” said Orchid Pusey, Executive Director of the Asian Women’s Shelter.  “The DNA evidence that survivors of crimes like domestic violence and sexual assault give to law enforcement through rape kit tests must be treated with the utmost respect. Law enforcement and all of us together should focus on eliminating barriers to survivors reporting crimes. Using DNA evidence from a survivor’s most vulnerable moments to investigate her years later abuses trust and discourages future survivors’ reporting and participation.”

“The District Attorney’s Office is dedicated to centering crime victims and survivors and encouraging them to trust the legal process,” said District Attorney Chief of Victim Services Kasie Lee.  “For so long, sexual assault survivors’ experiences have been disregarded or undervalued, and many survivors are understandably distrustful of police and law enforcement.  I hope that by protecting victim privacy we can promote trust and encourage more survivors to come forward.”

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中文

地檢官博徹思譴責濫用證物和侵犯性侵受害者私隱的做法

三藩市——今天,地檢官博徹思最近發現性侵案受害者的 DNA被當作證據使用,並譴責此做法。地檢官博徹思了解到,執法數據庫中儲存了從性侵案受害者身上收集的 DNA樣本並使用來識別疑犯。地檢官博徹思譴責使用受害者的 DNA將他們定罪的做法。地檢官博徹思致力與執法夥伴合作解決此問題,並呼籲地方和州政府立法停止這種做法。

「性侵犯是暴力、不人道和具創傷性的。令人不安的是,那些有勇氣在被傷害後接受 “性侵取證套件” (Rape Kit) 身體取證的肇事者,竟然被當作罪犯對待,而不是獲得應有的支持」地檢官博徹思說:「我們應該鼓勵受害者挺身而出,不應該收集證據以用作日後對付他們。這種做法將受害者視為證據,而不是人。地檢署要求立即結束這種做法,並鼓勵地方和州政府官員立法,在加州全面禁止此不舉行為。我們將繼續朅盡所能支持性暴力倖存者。」

加州參議員威善高說:「性侵犯對任何人來說都可能是最痛苦的經歷之一。在性侵犯後挺身而出,提供生身體進行 “性侵取證套件”,可能會對受害人再次造成創傷。 考慮到創傷,大多數受害人決定不邁出這一步。 然而,倖存者認為可以放心協助調查,取證的樣本只會用於調查性侵案件,不會被濫用於其他目的。如果倖存者覺得其DNA樣本在未來會對自己不利,他們將有理由不參與身體取證過程。 所以我正在與地檢署合作,在必要時通過州政府立法解決這個問題。」

「性侵受害者站出來報案已經存在巨大障礙。 任何從性侵受害者那裡收集的 DNA 證據都只可用於調查強奸案本身,不能有任何其他目的,當然也不得用於針對受害者本身」,第 9 區事參事盧凱莉說: 「我已要求市府律師草擬立法,防止 DNA 證據,或“性侵取證套件”中所獲得的任何形式的證據,用於調查強奸案以外的任何案件。 任何地方、各級政府都應該保護性侵受害者的 DNA。」

關於性侵犯檢測

當受害者舉報性侵案時,通常會被要求同意接受性侵犯檢測。 在進行檢查時,會從受害者的身體中收集來自體液、指甲刮痕以及咬痕和抓痕的生物證據。 受害者提交自己的 DNA 樣本,以排除來自受害者而非疑犯的 DNA。

研究表示,只有一小部分性侵犯受害者接受了性侵犯檢測。 對於許多性侵犯倖存者來說,性侵犯檢測是一個侵入性和創傷性的過程。 基於這個原因,許多倖存者都不願意經歷這個過程。 性侵犯的受害者同意為調查性侵案而提供 DNA樣本,並不是為了讓他們的 DNA 永久保留在執法數據庫中,以便在多年後被搜索。 使用受害者的 DNA 將他們定罪,再次讓性侵犯倖存者經歷非常困難和情緒化的過程。

在全國范圍內,“性侵取證套件” 的積壓令人擔憂,因為數十萬收集的套件仍未被檢測。令人震驚的是,三藩市仍有許多未經檢測的套件,但那些正在被檢測的受害者DNA樣本,竟被保存用於未來無關痛癢的調查。

「警方將受害者的 DNA 檔案放入犯罪數據庫,然後出於與他們正在調查的案件無關的原因保留該檔案以供使用,這侵犯了受害者的隱私」美國北加州公民自由聯盟 (ACLU Northern California的法律顧問Michael Risher說:「聯邦法律正確地禁止警方將這些類型的樣本上傳到國家聯合 DNA 索引系統 (CODIS),該系統把從犯罪現場收集的 DNA 樣本與被定罪、或在某些情況下因犯罪被捕的人所收集的 DNA 樣本進行匹配。維護獨立數據庫的執法機構應遵循這一明智的規則,以確保受害者的 DNA 不會被保留並用於不相關的目的。這對於像三藩市警方這樣的加州執法機構尤其重要,因為與聯邦憲法不同,加州憲法明確保護隱私權和受害者的權利。 」

這種做法偏重地影響邊緣化社區

研究表明,黑人女性受到性暴力的影響尤為嚴重,尤其不願意主動向警方舉報性暴力。 男女 同性戀、雙性戀 和變性者、陰陽人和性質疑者(LGBTQIA) 社區的成員也非正比地受到性侵犯的影響,而且在報案時面臨額外的障礙,部分原因是缺乏信任和被執法部門忽視的過去經歷。 這顯得為性侵犯受害者消除報案和接受檢測的障礙變得更加重要。

「事實再一次證明,我們的法律制度並非旨在支持性暴力倖存者」性騷擾和暴力應對與預防辦公室 (SHARP) 的主任 KellyLou Densmore說:「許多倖存者已經選擇不分享他們的經歷,特別是跨性別者和有色人種順性心理性別女性 (cisgender women)、LGBT 人群和其他邊緣化群體,他們可能不信任警察,並在性侵犯後面未能獲得支持。得知“性侵取證套件”中的 DNA 被保留用於對付受害者,我感到不安,我讚揚地檢官博徹思揭發這種可恥的做法,引起大眾關注。 」

「黑人婦女反家暴組織 (BWRADV) 反對受害者的“性侵取證套件”,被用來指證曾被性侵犯的倖存者」黑人婦女反家暴組織聯合執行董事Pamela Tate說:「倖存者不會讓執法部門全面放棄他們不自證其罪的權利。這種類型的虛假陳述將對黑人女性和有色人種女性在舉報性侵犯犯罪時產生寒蟬效應。 」

「對於移民或非英語母語的犯罪倖存者來說,站出來舉報家庭暴力或性侵犯等罪行尤其令人恐懼」亞洲婦女庇護所執行主任 Orchid Pusey 說:「家庭暴力和性侵犯等犯罪倖存者,通過“性侵取證套件"向執法部門提供的 DNA 證據,必須得到最大程度的尊重。執法部門和我們所有人應該共同致力於消除倖存者報告罪案的障礙。利用倖存者最脆弱時刻的獲取的 DNA 證據在多年後調查她會破毀信任,並阻礙未來倖存者的報案和參與調查。」

「地檢署致力以犯罪受害者和倖存者為中心,並鼓勵他們相信法律程序」受害者服務部主管李蕙儀 (Kasie Lee) 說:「長期以來,性侵犯倖存者的經歷一直被忽視或低估,許多倖存者對警察和執法部門的不信任是可以理解的。我希望通過保護受害者隱私,我們可以促進信任並鼓勵更多倖存者挺身而出。」

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