Voices: A woman’s rape kit DNA was used against her. Are we really surprised?

·3-min read
DNA taken for evidence when a woman reported being raped was then used to charge her in an unrelated property case
DNA taken for evidence when a woman reported being raped was then used to charge her in an unrelated property case

A San Francisco woman is suing after her rape kit DNA was used to charge her in an unrelated criminal case. The woman, referred to as Jane Doe to protect her identity, had her DNA collected in 2016 as part of a domestic abuse and sexual assault case, according to the Guardian. Later, the San Francisco police department used this rape kit DNA to connect her to a property crime that was unrelated to the sexual assault case. They later dropped the charges.

Perhaps Doe will win her suit — I’m not a lawyer and not all of the details of the case have been released to the public — so I’m only making macro-level observations here. But I have little faith in a legal system that enabled this breach of basic dignity and privacy to begin with.

Indeed, it increasingly feels as if the United States has made it not just illegal for a woman to assert her own bodily autonomy, but actually criminal. Women are being prosecuted for their miscarriages and reporting their sexual assaults. Facebook data has helped police in Nebraska prosecute a teen girl and her mother for inducing an abortion. Pregnant women in Alabama are being illegally held in jail for months in order to “protect” fetuses from drugs. And the world just watched as Amber Heard was emotionally, financially, and reputationally devastated by a defamation suit.

With the overturn of Roe v Wade, the Constitutional right to privacy at the foundation of the original ruling was also overruled. Women’s bodies have been policed since the Biblical age, but a feminism backlash in recent years appears to have emboldened those who would see our government return to an era that curtailed women’s autonomy through the law. Have we reached a point in which going through proper legal channels comes with more risk to women than it is worth? Was it ever not this way?

A 16-year-old girl in Florida, a ward of the state, was legally required to apply for judicial bypass in order to get an abortion without a parent’s permission. The judge determined her not sufficiently mature enough to choose an abortion. What if she hadn’t chosen the legal route? What if she’d obtained abortion medication illegally? Would this girl now be better off? Only she can say, but appealing to the law only stripped her of her right to make the choice for herself.

Should Ashley Banks, who was arrested in Alabama at six weeks’ pregnant, have lied to the police about having smoked a small amount of marijuana the same day she found out she was pregnant? If she had, she would have been released on bail. Instead, she was held in jail for three months for so-called fetal endangerment.

In defending herself against Johnny Depp’s defamation suit, Heard produced documented evidence of her abuse — which was then twisted into evidence against her. Should Heard have perjured herself on the stand, so as to appear a better or more perfect victim?

Are women’s bodies legally considered just so much evidence to be collected and life-support apparatuses for the unborn? Because if so, we are all criminals already.