Rape and the Police

It’s one of the first things most rape survivor hear when they talk about what happened.  “You have to report it to the police!” or “Why didn’t you go to the cops?”  Yet rape is one of the most underreported crimes in the U.S.

There are a lot of reasons for this.  Shame is a big one.  So is fear.  Fear of being blamed, of not being believed.  In Baltimore, police have been hard at work turning those fears into reality.

The Baltimore Sun reviewed FBI statistics and found that in Baltimore, the number of people reporting rapes to the police has plunged, while the number of rapes thrown out as unfounded is now the highest in the nation: more than five times the national average.

“[W]omen continue to report that they are interrogated by detectives, sometimes questioned in the emergency room or threatened with being hooked up to lie detectors.”

Can you think of another crime where victims are routinely threatened with lie detector tests?  That’s assuming the reports even make it to the detectives.  40% of Baltimore’s 911 calls to report a rape are simply dismissed, often without documentation to explain why.

The response from one of the detectives in the department is a masterpiece of victim-blaming:

“Many reports of rape are made for ‘ill gain, in order to gain assistance or cover up not coming home,’ said one of the commanders of the unit, Lt. Thomas Uzarowski … ‘It’s not an opinion. It’s not anything other than where the facts fall.'”  (Emphasis added.)

Where the facts fall?  Here’s an interesting fact.  Of the 50 detectives who work sexual assault and child abuse cases, one detective by the name of Anthony Faulk Jr. was responsible for 20% of the department’s “unfounded” rape complaints.

To me, this sounds less like facts and more like some of these detectives decided women are liars, and they’re not going to let the bitches get away with it.

I’m not going to argue that false reports never happen.  They’re rare, but they happen.  They’re also the first thing people bring up when they want to silence rape survivors, twisting logic beyond the breaking point to portray rape as a weapon women use against men.

Do people occasionally recant their statements?  Yes … especially when the detective is in their face, treating them like the criminal.  What would you do if you reported a rape and the first words out of the detective’s mouth were that he could throw you in jail for filing a false report?

The police have a difficult, stressful job, and many of them do that job admirably. But this is a problem that exists on two levels.  At the core are people like Uzarowski and Faulk, who take a “Guilty until proven innocent” approach to rape victims.

Then you have the larger group who watch and do nothing.  You think nobody noticed Faulk’s record of dismissing rape complaints?  You think nobody overheard these detectives harassing victims?  Yet it took a report in the paper, and visits from the mayor and the president of the city council to get the police department to admit maybe they should look into their practices.

Baltimore is an extreme example of a problem that exists everywhere.  People attack and harass and blame rape survivors, and most everyone else just ignores them.

And you wonder why rape victims are hesitant to talk about their attack, let alone report it to the police?