In response to someone claiming her reports of harassment have been cavalierly dismissed by police, tumblr user Brazenautomaton wrote:
Crimes with female victims are more likely to be investigated, prosecuted, and result in conviction. Period. Across the board. This is another thing made up by a person whose only knowledge of reality is what feminism says about how the police will never help. (You notice how feminism is the one working hardest to ensure women never report crimes to the police?) Police do not “ignore gendered violence.” That can’t even be a matter of opinion or interpretation.
Of course, it is true that feminists have been advocating for police to take reports of sexual violence more seriously, and this has led to some improvements – but Brazenautomaton’s claims here are both extreme and unsupported by evidence.
I’m interested, not in the specific case Brazenautomaton is responding to,1 but in the general principle Brazenautomaton lays out: “Police do not ignore gendered violence. That can’t even be a matter of opinion or interpretation.” I’ve seen people make similar claims before, which makes a general response worthwhile.
In fact, even with feminist-inspired reforms, there are documented cases – and many, many more cases that can’t be proven – involving police dismissing even rape cases out of hand. (Cases that fall short of rape are even more likely to be treated this way, I’d assume.)
From the abstract to an article in Iowa Law Review:
During the last two decades, many police departments substantially undercounted reported rapes creating “paper” reductions in crime. Media investigations in Baltimore, New Orleans, Philadelphia, and St. Louis found that police eliminated rape complaints from official counts because of cultural hostility to rape complaints and to create the illusion of success in fighting violent crime. The undercounting cities used three difficult-to-detect methods to remove rape complaints from official records: designating a complaint as “unfounded” with little or no investigation; classifying an incident as a lesser offense; and, failing to create a written report that a victim made a rape complaint.
Here’s one rape victims’ description of how police treated her report:
“They started making it seem like I had cheated on my boyfriend, got pregnant and wanted to hide it,” … The woman stopped cooperating, and police classified the case as “unfounded,” meaning they found the woman’s report to be baseless.
Then the man who raped her was arrested for a different rape, and DNA tests proved he had raped her.
But that woman was lucky compared to this woman, who was actually arrested (and basically had her life destroyed) for making a rape report, when police browbeat her until she changed her story.
[Officer] Rittgarn asked Marie what was going on. Marie said she really had been raped — and began to cry, saying she was having visions of the man on top of her. She wanted to take a lie detector test. Rittgarn told Marie that if she took the test and failed, she would be booked into jail. What’s more, he would recommend that Project Ladder pull her housing assistance.
Marie’s name was eventually cleared when the man who raped her, who raped at least five other women after the police coerced Marie’s false confession, took photos of the rape. Not a single officer who worked on Marie’s case was ever disciplined.
The Village Voice showed, with secret audio tapes and the testimony of cops, that NYC cops routinely “downgraded” serious crimes to make their statistics look better – including rape, and including rapes committed by a serial rapist.
An article from the New York Times about a rape case in Florida, involving a star football player:
As she gave her account to the police, several bruises began to appear, indicating recent trauma. Tests would later find semen on her underwear. … Aan examination by The New York Times has found that there was virtually no investigation at all, either by the police or the university. … A lawyer for Mr. Winston’s accuser, said the police investigator who handled the case, Scott Angulo, told her that because Tallahassee was a big football town, her client would be “raked over the coals” if she pursued the case.
Another case, combining misogyny and ableism: 15-Year-Old Girl Raped, Police Dismiss the Case Because Victim and Attackers Have “Low IQs”
According to the police report, one of the boys repeatedly banged her head against the table while the other two forced her to give them oral sex and then tried to have forcible anal sex with her. In interviews with the police, the girl explained how she repeatedly said “no” and “stop” but that the boys continued to assault her.
The police described this as “a consensual situation.”
Knowing stories like that should make it impossible to dismiss stories like the ones told in this blog post as impossible because “police do not ignore gendered violence.”
Of course we can’t know to a certainty if any particular story is true or untrue without investigation or evidence. And in fact, a “true or untrue” framing often isn’t useful, because stories can be subtantively true while still being wrong in specific details (studies have shown that human recollection is extremely flawed). But a blanket dismissal of the very idea that any police are ever misogynistic, or ever dismiss accounts from victims, is ridiculous.
And that’s not even mentioning stories like this:
The Associated Press uncovered about 1,000 officers who lost their badges in a six-year period for rape, sodomy and other sexual assault; sex crimes that included possession of child pornography; or sexual misconduct such as propositioning citizens or having consensual but prohibited on-duty intercourse.
It’s very likely that some of those 1000 officers (and similar officers who haven’t been caught) have, at times in their careers, had to take rape and harassment reports; do we trust that none of these officers would have been inclined to be dismissive?
- Honestly, having read the account Brazenautomaton is responding to, I’d agree that skepticism is warranted in that specific case – but that doesn’t justify the sweeping conclusions Brazenautomaton makes. [↩]