United States: Washington, DC Police Neglect Sexual Assault Cases
Friday, February 1, 2013 2:40 PM

Human Rights Watch reported that sexual assault victims in Washington, DC, are not receiving an adequate response from the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD).  The report shows that police have often poorly documented and investigated cases, treated victims with doubt and suspicion of their accounts, and in some instances, neglected to file incident reports required for an investigation to proceed. 

Sara Darehshori, senior counsel in the US Program at Human Rights Watch and the author of the report, stated, “Sexual assault is the most underreported violent crime in the U.S., largely because many victims fear that their cases will not be taken seriously and that police will not believe them…Unfortunately, for some victims in DC who bravely came forward and reported their assaults, those fears were realized.”

The problems Human Rights Watch found are not due to official policy, but rather to practice, a failure for police to respond with sufficient seriousness and sensitivity to sexual assault complaints. 

The report warns that until reforms are upheld through external oversight and sustained leadership and commitment, there is a serious risk of the MPD mishandling future sexual assault cases and further traumatizing victims, thereby deterring others from telling their stories, and allowing attackers to escape penalty for their crimes.  

Compiled from: US: DC Police Mishandle Sexual Assault Cases, Human Rights Watch (24 January 2013).