Today in Rape Culture

[Trigger warning.]

A perfect example of why crime stats and conviction stats (such beloved tools of rape apologists) don't really say anything about the actual frequency of rape, care of the NYPD:
Last week, the Voice revealed that a cop had audiotaped his superior officers during roll calls at the 81st Precinct in Brooklyn for more than a year.

Those tapes show vividly that NYPD street cops are told by superiors to "downgrade" crime reports whenever possible, such as convincing a victim to file a "stolen property" complaint even after being physically assaulted in a robbery.

Now, the Voice has learned that the NYPD downgraded a felony sexual assault in a park in upper Manhattan earlier this year to a misdemeanor.

The incident was only reclassified and upgraded to a felony after the victim, journalist Debbie Nathan, protested and the Manhattan District Attorney took the extraordinary step of interviewing the police officers involved and confirming her account.
Nathan was walking in Inwood Park when she was "grabbed by a young man who pushed her off the path and into the woods," telling her he wanted to "have sex with" her. She tried to free herself, but could not.
He grabbed her from behind and pinned her arms at her sides. He began masturbating against her, for a couple of minutes, had an orgasm, and then fled.
What's particularly chilling about this incident is that it's a classic starter attack by someone with the potential to become a serial rapist, the violence of whose acts tend to escalate over time (and with practice). Catching this guy, intervening early, is hugely important.

Nathan went immediately to a café and called 911: "She knew that her attacker had entered the woods, and there were only a couple of ways out of the park. She figured if the police arrived in time, they would be able to catch him." When police didn't arrive, she returned to her apartment and called again. Law enforcement did not arrive at her apartment until "two hours and three 911 calls" later.

After hearing her account of the attack, they told her the crime was a misdemeanor for "forcible touching." Nathan, forced to tenaciously pursue justice under the duress of having survived a sexual assault like so many women before her, would not go away quietly.
Nathan insisted that it was an attempted rape, a felony. "I argued that the force used against me, the masturbation, and the veritable kidnapping constituted far more than a misdemeanor," Nathan says.

The officers ignored her protests and left.

On February 22, Nathan called the Inwood Safety Patrol, a citizens group which monitors neighborhood safety. That group called the local state assemblyman, Adriano Espaillat, and the 34th Precinct commander to complain.

After that, Nathan's complaint was upgraded to felony attempted rape. At a packed community meeting, the precinct commander apologized to Nathan, and promised an investigation.

...Nathan was in for a second shock when she got her complaint report. "My story had been scrubbed of everything except the fact that the perp grabbed me, pushed me, and mentioned sex," she says. "Almost every detail of the crime was missing from the report."

The officers had left out her being overpowered and pushed into the woods, the duration of the assault, the masturbation. The report, she says, even said she had reported no sexual assault.

"After special victims downgraded my crime to a misdemeanor, an officer from my precinct tweaked my report so it described a misdemeanor," she says. "They had written non-report to conform to a misdemeanor. They were so sloppy, they forgot to rewrite the report to conform to felony."

Nathan says she was told by Assistant District Attorney Lisa Friel, chief of the Manhattan District Attorney's sex crimes unit, that there was no question that the crime she described was a felony.

Friel, Nathan says, interviewed the police officers involved and learned that they admitted to omitting many details from the report. "It is difficult to believe the omissions were accidental," Nathan says.

Nathan says she spoke with rape crisis advocacy groups, which told her that her case is not unique, that it has been happening across the city over the past year-and-a-half.

"The difference here was that I was a well-educated journalist, someone who knew how to get action," she says.
Not only does this practice deny survivors of justice; it creates more victims, as sex predators are allowed to remain free to continue their predation. It's difficult to overstate how wildly inappropriate and equally ineffective reducing crime rates by downgrading sex crimes is.

This policy also underlines the inherent ignorance in rape apologists' arguments that are contingent on the idea that law enforcement is sensitive and responsive to women alleging sexual assault. (And renders hilarious their ubiquitous argument that law enforcement is overzealous in response to allegations of sexual assault.)

Naturally, there are excellent cops all over the country who are sensitive and responsive to victims, but, when one of the biggest police departments in the country is actively and systemically working against victims—and quite literally allying themselves with sex predators, aiding and abetting their continued predation—to assume a robust response to allegations is universal is to deliberately engage in willful ignorance.

And it is to enthusiastically play a role in perpetuation one of the most pernicious myths of the rape culture.

[H/T to Shaker Bruno, who credits Gothamist.]


UPDATE: Check out this great post by unusualmusic at Angry Black Woman: Why didn't you call the police? Part One.

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