Report: D.C. Police Fail to Report Many Sex Assaults as Such

Victim says attempted sex assault filed under robbery

By Pat Collins
|  Friday, Jan 18, 2013  |  Updated 10:44 PM EDT
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A human rights watchdog group says D.C. police routinely reclassify sex assault cases as other crimes. News4's Pat Collins reports.

Pat Collins

A human rights watchdog group says D.C. police routinely reclassify sex assault cases as other crimes. News4's Pat Collins reports.

A D.C. woman says she was the victim of an attempted sexual assault, but the police report calls it an armed robbery. According to a watchdog group, this happens much more often than you might think.

The victim says she was walking home about 2 a.m. May 29, 2011, when she was attacked by a man with a box cutter. She offered him her purse but says he wanted more, forcing her into an alley where he ordered her to turn around against a wall.

As she did, she managed to disarm him and yelled “rape.” Another man went to her aid, and a woman called 911, but the attacker escaped.

The victim says she’s unhappy with how police treated her.

“I did not feel like a victim until I started dealing with police, because I got away, I disarmed the man who was assaulting me, I didn’t get raped, but the police made me feel like I should have gotten raped just so they could classify it as a rape,” she said.

She said that the way her conversation with the assailant is portrayed in the report, it sounds like he asked for her purse and took her into the alley when she wouldn’t comply.

“In the hospital, the detective who was taking photos of me said, ‘Why didn’t you just give him your purse, honey?’” she said.

Human Rights Watch is about to release a report accusing D.C. police of mishandling scores of sexual assault cases. It claims that over a three-year period, D.C. police failed to document 170 cases of alleged sexual assault. For another 35 cases, reports were filed, but there’s no evidence of follow up investigations.

“We found in our report, which will be published next week, that a number of victims felt that their experience reporting to police was as traumatizing if not more traumatizing than the assault itself,” Human Rights Watch Senior Counsel Sara Dareshori said.

The report also raises questions about whether the department is investigating complaints that come in through forums other than the hospital, though it lacks hard statistical evidence to prove reports aren't being filed in those circumstances, the Associated Press reported.

According to a letter from Police Chief Cathy Lanier, the Human Rights Watch report is a publicity stunt. She says the information is unsupported and erroneous.

Kristopher Baumann, chairman of the D.C. chapter of the Fraternal Order of Police, said the allegations in the report fit a pattern over the years of the department manipulating reports to generate positive statistics, the AP reported.

“If you try to manipulate the numbers, those things will catch up to you,” Baumann said. “It sounds like this report is going to be another embarrassment for the department.”

Human Rights Watch said it was prompted to investigate the agency because federal crime statistics showed D.C. reported a suspiciously low number of rapes and sexual assaults, the AP reported.

The report is expected to be released Thursday.

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