NYSCASA Condemns Use of Rape Kit Evidence to Prosecute Survivors of Sexual Violence

For Immediate Release: February 18, 2022

Contact: Chel Miller, Communications Director, [email protected]

NYSCASA Condemns Use of Rape Kit Evidence to Prosecute Survivors of Sexual Violence

The New York State Coalition Against Sexual Assault is horrified and dismayed to hear reports of law enforcement agencies using DNA collected from sexual assault survivors to prosecute them for unrelated criminal charges.

Unfortunately, this practice is sufficiently widespread that the U.S. Department of Justice Office on Violence Against Women explicitly tells forensic nurses to inform sexual assault survivors that this is a possible consequence of reporting to law enforcement (A National Protocol for Sexual Assault Medical Forensic Examinations, p. 52).

It is unacceptable for any law enforcement agency to use DNA collected from sexual assault survivors for any purpose other than investigating the sexual assault they reported. When survivors consent to completing a forensic medical exam, they consent for a specific purpose: to document the physical evidence of sexual violence. When survivors provide this evidence to law enforcement, they consent to law enforcement using this evidence to investigate the crime that they reported. Survivors have not consented to a blanket waiver of their right against unreasonable search and seizure, which is guaranteed under the U.S. Constitution and New York State Constitution.

Continuation of this practice will have a chilling effect on sexual assault reports to law enforcement. Survivors already have many reasons for not reporting sexual violence to law enforcement, including the risk for potential harm and re-traumatization when they do try to engage with the criminal legal system. Survivors see how the criminal legal system treats other survivors and make decisions about whether or not to engage with it accordingly. In this case, we are seeing survivors risk criminalization as a result of reporting sexual violence. This harmful practice is one more reason why survivors may choose not to report—or seek necessary medical care after surviving sexual violence.

We urge all law enforcement agencies to immediately cease engaging in this activity. We also implore the state and federal legislature to identify and implement strategies to prohibit this practice.