Report finds that DC cops ignore a third of the rape cases brought to them, traumatize the other two-thirds
The 197-page investigation, “Capitol Offense: Police Mishandling of Sexual Assault Cases in the District of Columbia,” is based on the testimony of 150 sexual assault survivors, community groups, victims’ advocates, hospital staff, and university counselors, among others. HRW found a consistent pattern of police officers failing to file incident reports, which are required to proceed with an investigation, or classifying serious sexual assaults as lesser or other crimes. Police incident reports could not be found for 35.6 of percent people who, according to hospital records, had reported a sexual assault to the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department.
Human Rights Watch reviewed dates of all sexual assault reports made at Washington Hospital Center, where sexual assault victims are sent for forensic examinations, and compared them to sexual assault cases opened by the police department between October 2008 and September 2011. More than 200 cases, or over 40 percent of cases reviewed, appear never to have been documented or properly investigated.
HRW reported that underpinning the police’s failure to follow up on sexual assault reports is a refusal by officers to take victims and their testimony seriously. “In some cases, police questioned survivors’ credibility and actively discouraged victims from reporting or providing forensic evidence… Law enforcement personnel threatened victims with prosecution if they were found to be lying, asked questions that implied that the victims were to blame, and told victims their stories were not serious enough to investigate,” HRW noted.