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Thursday, January 7, 2016

Rape Victim Sues SFPD, Alleges Police Told Her To Go On "Date" With Rapist, Never Tested Kit

Posted By and on Thu, Jan 7, 2016 at 7:56 PM

Heather Marlowe. - SF EXAMINER
  • SF Examiner
  • Heather Marlowe.
After she was drugged and raped at a Bay to Breakers party in 2010 — and after she discovered, years later, that San Francisco police had failed to test her rape kit and thousands of other rape victims' over a 10-year span — Heather Marlowe became an activist.

The one-woman show, "Haze," in which she recounted her ordeal, attracted the attention of a San Francisco socialite who helped shame police into action and led to the 2014 announcement that the backlog of untested kits had been partially cleared (753 were tested; thousands of others were over a decade old, past the statute of limitations for prosecution, and ergo never tested).

But Marlowe's rapist was never apprehended, despite her attempting to set up a "date" with her rapist at the behest of police, according to a federal lawsuit Marlowe filed against the city on Wednesday.

And it gets worse: after trying and failing to acquire the results of her own rape kit via a public records request — and after being taken by police to the home of her rapist, with whom she was urged to set up a "date" at the behest of police, she claims — she believes her kit may never have been tested at all, according to her suit.

(Meanwhile, out of 355 reported rapes in 2014, San Francisco police made only 22 arrests, according to the state Department of Justice.)

Marlowe's lawsuit alleges police violated her rights to due process and equal protection. Police Chief Greg Suhr, Police Commission President Suzy Loftus, Deputy Chief Mikail Ali, and former San Francisco police Inspector Joe Cordes are all named as defendants in the suit.

Reached Thursday, Loftus said she had not seen the suit. A spokeswoman for the San Francisco City Attorney, which represents the city in lawsuits, declined to comment.

Marlowe did not respond to an e-mail seeking comment on Thursday. 

Marlowe says she was drugged after an unknown male handed her a red plastic party cup full of beer at a Bay to Breakers party. She woke up the next day in an unfamiliar Richmond District apartment — nauseous, vomiting, and experiencing "vaginal and pelvic pain" — to a man shouting at her to leave the building.

After making it to the nearest emergency room, she called police, who took her to San Francisco General Hospital. At the hospital, a nurse performed a "rape kit" exam. She was told she would get the results within 14 to 60 days, according to her suit.

A few weeks later, she searched on Google “for what she believed was the name of her rapist” and “found a picture of a man that resembled what she could remember of her rapist,” according to her suit. She passed that information along to Inspector Joe Cordes, who was then an investigator with the SFPD's sex crimes unit.  

Cordes told her to contact the alleged rapist, to “flirt with him in order to elicit a confession,” and to set up a “date” with him to prove she could pick him out of crowd, according to the suit. If she "refused to engage in these actions, SFPD would cease its investigation of her rape," she alleges she was told.

In June 2010, Cordes "discouraged Marlowe from further pursuing her case, indicating that it was too much work for the SFPD to investigate and prosecute a rape in which alcohol was involved," she claims, at which point she continued to investigate her rape herself. 

She created an “alias” and texted the man with another phone to set up a “date.” He cancelled twice on her. She then told the SFPD she wouldn’t “continue to privately investigate her case," at which point she was told that the police had questioned the suspect and retrieved a DNA sample from him. 

She called SFPD back in December 2010 and neither the rape kit or the guy’s DNA had been processed, according to her suit. 

In May 2011, she again contacted them about the status of the rape kit, and was told that "the Suspect’s DNA may also be in a different lab, but that SFPD did not know the exact location of Suspect’s DNA.”

She called back in December 2011. The lab was still backed up and the SFPD somehow lost the guy’s DNA, she claims she was informed. 

She went to the SFPD in August 2012 to follow up. At that time, she was told her case was considered "inactive." She filed a FOIA request to acquire the results of her own rape kit in 2015, but was told it was not a public record. 

"It's certainly not the way you would expect law enforcement to go about investigating a sexual assault," said Alex Zalkin, one of Marlowe's San Diego-based attorneys, who deferred further comment until a press conference scheduled for next week.
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About The Authors

Doug Brown

Chris Roberts

Bio:
Chris Roberts has spent most of his adult life working in San Francisco news media, which is to say he's still a teenager in Middle American years. He has covered marijuana, drug policy, and politics for SF Weekly since 2009.

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