DC sexual assault victims speak out to support group's report - DC News FOX 5 DC WTTG

DC sexual assault victims speak out to support watchdog group's report

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Some victims of sexual assaults in the District are speaking out publicly to bring attention to problems they say they have experienced during and after reporting their assaults.

The Human Rights Watch held a media conference at the National Press Club on Thursday morning. The group says it wants to bring attention to serious issues it has uncovered during an investigation that has lasted almost two years.

The group claims that 170 sexual assault reports were not investigated properly. The victims who appeared in the Human Rights Watch video claim they were traumatized by officers who were assigned to their cases.

D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier disputed the findings of Human Rights Watch. In a statement, Lanier said, "The report makes sweeping allegations that are not backed by facts and undermine the credibility of HRW."

D.C. Councilmember Tommy Wells, who is Chairman of the Judiciary and Public Safety Committee, plans to hold hearings to look into the allegations raised by Human Rights Watch.


Human Rights Watch - DC Police Mishandle Sexual Assault Cases

D.C. Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier's Statement on HRW Report:

"The Metropolitan Police Department shares the overall goal of the Human Rights Watch, which is to encourage victims of sexual abuse to report crimes and to have those crimes thoroughly investigated.

Our issues with the HRW report are twofold. First, their allegation that 170 cases went unreported is based on a flawed methodology of comparing the number of medical exams to the number of PD 251s (Offense/Incident Reports), despite detailed explanations both verbally and in writing provided by MPD documenting the contrary [see letter June 8, 2012, case examples pages 3 and 4].

The report makes sweeping allegations that are not backed by facts and undermine the credibility of HRW.

MPD's critique of their methodology is not unique to MPD and is well documented; in fact even the founder of HRW publicly criticized HRW for these same issues [Rights Watchdog, Lost in the Mideast, New York Times, Oct. 20, 2009].

Secondly, the insinuations in HRW's report that MPD has a culture of under reporting or not investigating cases will ultimately have a chilling effect on victims of sexual abuse and will discourage them from reporting crimes.

MPD has conducted significant outreach to improve reporting over the past few years and we fear that this report based largely on a few case examples from years ago will undo the progress that we have made.

Our statistics over the past two years demonstrate that progress. Between 2010 and 2011, cases of sexual abuse increased by 23 percent. In 2012, reports of sexual abuse increased by 51 percent over the previous year. That tells me that we are doing something right and that more victims are coming forward to report crimes.

The allegations in this report serve to undo all the progress that we have made in recent years.

What is extremely troubling is that MPD believes that after HRW packs up and leaves their press conference that this report will make some of our most vulnerable victims here in the District of Columbia, the victims of sexual abuse, even more reluctant to report their abuses to the police."

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