Police-Perpetrated Rape, Your New Horrifying Nightmare to Worry About

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Photo: Steve Skinner/Getty Images

Add this to the long list of institutional failures that discourage victims from reporting sexual assault and prevent rapists from standing trial: There is currently no quantitative data on police-perpetrated sexual violence (and similarly little accountability for rape committed by on-duty officers), as a new essay on Truthout reports

While recent months have seen increased pressure on universities and the military to improve transparency about sexual assault through more comprehensive crime reporting, there have also been a disturbing number of accounts of sexual violence committed by the people we expect to keep us safe. Candice Bernd recounts:

Just last month, a county sheriff's deputy in Georgia has been charged with fondling women involved in court cases; a deputy in Colorado was arrested on a domestic violence-related sex assault charge; a police deputy chief in Utah resigned after allegations of sexual harassment; a woman in New York City filed a lawsuit accusing an officer of rape, assault and battery after the officer allegedly pressured her into a date by promising to clear up her case; a former Georgia officer was sentenced to 35 years on child molestation charges after he forced sex acts from two girls and a woman while on duty; an officer in Texas was arrested on domestic violence charges, saying in a recording that his wife needed to be "cut by a razor, set on fire, beat half to death and left to die"; several sexual assault charges were filed against a former California officer who allegedly molested a 14-year-old Explorer Scout; an officer in North Carolina faces peeping charges; a former Arkansas officer plead guilty to five counts of sexual assault of a 16-year-old girl; and a former DC officer admitted in federal court recently he forced underage teenagers to work as escorts out of his apartment.

According to an unofficial study by the National Police Misconduct Reporting Project (an arm of the Cato Institute), sexual misconduct is the second-most-common civilian complaint reported against police officers — 9.3 percent of complaints in 2010. Of 618 officers under investigation for sexual offenses, 354 cases involved nonconsensual sexual acts — 51 percent of which involved minors.

Another study by Bowling Green State University found that more than half of reported police-perpetrated rapes between 2005 and 2007 were committed while the officer was on-duty — noting that police are often unsupervised. Others believe that officers tend to target victims who are already marginalized in the eyes of the law, and thus unlikely to be believed. “[Officers] tend to choose victims that would lack so-called credibility in the eyes of other law enforcement, whether it was somebody who was engaged in sex work or whether it was somebody who was intoxicated or who was using drugs,” Jen Marsh, vice president of victim services at the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (RAINN), told Truthout.

Despite some efforts to address these issues, accountability among law-enforcement departments remains weak. In 2011, the International Association of Chiefs of Police developed a set of policies and training standards intended to prevent police-perpetrated sexual crimes, though The American Prospect reports that the organization does not track progress being made by local departments. At the same time, only 37 states currently contribute to the National Decertification Index — intended to prevent decertified officers from being rehired at police departments in other communities.

Though grim, the piece is worth a read in full.