Wednesday, February 6, 2013

D.C. Police push back on claims it doesn't take sexual assault seriously

In Washington, D.C., a report by Human Rights Watch claims that many sexual assault cases reported to police by women treated at a Washington hospital over a three year period were not documented in initial police reports or assigned a file number used for tracking. This means, the group claims, there was no investigation. The implication: police aren't treating sexual assault claims seriously.

Now the police are fighting back. They say they have concrete evidence disproving some of the report's findings. The assistant chief of police said the sexual assault files weren’t missing at all, but were overlooked by the rights group’s faulty methodology.

The police took issue with the foundation of many other accusations in the Human Rights Watch report, which they said was based on interviews with victims and nurses whose stories were not verified. The police officials said that in many cases, they have found evidence or witnesses contradicting the accounts detailed in the report.

In some cases, the independent report omits crucial details from rape exams or contradictory statements the women gave, police said.

For example, in one case, a woman said she was attacked by a man with a box cutter. She was upset upon finding police wrote the report as an assault and robbery rather than an attempted rape. The woman, who yelled “rape” in the attack and whose shirt was ripped, told Human Rights Watch that the police “just didn’t listen to me. They made me feel completely ashamed of myself, they made me feel like I was lying or I was too stupid to understand what happened to me.” The chief of police revealed there was no evidence of a sexual assault. “We have to have elements of the crime,” she said.

The police explained that the police department repeatedly asked Human Rights Watch to share its hospital data but the group refused until four days after their report was made public.

The news story is found here: