SAN FRANCISCO—A woman by the name of Heather Marlowe is suing the San Francisco Police Department due to their inactivity with proceeding with test samples gathered from a sexual assault case she reported six years ago.
Marlowe filed a civil rights lawsuit on Friday, January 8, and discussed her claim at a news conference on Tuesday, January 12. Marlowe was allegedly raped in 2010, at the Bay To Breakers race she attended with friends. After the race, Marlowe partook in an the afterparty festivities where a man handed her a beer in a plastic cup.
Marlowe believes that someone spiked her drink and could not remember the eight hours following the incident. When she woke up, she was in pain, disoriented, and in a house she did not recognize with a man telling her to leave. Marlowe had no recollection of the events leading up to her waking up in the house, and was experiencing severe vaginal and pelvic pain.
Marlowe endured a multiple-hour sexual assault examination conducted at the San Francisco General Hospital, and states that she never received confirmation as to whether the collected hospital samples were tested by the police. Marlowe worked with SFPD Officer Joe Cordes in the initial investigation process, and returned to the site where she believed she awoke to see if she was able to recognize the environment as the scene of the rape, while Cordes “distracted” the man in the house. Cordes also instructed her to contact and flirt with the man she thought was the potential suspect. In an interview with Buzzfeed, Marlowe disclosed that she ultimately could not identify whether it was the home she woke up in and that the police’s tactics were “chaoitic and confusing.”
At the time of the exam, Marlowe was told the evidence would be tested soon. After two years, Marlowe was told by an SFPD officer that the case was not considered a priority by police. According to Marlowe, the SFPD told her they did test the evidence, but did not identify a suspect responsible for the assault.
Marlowe’s civil rights case is holding the SFPD responsible for violating due process and her right to Equal Protection under the Constitution. The lawsuit claims that for over five years the city failed to confirm the evidence was tested. In February 2014, a SFPD audit confirmed that over 750 rape kits had not been tested, which led Marlowe to believe her test had not been processed due to lack of documentation.
Marlowe’s lawsuit is naming the city of San Francisco, SFPD Chief Greg Suhr, SFPD Commission President Suzy Loftus, and Officer Joe Cordes. Marlowe is requesting monetary damages and official documented confirmation that the kit has been tested.