All around the world, rape often goes unreported because victims either dread public humiliation at the hands of law enforcement officers or worry their cases would be swept under the rug altogether.
However, over the past few years, the fear of being ridiculed has culminated into something even more tragic and sinister – particularly in the U.S., where police handling of reported assault cases has escalated from negligence and carelessness to raping the victims themselves.
For quite some time now, police have mostly made the headlines for racial discrimination and use of excessive force, but as a new investigative report highlights, the problem of sexual misconduct among the officers is not that far down the line. In fact, it seems even more persistent than the other two, since it rarely gets the attention it deserves.
Over the course of last six years (from 2008 to 2014), 1,000 officers across the country were stripped of their badges and licenses for sex-related misconduct, according to the report. More than half of the officers lost their certification to work for sexually assaulting someone, while the other half were punished for misconduct ranging from possessing child pornography to having consensual sex on the job.
While 1,000 officers is a considerably small fraction of the number of cops in America, it is somewhat of a relief that at least some of them were punished for their crimes.
The alarming reality, though, is that the 1,000 are just the cops caught for sexual misconduct between 2008 and 2014 — the real number of perpetrators is far higher than one might imagine.
“It’s happening probably in every law enforcement agency across the country,” said Chief Bernadette DiPino of the Sarasota Police Department in Florida. “It’s so underreported and people are scared that if they call and complain about a police officer, they think every other police officer is going to be then out to get them.”
The report talks about the known incidents of police assaulting helpless civilians, but it does not show the statistics for the cops who were never convicted because there wasn’t enough evidence to hold them accountable.
If sex crimes officially got 1,000 officers stripped of their badges all across the country, one can only imagine the staggering number of the cops who never paid the price for their misconduct.
“It starts with the officer denying the allegations — ‘she's crazy,’ ‘she's lying,’” said Diane Wetendorf, a retired counselor who runs a support group for victims of officers. “And the other officers say they didn't see anything, they didn't hear anything.”
Apart from being underreported, especially when the perpetrator is a police officer, sexual assault is often also not considered a real crime. Moreover, police departments have opportunities to protect officers from getting in legal trouble over misconduct, which means even if someone files a complaint, there is a chance it will be ignored by the law enforcement agency.
Another distressing reality of this flawed system is that even if a cop gets convicted for raping someone, he is not always kicked off the force or decertified.
A separate analysis conducted by David Packman for the National Police Misconduct Reporting Project in 2009 and 2010 found that sex-related misconduct was the second most likely reason for a police officer to make it into the news, following unwarranted force.
If the government really wants to tackle this mammoth of an issue, perhaps they should focus their attention towards strengthening the laws regarding sexual misconduct and limit the power and authority these cops use as a weapon against defenseless victims.