Bill aims to protect sexual assault survivors' DNA

Carly Sauvageau
Carly Sauvageau

DNA profiles of sexual assault survivors obtained from forensic evidence kits may be protected from being stored in unrelated databases if SB321, sponsored by Sen. Lisa Krasner (R-Reno), passes this legislative session. 

Sexual assault forensic evidence kits, also known as rape kits, are samples of biological evidence left after someone has been sexually assaulted; they are collected to investigate who the perpetrator of the crime is. Retrieving the evidence is done by a medical professional and can take up to six hours to complete.

As state law stands now, the DNA obtained from a survivor can be stored in other databases unrelated to the investigation of the sexual assault.

“[A] reason a victim may not come forward to report a sexual assault is fear of what their personal DNA from their sexual assault investigation or rape kit will be used for, without their knowledge or consent,” Krasner said.

If SB321 passes — unless there is an obligation to put the profile in the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS) within the boundaries of federal law — the survivor’s DNA profile could not be used without a court order or law enforcement request and could not be stored in unrelated databases.

Krasner said the bill would remove one of the fears survivors have about reporting rape — a crime that has two out of every three cases going unreported nationally, according to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN).  

Among the reasons that survivors may not want to report a rape are fear of retaliation from the offender or a belief that law enforcement will not help, according to RAINN. 

During last Tuesday’s hearing of SB321, Krasner also said that fear of being blamed, shamed or reliving trauma in order to testify in court were among reasons survivors did not report sexual assault.

“We must do everything we can to help victims feel safe, and coming forward and reporting rape,” Krasner said during the hearing.

The bill is working its way through the Assembly after passing the Senate unanimously in April.

Editor’s Note: This story appears in Behind the Bar, The Nevada Independent’s newsletter dedicated to comprehensive coverage of the 2023 legislative session. Sign up for the newsletter here.


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