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San Francisco’s district attorney said Monday that police used a database with DNA collected from victims of rape and sexual assault to connect some of them to crimes.

Dist. Atty. Chesa Boudin said the San Francisco Police Department crime lab had been using the database to “attempt to subsequently incriminate” victims of rape and sexual assault, a practice he called “legally and ethically wrong.”

The district attorney called for an immediate end to the alleged practice, committed to working with police to address the allegations and urged changes to local and state laws, according to a statement by Boudin’s office.

“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. “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.”

Boudin didn’t identify the database but said one woman was recently arrested on suspicion of a felony property crime based on her DNA collected years ago during a domestic violence-involved rape examination, according to the Associated Press.

He didn’t provide many details about the case and said his office is still investigating how many victims of sexual assault may have been arrested based on their DNA.

The San Francisco Police Department did not respond to a request for comment, but Chief Bill Scott told the AP he has ordered an investigation.

“We must never create disincentives for crime victims to cooperate with police, and if it’s true that DNA collected from a rape or sexual assault victim has been used by SFPD to identify and apprehend that person as a suspect in another crime, I’m committed to ending the practice,” Scott said.

San Francisco’s police chief has accused Dist. Atty. Chesa Boudin’s office of withholding information and evidence from police.

State officials and organizations that work with victims of rape and sexual assault also spoke out Monday.

Pamela Tate, co-executive director of Black Women Revolt Against Domestic Violence, said the database cannot be considered a “blanket waiver” of victims’ 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,” Tate said.

The legal system isn’t designed to support survivors of sexual violence, said KellyLou Densmore, director of the San Francisco Office of Sexual Harassment and Assault Response and Prevention.

“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,” Densmore said.

Michael Risher, a civil rights attorney who works with the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California, said the alleged practice violates victims’ privacy.

Federal law prohibits law enforcement from uploading sexual assault victims’ DNA samples into the national Combined DNA Index System, which is used to match DNA from crime scenes with samples taken from people convicted of or arrested for crimes, Risher said.

“Local agencies that maintain separate databases should follow this sensible rule to ensure that victims’ DNA is not retained and used for unrelated purposes,” he said. “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.”

After a sexual assault is reported, victims are asked to undergo an examination in which evidence is collected from bodily fluids, fingernail scrapings, and any bite or scratch marks, Boudin’s office said.

“The victim submits their own DNA sample in order to exclude DNA that comes from the victim, as opposed to the suspect,” according to the statement.

The Vietnamese American man’s lawsuit alleges prosecutors refused to file hate crime charges and reached a plea deal without notifying him.

But research shows only a small percentage of victims go through sexual assault testing, an invasive and traumatic process for many survivors, prosecutors said.

“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,” prosecutors said. “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.”

State Sen. Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) and San Francisco Supervisor Hillary Ronen also condemned the alleged practice.

Wiener said he was working with Boudin’s office to address the issue with state legislation “if needed.”

Ronen said she asked San Francisco City Atty. David Chiu to draft legislation to prevent any kind of evidence from a victim’s rape kit, including DNA, from being used for anything other than investigating that case.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

This content was originally published here.

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