January 24, 2013

IV. Police Mistreatment of Victims

The investigating officer’s attitude and show of concern can often determine whether or not the victim follows through to the next step in the judicial process. — Metropolitan Police Department, Standard Operating Procedures, Sexual Assault Unit, January 14, 2003, p. 19
If a victim does not feel comfortable with the police when reporting a sexual assault, then the entire process can be undermined. Furthermore, the mistreatment, or the appearance of mistreatment by the police can deter others from bringing complaints forward.  —Letter from MPD Chief Cathy Lanier, Washington, D.C., June 8, 2012
I’ll never be able to stop shaking my head at the fact that not only was he [the MPD detective] not supportive, he made me feel awful about myself by telling me it was nothing more than an issue that I got too drunk and was regretting a decision I made. It tore me up that he did not believe me and he made it clear to me that he didn’t believe me. Traumatized is the word that I felt from the investigator, in some ways, it was worse than the event itself.  —Shelly G., Washington D.C., June 20, 2012
I think that filing the report was just as traumatic as the crime, if not more.... Is it common place for the police to put blame on the sexual assault victims and then completely ignore them?  —Letter from sexual assault victim in D.C. to Office of Police Complaints, about her treatment by MPD detectives, November 12, 2009
If I were ever to be physically harmed, I would not trust a D.C. police officer to ever do anything for me. I would not even think to call a D.C. police officer to try to help me because it would not happen.  —Rachel G., sexual assault survivor, deposition transcript, April 1, 2008

An estimated one in five women in the United States is a victim of rape or attempted rape in her lifetime. However, studies indicate that nationwide, less than 20 percent of rape or sexual assault victims reported incidents to the police in 2007.[406] 

Many sexual assault survivors choose not to seek help out of fear that authorities will mistreat or not believe them.[407] Unfortunately, this concern can be well founded. In D.C., testimony from several observers and victims indicates that some MPD members treated victims insensitively when they attempted to report a sexual assault.[408]

Police may not realize how potentially damaging their interactions with victims can be. But negative police interactions can lead to re-victimization of survivors of sexual assault and increase the likelihood they will suffer Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).[409]

Poor treatment of victims can also lead to botched or dropped investigations.[410] Prosecutors interviewed for this report stressed the importance of detectives building relationships with victims and earning their trust in order to get them to explain clearly what happened. [411] One prosecutor said, “Cases rise and fall on the victim’s ability to tell their story.”[412] A positive initial contact with law enforcement is therefore very important.[413] A victim who is treated well is also more likely to cooperate with prosecution, significantly increasing chances that the perpetrator will be brought to justice.

In contrast, not treating victims well may not only result in letting a rapist go free, potentially to commit other crimes, it also undermines public confidence in law enforcement. In many communities, word of ill-treatment travels fast among social networks, making other victims less likely to come forward.[414] One person who has worked with sexual assault victims in D.C. for 10 years said, “If I were assaulted I am not sure I would report. It is hard for me to encourage people to go to the MPD when I think that process may be re-traumatizing and harmful.”[415]

As described in detail in the subsections below, Human Rights Watch documented the following re-victimizing or counter-productive behaviors by MPD personnel:

  • Questioning survivors’ credibility;
  • Actively discouraging victims from reporting or undergoing a forensic exam;
  • Threatening victims with prosecution if they are found to be lying;
  • Asking victim-blaming or inappropriate questions;
  • Telling victims that their stories are not serious enough to investigate; and
  • Failing to keep victims informed of progress on their cases.

The findings are drawn from accounts of witnesses and victims and corroborated by information found in detectives’ files. When notified that Human Rights Watch considered several of our findings substantiated by information included in investigators’ notes, Chief Lanier responded that it was a “cheap shot” and “nonsensical that a detective would report his/her own mistreatment of a victim.” [416] Chief Lanier also indicates that “HRW is highlighting cases and selectively using the facts” and that “HRW draws negative conclusions that do not include all of the relevant facts.” However, notes in files, cited below, are indicative that detectives may not realize their treatment of victims is inappropriate.

Human Rights Watch did not attempt to identify particular detectives or officers engaged in this activity and it is possible that the actions of a few are tainting perceptions of the unit as a whole. [417] It is important to note that according to victims, medical staff, and advocates, not all detectives in the MPD’s SAU behave insensitively to victims. [418] One witness recalled observing a detective behaving sensitively to a toothless, homeless, male victim who she feared would be treated poorly. [419]

Many of the prosecutors interviewed for this report at the MPD’s request emphasized that a number of detectives in the unit do very good work, [420] are good at making victims feel “comfortable,” [421] are “inspiring,” and “don’t get the credit they deserve.” [422] New detectives were singled out for praise. [423] Some prosecutors were able to give examples of difficult cases that were successfully prosecuted because of the efforts a detective made to work with the victim. [424]

But the prosecutors also acknowledged that other detectives “shouldn’t be doing this kind of work at all,” [425] “don’t want to be there,” [426] “are not good at making victims feel comfortable,” [427] or are less likely to believe victims, [428] and “they would be happy to have some [detectives] go.” [429] When assigned a case with those detectives, the prosecutor thinks, “I wish I got someone else.” [430]

However, the breadth of observations in this report raises concerns about institutional tolerance of re-victimizing behavior by those detectives known not to interact well with victims. Also, even detectives praised by prosecutors for their positive victim interactions were the subject of some complaints detailed below, which further illustrates the importance of training and accountability for all detectives. Though some have noted improvements in recent months, any improvement has to be durable and systemic in order to have impact.

The MPD should act quickly to address instances in which detectives behave inappropriately.

Questioning Survivors’ Credibility

A significant barrier to successful investigation of sexual assault is the persistent belief among some law enforcement officers that victims fabricate sexual assaults out of vindictiveness or to cover up behavior that they regret. Studies show that the rate of false reporting for sexual assault is low (2-10 percent),[431] yet all too often, law enforcement treats reports of sexual assault with skepticism.[432] Victims treated with suspicion are less likely to cooperate with police, making investigation even less likely.[433]

The MPD policy explicitly states that “members shall not express any personal opinions regarding alleged sexual offenses” during a sexual assault investigation.[434] Still, police skepticism about reports of sexual assault is a problem reported by victims and those who have witnessed police interaction with victims in Washington D.C.[435] Narratives in investigative files reviewed by Human Rights Watch corroborate this perception.

Some who work with victims in D.C. estimate that in “easily half” of all cases, victims have the impression that police do not believe them.[436] A person who has worked for years to support victims in D.C. said the biggest problem she finds is victims saying, “The detective didn’t believe me.”[437] Another veteran on these issues said some detectives “start from an assumption that the victim is lying until proven otherwise.”[438] The head of SANE until December 2009 also said victims used to ask her, “Why did the police talk to me like that? They don’t believe me.”[439] One victim, Shelly G., was exasperated and asked her detective if he believed her. He made it clear he did not.[440]

The testimony provided in the 2008 lawsuit against the District of Columbia, indicates that police skepticism about victims seeking forensic exams has existed for some time. A former SAU supervisor testified in 2008 that,

 [I]t’s not an uncommon practice for females to come to the hospital to get a sex kit for various reasons, to not include [seeking to report a] criminal [offense] … They may come because they went out on a date, don’t know who they slept with, get the morning after pill, get contraceptives for STDs.[441]

Police investigative files from later periods indicate that this skepticism persists among some detectives, who believe victims choose to undergo extensive forensic exams only to get a morning after pill or treatment for sexually transmitted diseases. This belief has no objective basis, however, as access to health care and emergency contraception (the morning after pill) is not limited to sexual assault victims. Both services can be obtained without submitting to an invasive, lengthy forensic examination or potentially difficult police interview.

The following are examples from case files in which detectives indicated a belief that the victim was undergoing a forensic exam for reasons other than sexual assault:

  • An investigator notes a May 2009 case of a woman who had limited speech and comprehension who was with friends in the neighborhood smoking weed when one of the guys “got rough with her and told her to pull her pants down.” She complied, although she did not want to do it. The detective wrote, “The problem is that she has a serious itching problem in the vaginal area and told her power of attorney that she needed help.” The case was classified as an “office information” because, the detective noted, the victim just wanted medical attention. [442]
  • In Estella’s case (described further below) in May 2010, Estella wanted a forensic exam because she was reporting a sexual assault. But her detective wrote in her report that “after realizing that the [subject] did not sexually assault her, the complainant still insisted upon having a SANE examination. She stated that she wants to ensure she is not pregnant and did not get a disease” and “was upset about the fact he did not use a condom.” [443] According to Estella, the detective asked her, “Do you really want to file a report or do you just want meds?” [444]
  • In the file for Susan’s 2011 case, the detective indicates she had a forensic exam because the suspect did not use a condom and she wanted to take the morning after pill and get checked out. [445]
  • In a March 2011 case, the detective indicates the victim went through with a SANE exam at WHC because Providence hospital does not give morning after pills. [446]

In the aftermath of trauma, victims often make statements that are inconsistent or incomplete. They may also seek to hide or minimize unflattering behavior out of fear that they will not be believed or that they will be blamed for their assault. If police respond by treating victims with suspicion and interrogating them when confronted with gaps in their stories, they may sabotage the investigation. For that reason, it is very important that the detective create a non-judgmental environment and not convey disbelief during the victim interview. Assessments about inconsistencies can be made after conducting an investigation.

Skepticism of a victim’s account during an initial interview is apparent in some detectives’ investigative notes:

  • Detective notes of an interview with a victim immediately after her assault in the fall of 2011 say, “There are many inconsistencies in her account of the alleged sexual assault,” such as that the victim said the suspect hit her and then said he kicked and punched her. The crime scene was listed as “Allegedly the suspect’s bedroom.” Notes state that the suspect hit the complainant on the eye when he forced her on the bed, “but that might have been an accident.” [447]
  • Detective notes from a December 2010 case read, “This investigation should be classified as a sexual abuse allegation. [Complainant] does not report exactly what happened to her. C states ‘he took advantage of me, he raped me’ ‘he forced himself in me and raped me.’ She does not explain how she was forced and how she was sexually abused. [Complainant] provides contradictory statements. [Complainant’s] version of events is full of inconsistencies. She identifies herself as suffering from schizophrenia and depression. Both officers reported to know [complainant] as local crack user and prostitute.” [448]
  • In an early 2010 case in which the victim reported she was forced to orally copulate a stranger, the police notes indicate skepticism about the report. The complainant, a deaf student, told police that after a night of drinking with classmates, she blacked out and woke up on an unknown street between 2:30 and 3:00 a.m. She told detectives that as she was walking a large man came up and was “gusting” her for a drink. She walked faster but he followed her and grabbed her sweater and took her into an alley and told her to sit down. The detective wrote, “[Complainant] stated that the big black man pulled down his pants and she sucked his penis, only because she did not know if he had a gun or a knife or what he was going to do…. The complainant does not mention any force or threats or how she knew to suck suspect’s penis.” In a second interview the detective noted, “The [complainant] did not describe any force or threats during this alleged altercation … [the complainant] describes the assailant making a motion by pointing to his genitals that he wanted his penis sucked.” [449] The case was not assigned a case number and no investigation was done.

A delay in reporting, even if brief, can raise questions about a victim’s credibility. In two investigative files reviewed by Human Rights Watch, detective notes indicate “the complainant was asked what her delay in making the report sooner was,” even though the complainant reported the day after the assault.[450]

Notes from an October 2010 case classified as “office information” state, “It should be noted that [complainant] waited over 12 hours before requesting medical services and police assistance.” [451] In Estella’s case, the detective wrote, “Once home, the [complainant] pondered over what had transpired and felt that she had been raped. Therefore she responded to the district.” [452] Estella went to the police department within an hour of her assault.

Detectives convey their mistrust of victims both directly and indirectly.[453]

In Maya’s case in April 2011 (see text box), the detective repeatedly told her that “no one would believe” her and that she was “lying” and “wasting their time.” [454] In 2009, a detective told another victim, Dolores R., “It seems like you’re telling me a story and it isn’t yours.” [455] One witness saw a detective look at a patient and tell her she was not sexually assaulted. [456] Bystanders have heard detectives raise their voices to victims and ask, “Why are you here?” [457] A person who works with survivors reported, “I have had police walk out of the room and say ‘She is lying to us.’” [458]

Others also report that some detectives go so far as to explicitly threaten victims with arrest on charges of false reporting. Apart from Rachel G. (see box above), three other victims, all of whom had cases after 2009 (after reforms were implemented), told Human Rights Watch that they were threatened with prosecution for false reporting.[459] People who work with victims also report having heard detectives stressing to victims that filing a false report is unlawful and carries penalties.[460] One member of the medical staff recalls hearing a detective explicitly say, “If I find out you are lying, I will look you up and arrest you.”[461]

These may not be isolated incidents. During a training of Rape Crisis Center volunteers, one former volunteer remembers an SAU detective saying, “‘We make it very clear to survivors that there is a penalty for false reporting.’ He said that if anything seemed off, they repeatedly remind the victim that they cannot false report.”[462]

The form of questioning may also reveal police doubts about a victim’s story. Some describe police as “hunting for a good victim” and treating survivors as they would be treated in court. [463] Jennifer W. described her experience in a complaint to the Office of Police Complaints in May 2007. She was assaulted at her workplace and reported the incident to her supervisor, who reported the crime to police. Jennifer met with two SAU detectives whose “confrontational, insensitive manner” she found “very degrading and humiliating.”

They seemed to be questioning my integrity … they would not allow me to answer in full, interrupting me repeatedly (e.g. ‘That is a ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ question, Ma’am!’)
They … made it obvious they had a pre-conceived notion of the incident that had occurred and that they did not find my testimony credible. Both officers persistently asked me humiliating, irrelevant questions regarding the assault … They did not attempt to understand my position or feelings or what I was going through.[464]

If the victim has a criminal record, it may contribute to police doubts about her report of sexual assault. The head of the SANE program from 2008 to 2009 said that during her time, detectives would sometimes run a victim’s name through the system; if he or she had a record, they brought it up in the police interview.[465] Advocates and victims corroborated this. Six police investigative files reviewed by Human Rights Watch referred to a detective running a complainant’s name through the system to check their criminal record before interviewing the victim. In one August 2011 case, the detective noted,

Upon conducting a WALES [Washington Area Law Enforcement database] check, [the complainant] was found to be wanted on a bench warrant. [Complainant] was placed under arrest.[466]  
In another case, a detective wrote, “A check through WALES and Colombo indicates the [complainant] has been arrest [sic] for soliciting in the same area where she alleges her assault occurred.”[467]

Running a record check on victims is not necessarily problematic (if a routine practice with all crime victims), but existence of an unrelated criminal issue should not be used to discount a victim’s complaint of sexual assault. Yet advocates indicated that, in their experience, if a victim’s name comes up in the system, the police do not believe him or her.[468] A victim complained to an advocate in August of 2011 that she believed her case was not being followed up because of her record.[469] Maya T., too, was asked about her criminal record when she reported her assault in April 2011, as part of a general pattern of questioning that indicated the detective doubted her credibility.[470]

In other cases, victims who spoke to Human Rights Watch said that they were left with the impression that the detective simply took the suspect’s word over theirs. Susan D., the US government employee who was assaulted on a date in spring 2011, said the detective assigned to her case interviewed the suspect. Afterwards, the detective told Susan that the suspect had acknowledged sexual contact, but claimed it was consensual. When Susan pointed out that this contradicted an earlier statement by the suspect that nothing happened, the detective said the suspect had not known his earlier statement was being recorded, and “Why would he lie?” Susan said, “I felt like my credibility was less than the assailant. The only follow-up was to blame me.”[471] The investigative file for Susan’s case seems to confirm her impression of bias. It contained a one page “bio of the subject” listing his various “academic and leadership achievements.” No other note of his statement (or of the victim’s impressive credentials) was in the file.[472]

In Maya’s case, detectives also told her they had spoken with the suspects and believed their version of events—that it was consensual — over hers, even though she had been found locked in a room. In that case, the police did not even open an investigation but instead filed a “miscellaneous” report, or “office information.”[473] A review of the investigative file indicated that Maya’s impression that the police took the suspects at their word was correct.[474] (See text box)

In notes from an October 2011 investigative file, the detective’s skepticism of the victim is apparent from her description of the complainant as “combative and very evasive” and the list of “inconsistencies” described above in the warrant request. The detective notes “Canvass: None. S-1 (Suspect) stood by on scene and was cooperative. Said it was consensual and he used a condom.”[475]

Unwillingness to believe victims is sometimes conveyed by body language. One witness described an interviewing technique she witnessed in which two detectives interview the victim. One stands with his arms crossed while the other questions the victim. Sometimes they tag team, “seemingly looking for inconsistencies in the victim’s story.” [476] Other advocates also describe detectives giving victims the impression that they are annoyed to have to come and take a report. [477] Estella C. reported that her detective rolled her eyes repeatedly when she was telling her about her sexual assault. [478] Susan D. reported that her detective “made several facial expressions during the interview, such as exaggeratingly raising her eyebrows,” that made it clear that what Susan was telling her was problematic. [479]

Displaying disbelief to a victim appears especially acute when the victim has been drinking. One advocate expressed her concern regarding a deaf victim of sexual assault in a 2009 email that was forwarded to the Office of Victims Services (OVS) in the Mayor’s Office:

The detective was awful. Completely intimidating, didn’t believe her, and told her there was no case number because it wasn’t rape since she ‘consented.’… I warned the survivor upon meeting the detective that she would be harsh and to stay strong and tell her everything she can remember. Turns out it was a stranger who she met at a party after her friends left her there. (She was visiting from [out of town]) ... the guy took advantage of her (she was drunk) and told her to sleep with him otherwise [he] would kick her out to sleep on the street.
The detective was in the room with the interpreter, and two other female officers and after 40 min, the survivor was literally hysterical … the nurses and I could hear it from outside the room … she was sobbing and yelling (as loud as she could while signing)…. We interrupted and the detective told us ‘We’ll be done when I say we’re done.’ Two min later, they walked out of the room … the detective told me there would be no case and told me to go see her.[480]

Although memory lapses are commonly associated with trauma,[481] detectives appear to disbelieve victims if they do not remember elements of the assault. Examples provided to Human Rights Watch include:

  • An observer recalled a woman who was new to town and had gone out to a bar with acquaintances. When she got home she was pulled into a neighbor’s yard and raped by a stranger. When she could not remember the name of the bar she had visited, a police officer said, “How can you not remember? How can we believe you?”[482]
  • Julie M. was a student at a local university when a stranger assaulted her on campus after she had been drinking. She went to WHC the next day and reported the incident to the police, who interviewed her there and wanted to know what the man looked like. “It was hard for me to remember it because I was trying to block out what he looked like,” she said, adding that she felt police did not believe her because she did not report the incident to campus police and couldn’t give the
  • specific location and description.[483] Julie said the police did not follow up with her about her complaint because the case was closed.

Skepticism about sexual assault goes beyond detectives in the SAU. A community member on a police ride-along was present when police were called to respond to a sexual assault report. Even though there were several police in the area, they did not respond until they were called a second time. The community member said that she heard officers say about the crime, “You can only cry rape so many times,” and “Sexual assault cases—too much paperwork.” [484] An attorney who previously worked with the MPD recalled a detective saying to her about a victim, “You know how 13-year-old girls are. They just make stuff up.” [485]

Additional Illustrative Cases

  • A victim reported waking up from being unconscious and intoxicated in August of 2011 to find an acquaintance grabbing her neck and placing a pillow over her head. He then orally copulated her and vaginally penetrated her without her consent. The victim told him “No.” The detective notes say, “If that was the case, we should assume she would not be able to see or speak.” The detective also indicates that she changed her mind about reporting because a counselor told her if she reported, shelters were available to her. The case was upgraded from an “allegation” to a sex abuse case only after the suspect admitted to penetration. [486]
  • A case from fall 2011 in which the victim reported being hit and vaginally assaulted by three suspects while intoxicated. The detective notes as an “inconsistency” that the complainant did not elaborate on what drinks she had or what liquor was used to make the drinks. She also “admitted she smoked weed.” [487]
  • In a January 2009 case the victim was found barefoot, with no coat, and injured, with no recollection of where she was. Concerned citizens called an ambulance, which took her to the hospital for a forensic exam because the medics believed she had been sexually assaulted. The detective notes indicate that “Officers advised that [when] a lot of the female patrons left this same nightclub, they were not wearing their coats or shoes.” [488]

Advocates and Counselors

Using an advocate or counselor to assist victims through the investigative process can be beneficial to both victims and law enforcement. [489] One victim, Suzy N., who had an advocate with her when she reported in California in July 2011, said, “Just having someone who believed me was very important. She was supportive and emotionally helpful. She helped me feel like I could testify [give a statement].” [490]

Model policies and guidelines recommend contacting a victim advocate as soon as possible to provide assistance for victims throughout the investigative process. This includes the forensic exam, law enforcement interviews, pretext phone calls (when the victim is asked to call the suspect on a recorded line), and interviews with the prosecutor. [491] At least eight states (Washington, California, Iowa, New York, Louisiana, Wyoming, Washington, and Montana) have laws explicitly giving victims the right to have an advocate present with them at the time of questioning by law enforcement. [492]

Advocates may be community-based (such as advocates at a local rape crisis center) or system-based (a victim advocate employed by law enforcement or the prosecutor’s office). They provide emotional support for victims during law enforcement interviews and ensure victims’ rights are protected. If having an advocate present for the interview is not possible, it is still valuable to have an advocate (or support person) on-site to provide emotional support and information to the victim before and after the interview or procedure. [493]

The presence of an advocate also allows detectives to focus on the questioning, knowing that the victim’s emotional needs will be taken care of. And detectives find victims more likely to report and more likely to remain engaged in the investigation if they have an advocate. Indeed, studies show that victims are more likely to have a police report taken (59 percent v. 41 percent) and law enforcement is more likely to investigate the case further (24 percent v. 8 percent) when an advocate is involved. [494]

Discouraging Forensic Exams and Reports

An MPD Special Order dating from 2001 sets forth police department policy on sexual assault exams:

The detective shall explain to the victim the critical need for a forensic examination and encourage the victim to use the services available through the SANE Program. The detective shall explain the benefits of the program and answer questions the victim may have.[495]

However, several people who work with victims said they try to get to the hospital before police, who may otherwise talk victims out of getting an exam or filing a complaint. [496] Some medical staff expressly told Human Rights Watch that for this reason, they would prefer if a victim took an ambulance or taxi to the hospital rather than be brought in by police. [497]

Advocates and contemporaneous documentation by nurses confirm a number of people, after speaking with police, decide not to get an exam or report a sexual assault when they had initially asked for an exam and sought to report to law enforcement.[498] Detective notes in files reviewed by Human Rights Watch corroborate witness testimony that victims are sometimes discouraged from getting forensic exams.

In some cases, victims decide not to report their sexual assault after police indicate their case would not hold up in court.[499] The 2009 SANE director said she knew of victims being told, “There is nothing we can do,” or “You don’t meet the criteria for sexual assault.”[500] Other times, police discouraged victims from reporting by saying that they would have to tell loved ones about their behavior or by stressing the serious consequences to the perpetrator of pursuing the case. According to a college counselor, students are sometimes told, “If you go forward with this case, your parents are going to know you have been drinking.”[501]

One observer estimated that in her experience, nine times out of ten the decision not to report may be because of something police told the victim.[502] Examples of police comments that have the effect of discouraging reporting and forensic testing include:

  • When Dolores R., who was assaulted as a student at a university in D.C. in 2009, tried to get a sexual assault exam at her university hospital, campus police called the MPD. The SAU detective who came to the hospital told her she would have to transfer to another hospital to get an exam, that it was a long process, and perhaps she “didn’t want to go through all that.” The detective implied she had to speak to the police to get a forensic exam, though Dolores wasn’t sure she wanted to report the sexual assault. Dolores later discovered that WHC was only down the street. The detective also made it clear she had her doubts about Dolores’ story, and that it was not a strong enough case to hold up in court. Dolores did not report her assault or get an exam.[503]
  • When one married victim, Laura T., attempted to report her sexual assault in late 2011, the detective told her he would have to inform her husband in order to proceed with his investigation. “I then asked him please don’t and he said ok – and then he handed me a form to deny ongoing investigation [decline an investigation] so therefore I signed it.”[504]
  • In November 2010, a complainant reported a strange man had broken into her home and physically and sexually assaulted her roommate. She told the officer she was worried her roommate had been sexually assaulted because she was bleeding and her clothes were ripped. She said the officer “dismissively said ‘you can take her to the hospital if you want.’” The officer also told her “no crime had been committed and there was nothing he could do unless the man had threatened to kill us.”[505]
  • In an early 2010 case, a complainant who had been using drugs reported that a suspect threatened to kill her if she did not do what he said, threw her on a bed, punched her in the face, and then vaginally and orally assaulted her. Detective notes indicate the complainant was asked repeatedly by different members of the MPD about her “alleged sexual assault.” Though she initially wanted a forensic exam, she eventually refused to have one and signed a waiver stating she did not want to pursue the case.[506]

In six other cases, detectives’ notes indicate that they asked victims to sign a form stating they did not want to make a report during their initial interview immediately after their assault. Unless arrest is imminent, experts advise against asking victims to sign waivers of investigations or prosecutions before conducting thorough, evidence-based investigations.[507] The practice is particularly advised against for cases in which the detective has decided not to investigate because he or she does not believe the victim.[508]

Hostility toward victim reporting is apparent in a June 2009 email from one detective to another about a victim he met at the hospital who had initially not wanted to report but had changed her mind. He wrote,

I found out you dealt with her about 4 am Friday or Saturday morning … and she chose not to make a report. Something about a gang bang and being intoxicated.… Anyway, I think it was just an OI [Office Information]. However, she now feels differently and wishes to make a report…. She says her phone isn’t working but she can be reached … Sorry, BUT IT IS WHAT IT IS!!!!!!![509]

Apart from discouraging reporting, witnesses and a review of police documents indicate that law enforcement sometimes also discourage victims from getting forensic exams, despite police policy to encourage exams. Although law enforcement has not had a role in determining whether a victim gets a forensic evidence kit since late 2008, when federal law requirements for funding changed, as discussed below, law enforcement officers may still sometimes indicate to nurses that a victim should not have an exam.[510] For example:

  • In 2009, a nurse report noted a female detective who arrived to interview a patient (pt.) and “stated that she hadn’t interviewed the pt. and she (the detective) would make the determination as to whether or not an exam (SANE) needed to be done … that it was her decision if there was even a criminal case.”[511]
  • In a February 2011 miscellaneous case in which the victim was highly intoxicated and woke up with her clothes partially off and inside out, the detective notes say, “The [complainant] wanted to go to the hospital. The detective called the SANE nurse to let her know that there was a complainant coming in who wanted a kit done and that this is NOT a sex case. No crime occurred.” The complainant did have a kit done and the detective notes the “kit was turned over to mobil [sic] crime as no case.”[512]
  • In the January 2009 case in which the victim was found injured, barefoot, and with no coat, in response to a question from a nurse about the scope of the exam, the “Detective advised no SANE examination required by MPD as [the complainant] reported no crime.” Though it was unclear if the complainant was missing her underwear when she arrived at the hospital, the “detective said there was no need for [clothing] evidence as the [complainant] was not a victim of a crime.”[513]
  • SART meeting minutes from March 2011 indicate that the Department of Justice’s Office on Violence against Women contacted the OVS because of a complaint from an advocacy group stating that “victims of sexual assault cannot get a forensic exam without first talking to the police.”[514]

Conversely, police have sometimes given the absence of a forensic medical exam as a reason not to investigate a case. One observer reported, “I have heard detectives ask why they did not get a rape kit or why they delayed in coming forward…. In those cases they won’t even interview perpetrators at all. Never does the client hear from the MPD. The MPD will often say the survivor doesn’t have a kit so it is hard to move forward.” [515] She also noted that when the victim knows the perpetrator, they are more likely to choose not to get an exam. [516]

Some experts estimate that, nationwide, only a minority of victims disclose their sexual assault during the period (96 to 120 hours) where a forensic exam is warranted.[517] A study of hundreds of cases in the Los Angeles area in 2008 found that in half the cases in which victims reported to police they had undergone a forensic exam.[518]

In a number of files Human Rights Watch reviewed, the report noted the lack of an exam as a reason for closing the case. For example, a November 2010 case was closed and described as a “weak case, no evidence since [complainant] refused to respond for a SANE exam,” with the detective also noting the importance of the SANE exam. However, apart from the complainant interview, no investigation of the case (such as an interview with the suspect who had been identified or a “report of rape” witness who had spoken with the complainant immediately after the assault) is apparent in the investigative file. [519] In a 2011 case, the complainant reported that a named suspect raped her, but she was intoxicated at the time of her report and unclear about the details. The detective noted, “By refusing to be examined, the [complainant] hampered any attempt to collect any evidence or sustain that a sexual assault ever occurred. Based on those factors, the report is classified as office information.” [520]

Interviewees also said that police have been reluctant over the years to collect forensic evidence kits from the hospital. Detectives are responsible for ensuring the kit is hand-delivered to the mobile crime lab or the crime scene investigative branch. [521] SAU Standard Operating Procedures stress the “timely and proper collection, preservation, submission, and chain-of-custody of sex kits and evidence is crucial to sex abuse investigations.” [522] Furthermore, the General Order governing police investigation of sexual assault states the SAU detective should pick up the kit and deliver it to the Crime Scene Investigations Branch, Forensic Science Services Division (FSSD), within 24 hours of the exam’s completion. [523]

Although this policy has been in place since 2001, until recently, several medical staff at the hospital described getting police to pick up kits from the hospital to take to the lab as “a battle” that required several calls and emails.[524] A safe intended to store kits for people who had not decided whether to report was repurposed in 2009 to hold kits awaiting police pick-up. Investigative files from 2009 show some kits awaiting pick-up for over four months. However, reports reviewed by Human Rights Watch show significantly improved pick-up time since 2011.[525]

Contemporaneous emails from nurses in 2009 reveal tension between nurses and police about the kits, with detectives saying nurses did not tell them what to do with the kits, and nurses asserting that it felt like they had to “jump through a lot of hoops” to get kits picked up. [526] Minutes from SART meetings at the time reveal a direct, and predictable, link between police reluctance to pick up kits and a decision by police not to investigate some cases at all. Minutes from an April 2009 meeting referred to “renewed discussion” about what to do with kits when the MPD has decided not to investigate, but a Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner had collected evidence. “This can’t be a non-report because the victim did report,” the minutes said, “but MPD does not want to take custody of the kit since they already know they are not moving forward with the case.” [527] Three other minutes from that year discussed the problem of kits falling into the category of “reports without investigation.” [528]

The MPD states that “MPD immediately addressed the issue” when it was brought to their attention in 2009 and that as of June 2012, they had collected all kits.[529] However several people in early 2011 told Human Rights Watch that the storage safe was always full (it holds up to twelve kits)[530] and medical staff reported how one detective said outright, “You can collect evidence if you want, but I’m not going to do anything with it.”[531]

In the early 2011 case of a complainant who had only two drinks but blacked out while driving, sensitive blood and urine sat for weeks in the refrigerator awaiting pick-up for testing while detectives debated who had jurisdiction since the location of the crime was unclear.[532]

Medical staff said they found it harder to do their jobs if they believed the forensic evidence kits would just sit on the shelf, because they feared the lengthy and invasive exams they conducted re-victimized survivors.[533] “Sometimes I feel like, ‘what am I doing this for?’” one said.[534] There also may be evidentiary consequences. An expert toxicologist told Human Rights Watch, “Deterioration of any organic chemicals will occur over time. If they [the police] don’t come, there will be some loss of something.”[535]

Following notification of this report’s initial findings on May 30, 2012, the MPD instituted a policy requiring all forensic kits to be picked up from WHC within three days of a sexual abuse or sexual allegation report. An audit of kits will be conducted weekly by an SAU official. [536]

Additional Cases in Which Police Discouraged Reporting or Forensic Exams

  • Shelly G. was told in October 2009 that forensic results “would take years” to come back. An examination of her investigative file showed that the results were returned within four months, by which time her case had already been closed for three months.[537]
  • An observer recalled that in Susan D.’s case, after she reported being assaulted by someone she met on an internet dating site, the detective told Susan she had “led her assailant on” and had no case. The detective almost convinced Susan not to file a report.[538] The detective also told Susan ’s nurse and Susan, “I don’t think she needs a SANE exam.”[539]
  • An observer described an incident in August 2011 involving a young woman, whom friends found in a room at a house party with her pants off. Concerned after seeing a man leave the room, the friends called an ambulance. The victim had been intoxicated and could not remember what happened. According to an advocate, the detective who responded said, “OK, so why am I here?” She did not leave a card or sign in at the hospital (as protocol requires) and dismissed the victim’s concerns about the sexual assault, though the victim wanted to make a report.[540]
  • When Maya T. reported, police asked, "You are going to give that man 23 years for rape ... 23 years ... do you know what that does?"[541]
  • Susan D. said that the message she got from the detective when she reported was: “You are going to ruin his life.”[542] Susan felt she was being discouraged from reporting and stated, “I feel like I was being intimidated and that she was implying that I should think twice about my story because this would have serious consequences for this man and that she didn’t think that what had happened was rape.”[543] The detective’s notes state that Susan “didn’t want to get him[the suspect] in trouble” but do not mention that she told Susan that if she “wanted to file a report [the detective] would show up at his place of employment the very next morning and arrest him and that he would probably be fired from his job.”[544]
  • Detective notes from a closed September 2008 case indicate the complainant “did not want to file criminal charges against the defendant which could lead to the ruining of the defendant’s future ambitions.”[545]
  • Medical staff recalled a case when police, frustrated with a victim who changed her story many times, said in front of her, “I don’t know if this warrants a kit.”[546]
  • In an April 2010 case, detective notes say, “I advised [Nurse] that I was not authorizing an exam at this point, but would be responding to her location to interview complainant.”[547]
  • Investigative notes from a detective in September 2011 regarding a victim who did not recall what had happened to her after leaving a club but was seen by a friend with an unknown man and woke up with no underwear and missing some personal items from her house read, “The undersigned advised that she is welcome to submit to a SANE examination. However, the only thing the exam would possibly yield is that either someone had sexual intercourse with her or not.”[548]

Victim-Blaming

As part of an investigation, detectives may need to ask sensitive questions about victim behavior. Questions about inconsistencies, drug or alcohol consumption, and consensual sexual activity are legitimate. However, this information can be collected without traumatizing victims. For example, questions about high-risk behavior such as drug use or prostitution can be seen as an indication that the detective blames or doubts the victim. Explaining why it is important for victims to provide this information makes it more likely the victim will cooperate.[549]

However, HRW spoke with victims who described how they were asked questions about consensual sexual activity and alcohol use in a manner which made them feel that the questioning officer did not believe an assault had taken place at all, or that it was not an incident that they would be interested in following up.[550] This impression was reinforced in the review of investigative files. In several files it appeared that some detectives inordinately focused on risk-taking behavior by the victim during the initial interview and then used it as a reason not to continue the investigation. Investigations in which victim’s behavior was in question often seemed to be dropped after the initial interview or were classified as “office information.” Factors such as a victim’s alcohol intake or other similar behavior should never preclude a thorough investigation of the case.

Several survivors and people who work closely with survivors said that police in D.C. often question victims or make comments in a manner suggesting the victim is at fault. [551] One medical professional said she heard police appearing to blame the victim with questions and comments that included “You shouldn’t have been out so late,” “For God’s sake, why did you do that?” or “Why did you walk home by yourself after a few drinks?” [552]

Survivors reported the following examples:

  • Estella C. was assaulted by an acquaintance in May 2010 as they sat in his van talking. Immediately afterwards, Estella reported the assault to a detective, who rolled her eyes when Estella told her that she had told the assailant she did not want to have sex. Estella’s sense of guilt about having sat in the truck at all was intensified by the detective, who asked why she had not fled the vehicle or hit her acquaintance.[553] The detective’s interview notes confirm Estella’s impression and state that “[Estella] advised that at the time it did not dawn on her to get out of the suspect’s vehicle and advise the police that she felt she had been raped.”[554] The detective described Estella’s actions as “being responsive and accepting of the [subject’s] sexual behavior.” The notes also indicate that Estella told the suspect “No,” that she was saving herself for her boyfriend, placed her hand over her vagina, and was crying during the assault (and during the police interview immediately after the assault)—yet the notes fail to draw the conclusion that this might have also provided the suspect with an indication that penetration was not consensual.[555]
  • Dolores R., a university student who police talked out of reporting her assault in 2009, said the detective asked her, “Why didn’t you scream? Why didn’t you call a friend? Why didn’t you call a cab?” Dolores said, “I did what I did and I can’t change that.”[556]
  • Another victim writes in 2009 that a female SAU detective to whom she tried to report an assault told her that if someone did something to her that she did not like she “would say no or tell them to stop.” She said the detective also asked “if [she] didn’t want them to do it, why [she] didn’t stop them.” [557]

People who work with survivors similarly describe MPD victim-blaming:

  • Medical staff overheard a detective tell an 18-year-old runaway who was assaulted in the middle of the night, “You shouldn’t have been outside. This is what happens at two in the morning. What do you expect?”[558]
  • A victim reporting an assault who was wearing a short skirt told a lawyer that the responding officer and the detective investigating her case commented on her outfit. The victim was very upset and no longer wanted to work with the officers.[559]
  • One member of the medical staff witnessed detectives indicating that the victim asked for it if they dressed a certain way or saying things such as, “You were invited to his house. What do you expect?” or “You know how it is at parties.” [560]

Even if the detective doubts a victim, questioning should not take the form of an interrogation. It may be necessary to ask difficult and potentially embarrassing questions about a victim’s conduct, but detectives should preface the questions with an explanation so as not to give the appearance of blaming the victim, which can be traumatizing. However, in addition to witness descriptions above, notes from detectives’ files indicate that questioning may in some cases be confrontational and upsetting to victims. For example:

  • In a December 2011 case of a non-stranger assault that was listed as a misdemeanor, the notes indicate, “The complainant stated that she did not scream or holler or even fight suspect off of her...” Later the detective notes that the complainant “appears to be avoiding undersigned detective.” The case was closed after the victim refused to return the detective’s calls. [561]
  • Detective notes for a February 2010 case in which a complainant reported being assaulted by a man in a van who had given her a ride and then attempting to call the police from a nearby 7/11 store afterward read, “When questioned why she did not try to get away from [the suspect] she added that the suspect had a knife, a gun, a shovel and tools in the van making her afraid. When questioned about her calling the police from a non-existing 7/11 within the area of the offense, she changed it to say that it was a store.… When questioned why her clothes were not stained, dirty, torn or wet from laying on the snow while being raped, she claimed not to know…”[562]
  • In an April 2009 case, a complainant reported being assaulted after stopping at a gas station. The notes say, “when challenged about the purchase, and what the teller looked like, the complainant changed her story…” [563]

Staff at colleges in D.C. who work with police and students on these issues also found that police response to sexual assaults—which often takes the form of warning students to lock their doors and not walk home alone late at night—can be problematic. 

In 2010, for example, police implied that a sleeping student who was sexually assaulted in an off-campus house was partially to blame for the crime that happened. An MPD lieutenant is reported as having stated, “This was a preventable crime.... Students have to lock their doors and protect themselves by staying in groups.” The victim had in fact locked her door with a deadbolt. The perpetrator had removed her air conditioning unit and climbed in through her window.[564]

Staff said they felt police did not appreciate the need for a more balanced approach that included focusing on perpetrator accountability and encouraging women to report assaults.[565] In addition, while advice about locking doors and not walking alone at night is appropriate when it comes to avoiding falling victim to crime in general, it ignores the reality that most sexual assaults are committed by non-strangers.

Additional Cases of Victim-Blaming

  • Michelle B., a student, reported an assault by an acquaintance in her dorm in October 2008. When she went to MPD to report, she felt she was interrogated. She said she was asked if she was lying and if she “had a sexy nightgown on,” causing her to feel that police blamed her for the assault.[566]
  • A victim who was assaulted by her ex-boyfriend and attempted to report the assault to the police in the spring of 2008 was repeatedly asked why she let him in. When she expressed frustration about the questioning, she said the officer “walked over to the person who assaulted me and began laughing with him.”[567]
  • Eleanor G. said that the first question the police photographer asked her when he met her at the emergency room following her stabbing and attempted rape in an alley in May 2011 was, “Why didn’t you just give him your purse?”[568]
  • In an October 2011 case, the “complainant was asked in what manner the defendant took her pants off. The complainant went on to relate she took her jeans off herself. There are many inconsistencies with her account of her alleged sexual assault.” [569]
  • A March 2011 case in which the victim, a diabetic, did not recall what had happened after drinking: “The complainant acknowledged that she does not know the effects alcohol has on a diabetic with an out of control glucose level.” [570]
  • A January 2010 case in which the victim had consensual oral sex with the suspect but made it clear she would not have intercourse. When they moved from one location to another, the detective noted, “I asked [the complainant] what she thought was going to happen when [the subject] placed her on the bed.” [571]
  • In a summer 2009 case in which the complainant met the suspect at a club and went home with him where he assaulted her, the detective wrote, “I asked [the complainant] that since this was the first time meeting [the suspect] and she did walk to [the suspect]’s house, what her intention was when she got there.” The detective also noted, “I asked [the complainant] what she was doing while the defendant was putting on the condom.” [572]
  • After a victim reported being assaulted by an acquaintance on a college campus in the fall of 2008, the suspect walked her out of his room. After being taken by ambulance to a hospital for a SANE exam, she was interviewed by a detective. The detective’s notes say, “As the two passed the court yard area, they passed an emergency post that the complainant did not activate for help.” [573]

Requiring Detailed Interviews While the Victim is Traumatized

A lengthy interview immediately after an assault may not be appropriate because of the possible effects of trauma on the victim. [574] Victims are frequently traumatized during the initial interview (particularly if it immediately follows the assault) and therefore may not be able to concentrate or act rationally. It may have been hours since the victims last slept and, as mentioned above, they may still be under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Decades of research show that trauma decreases a person’s ability to provide information that is complete, consistent, and wholly accurate, especially in the first hours or days after the incident. [575]

The MPD’s General Order on Adult Sexual Assault Investigations, a set of internal police guidelines for officers related to investigating adult sexual assault cases, states that the detective shall, “[O]btain a statement of facts from the victim when time, location and conditions permit” and “schedule a follow-up interview with the victim at the SAU [Sexual Assault Unit]’s office as soon as possible, but in all cases within seventy-two (72) hours.” [576]

In practice, however, detectives often take a detailed statement from the victim before allowing him or her to have a forensic exam. The rationale for this, according to the MPD, is that they do not want to risk losing evidence that needs to be collected immediately. Also, some victims may wish to speak to detectives right away. Though an MPD commander says a decision about when to take a detailed interview depends on how the victim responds, the lieutenant responsible for the SAU also said the purpose of a quiet room set aside for victims at the hospital is to enable detectives to conduct a full interview there. A follow-up interview is generally only scheduled later if the victim is physically incapable of talking at the hospital.[577]

One officer explained that detectives “really go into detail and sometimes they ask questions over and over again.”[578] According to victims and several veteran victim advocates, the process is drawn out further if the victim has to repeat his or her story to different detectives. In some cases, victims are interviewed for several hours before being allowed to have a forensic exam.[579]

Survivors reported feeling traumatized and ill-prepared to answer questions at the hospital. Susan, who had not slept for two days, described feeling in a state of shock during the three-hour interview she endured before being allowed to get an exam.[580] Her requests to be re-interviewed later, when her memory was better, were refused.[581] Nor was she permitted to review the detective’s notes from the initial interview to see if they were accurate.[582] Maya also reported feeling physically ill at the time of her police interview and being unable to remember events clearly. Despite her protests, detectives pressed her for a timeline at the hospital but appeared to be uninterested in the full account of events that she wrote a few days later, having already decided there was no case.[583] 

Victims may also be incapable of being interviewed at the time they undergo a forensic exam because they are still intoxicated or under the influence of drugs. However, in its review of investigative files, Human Rights Watch found that detectives did not necessarily follow up to interview the victim when they were stable and as a result, some cases appear to slip through the cracks entirely.

Delaying the exam can be problematic as victims are not supposed to eat or drink or go to the bathroom before the kit is taken. After waiting, victims may decide not to have an exam at all.[584] Several SART meeting minutes from 2009 note the need to shorten the police interview at the hospital but the change was “still in progress” and “not yet implemented” or “indefinitely on hold.”[585]

Some instances in which the victim decided against an exam after a long interview include:

  • A patient who was interviewed by detectives for a long time despite requests by hospital staff to attend to her medical needs. She fled the hospital before nurses were allowed to access her, according to a 2011 exam exemption report.[586] 
  • A victim who reported being assaulted by three men in Chinatown in 2010. According to an advocate, police spoke with her for hours at the hospital before her exam, asking her to repeat the story to different detectives. During that time she was not able to eat or drink. She finally decided not to have the exam as she did not want her family, who came to support her, to have to wait for her any longer.[587]
  • A woman who was kidnapped in Fairfax at a metro station on her way to the parking lot and assaulted. The Metro Police, MPD, and the Virginia Police were all involved because they were not sure which had jurisdiction. An advocate said that instead of coordinating their interview with the victim, different detectives came in and out, repeated questions, and interrupted each other while the victim waited for an exam at the hospital. She told medical staff the experience was “overwhelming and confusing.” [588]
  • One victim in 2011 reported to nurses being questioned for “many hours – like an inquisition” and decided to delay her exam until the next day.[589]
  • In September 2009, nurses reported that a victim refused to give a history of her assault to the nurses “stating she had already given the account to 6 other [MPD] police officers.” Despite complaining of pain in her chest, neck, and throat, she was too upset to answer questions from nurses and ultimately did not get a forensic exam that day.[590]

Requiring a victim to tell their story repeatedly may also lead a victim to decide not to cooperate. Police notes for a 2011 case not assigned a case number indicate one complainant “became irritated stating that she had told this story to 5 other people. The undersigned apologized and stated it was necessary for her to repeat the story. This is when [complainant] stated her contempt for police.” The complainant decided not to report. [591]

The effects of trauma on a victim’s ability to present a coherent account of what happened do not seem to be understood by detectives. Rather, the inability to give a coherent statement is sometimes used as grounds for closing a case.

In several cases reviewed by Human Rights Watch, the detectives emphasized (even immaterial) inconsistencies in the victim’s immediate statements. Furthermore, as described in the earlier section on “victim-blaming,” the detective may then “confront” the victim with inconsistencies, which may result in the victim choosing not to cooperate with the investigation any further. For example, detective notes indicate the following:

  • In a March 2010 case in which a complainant described being assaulted in a taxi after leaving a nightclub, detective notes read, “At the time of the alleged assault the complainant accounts were inconsistence [sic] and all over the place.” Detectives ultimately requested that the case be unfounded. [592]
  • One complainant from June 2010, who had suffered a serious injury, was asked “on two occasions to … come into the office to be reinterviewed and confronted on the inconsistencies” but never showed up. [593]
  •  Another victim interviewed immediately after her assault in January 2009, was described as “very evasive and inconsistent” and ultimately was taped giving a statement that she did not want to go through with an investigation after initially having called the police. [594]
  • A 2011 case in which the arrest warrant was declined because the complainant, who had been seriously injured during the assault, “became uncooperative after being confronted with misleading statements that she made during her initial disclosure.” [595]
  • Detective notes in the case of a woman assaulted in a hotel in May 2011 read, “review of the evidence in the case revealed that there [were] several inconsistencies to the complainant’s report. C initially reported that she was writing when the suspect grabbed her but told the detective she was leaning on a bench.” [596]

An additional problem with conducting a detailed interview immediately is that detectives do not have time to review other information about the case before speaking to the victim and so lack a full picture of what occurred, which may in turn compromise the investigation. [597]  

After receiving Human Rights Watch’s recommendation to allow victims at least one full sleep cycle prior to conducting a full interview, the MPD issued a memorandum in June 2012, affording victims 24 hours after a preliminary interview before being re-interviewed, except in urgent cases or when a delay would jeopardize the victim or other members of the public. [598] However, as of October 2012, a source at WHC told Human Rights Watch that they had not yet observed any change in the MPD’s interviewing practices. [599]

Police Unresponsiveness

Numerous people who have worked closely with victims for years said victims regularly complain that they do not hear back from the MPD despite calling the department or individual officers repeatedly. [600] This is true even when the victim has concerns for his or her safety.

According to victim advocates, this lack of responsiveness reinforces victims’ perception that their cases are not taken seriously and is often upsetting to them.[601] One advocate said that victims often tell her, “They won’t return calls. I know they don’t believe me.”[602] A person who works with survivors described the failure to respond as a “systematic way to shut down survivors so they won’t pursue cases. If it is not the intent, it is certainly the effect as at a certain point they want to move on.”[603]

This sentiment is reflected in one victim’s experience, which she described in a written complaint in November 2009 filed with the Office of Police Complaints:

Shortly after making the report I received threatening emails from one of the parties involved. I phoned the detective and left multiple messages regarding the emails. She never returned my phone call … In the past week I have left multiple messages for both Detective [] and her supervisor Detective Sgt. ---. I have heard nothing from the Metropolitan Police Department since filing the report, 3 months ago, despite countless phone calls.... If I did not know better I would think that they were persuaded not to pursue the case that I definitely want to pursue.[604]

Susan D. also reported that her calls to a detective went unanswered after she got in contact following threats from an investigator hired by her assailant. After contacting the detective’s superior, the detective finally returned the call.[605] Shelly D., who reported an assault in October 2009, said getting the police to respond was “like pulling teeth” even after her assailant sent her several threatening messages. Her detective “did not even bat an eye.”[606] She ended up moving in order to avoid her assailant. Other victims reported not hearing from the police again after their initial report was written, and not having calls returned.[607] One victim, who was not updated about her case, reported being “afraid to leave her house”, worried that the assailant might find her.[608]

Even people who work on these issues professionally describe how difficult it can be to get detectives to return calls about their clients’ cases. As the head of a community organization put it, “The amount of self-advocacy you have to do to get cases followed up on is insane.”[609] Another advocate said she has to draw on political connections to get police to respond.[610] And a third community advocate who has worked with victims said that survivors are often left in the dark and regularly ask her to follow up with police. A detective told her the police do not follow up with victims as a rule because they “don’t want to taint the case” or risk a subpoena.[611] Medical staff report calls from patients months after their exams wondering what happened to their case.

Lack of information about the status of their case is hard for victims, many of whom have put their lives on hold. [612] Students may wait for news from police about whether their case is moving forward before deciding whether to report to the university, yet may not know for six months that the case has been closed. The protracted process may also give victims a sense of false hope, making it even harder for them to comprehend a decision not to prosecute. [613]

After receiving Human Rights Watch’s recommendations, the MPD, in June 2012, issued a memorandum requiring detectives to provide the complainant with the case number, their contact information, and work hours. “The detective shall ensure that proper follow up is conducted with the complainant” and will respond to calls from a complainant “within (2) business days.” [614]

Other Insensitive Behavior

The attitude conveyed by law enforcement during the victim interview can be “the single most important factor in determining the success of the victim interview—and therefore the entire investigation,” according to a manual for investigating sexual assaults. [615]

An MPD Special Order states, “Members who investigate sexual assault complaints shall be sensitive and compassionate to the needs of the victim and have compassion, while providing information and assistance though this traumatic situation.”[616]

Unfortunately, apart from behavior described above, Human Rights Watch uncovered a range of insensitive behavior and remarks from some MPD detectives charged with investigating sexual assault, indicating that policy is not strictly followed.

In a number of instances, detectives spoke or behaved in ways that demeaned or upset the sexual assault victims, increasing the likelihood that patients would not report their assaults. A person who works closely with survivors said they often ask, “Will I have to deal with him or her again?”— referring to Sexual Assault Unit detectives.[617]

Internal police notes indicate that police ask victims about their physiological response to their assaults during their initial interview. [618] Victims told Human Rights Watch that when they admitted to detectives that their bodies had involuntarily responded to the assaults (experienced symptoms of arousal), they felt the detectives lost interest in their cases. Victims described feeling betrayed by their bodies and struggling to cope with their biological responses. [619]

If the case is going to trial (which is often not the case, and was not the case in any of the files reviewed in which this information appeared), information about physical arousal may be relevant. However, an involuntary orgasm does not indicate consent and according to at least one expert, that kind of question is not appropriate in the initial interview and is needlessly upsetting to victims. [620] Nor do prosecutors see a physical response as a barrier to successful prosecution. [621]

Examples of inappropriate behavior or attitudes by MPD detectives include:

  • The response of the detective who interviewed Estella C., a 24-year-old student, who was assaulted orally and vaginally by an acquaintance in his truck in the spring of 2010. Estella drove herself to the police department to report the crime after the assault. According to Estella, the detective who interviewed her repeatedly asked whether the assailant was good at oral sex. Estella said the detective rolled her eyes while she explained what happened, made comments like “So you were into it,” and repeatedly said the incident did not sound like rape to her. [622] The detective also said that even though it “didn’t sound like a good case,” she was “still going to have to type it up.” [623] Estella said she eventually drove herself to the hospital for a forensic exam because she did not want to spend more time with the detective, who acted like taking her case would be inconvenient. [624]
  • For people with a psychiatric history, witnesses have heard police raise their voices and ask, “what do you want me to do with this?”, giving patients a hard time and implying the case is not worth pursuing.[625]
  • A fall 2011 case in which the complainant reports that after meeting the suspect at a nightclub, he lost consciousness but awoke briefly to find the suspect anally penetrating him before losing consciousness again. Beneath information about the complainant, the detective noted, “Homosexual male who hangs out in gay bars.” [626]
  • The detective who interviewed Susan D. made several references to her own personal history during the interview. When Susan said she was uncomfortable when her assailant made references to her “tight white pussy,” the detective said, “Honey, that’s not anything. I am half-white and my husband says that kind of thing to me all the time.” [627] The detective also disclosed she had been raped twice. Susan, at one point feeling frustrated that the detective did not understand how fearful she was, said, “I wish he [the assailant] had a gun so you would understand.” The detective responded, “No you don’t. That happened to me.” When Susan told the detective about being touched, the detective repeatedly interrupted and said, “That is not a crime.” [628]
  • One victim, a doctor, who reported being sexually assaulted in the spring of 2011, told hospital personnel the police were “unbelievably rude and argumentative” and wondered, if they treated her, a doctor, this way, “how do they treat less fortunate patients?” [629]
  • In the case of Rosa S., who was abducted by two men wearing masks and raped repeatedly overnight before being released the next morning, the detective who interviewed her was aggressive and asked, “You are only doing this to get immigration status, aren’t you?” [630]
  • During Maya T.’s initial interview with detectives in April 2011, the female detective asked her if she had gastric bypass surgery and said, “I can tell you still have all that fat under your arms.” She asked Maya to speak Spanish since her assailants were Spanish-speaking and then told her to “Stop butchering my language” and to “Shut up.” The detective also told Maya, “You know you aren’t allowed back there, right?” implying that Maya wanted to return to the place of her assault, another comment Maya found insulting. [631]

The impact police insensitivity can have on victims is illustrated by the description of one patient’s reaction to being questioned by a detective. According to a 2009 email that medical staff sent to the Office of Victims Services,

[The detective] had been in the room with the patient for about 30-40 minutes when we heard screams and very loud crying coming from the room through the closed doors. Mind you, the patient had been calm, cooperative and tear-free before [the detective] went in the room. The advocate and I knoced [sic] on the door. I opened it and asked if everything was OK. [The detective] said ‘yes, we would have come out if it wasn’t. We’re all police here, you can leave.’ In a curt and hostile tone. I reminded her that we would need to start the forensic exam soon and she replied ‘you’ll start when I’m finished. You can leave now.’
When I made it back to the room, the patient was crying inconsolably.[632]

Victims too describe trauma resulting from their experiences with the MPD. Sixteen months after her assault, Estella C. could still not discuss her experience trying to get the MPD to respond to her sexual assault without crying.[633] Shelly G. said her experience reporting her assault to the MPD in October 2009 was “really traumatizing. They made me feel like it was my fault or like it was in my mind. It was an awful feeling. It took me years to get back on my feet and get back to being the person I was before the assault.”[634]

In contrast, if victims are treated in a supportive and positive manner, the experience can help facilitate recovery. A former rape victim advocate contrasted her experience in D.C., where she felt victims were treated dismissively and cases were almost “always dead in the water,” to her experience as an advocate in another city:

Before starting the interview, the detective explained that he had to ask difficult questions but that he was not blaming her [the victim]. Rather he was trying to find the suspect. It was a huge thing for her to be validated by the officer. Even if the case doesn’t move forward, it was still helpful for her recovery.[635]

Since October 2006, according to a February 2012 letter from the MPD to the City Council, only one officer has been disciplined for inappropriate treatment of a sexual assault victim: a detective was suspended in November 2009 for 15 days after inappropriately contacting a sexual assault victim on Facebook.[636]

However, Chief Lanier indicated in a telephone interview that four detectives and a supervisor were transferred from the SAU in 2008, partially in response to the lawsuit by the student who had not been able to get a rape kit or have her case investigated by police.[637] Also, in the spring, a lieutenant opened an investigation into a complaint from Susan D. about her treatment by detectives in April 2011, and in October the MPD informed her they were reopening her case.

The MPD claims it is aware of only 12 citizen complaints against an SAU member since 2008, only one of which has been sustained, and has no record of other complaints by hospital staff or advocates. [638] However, some of the complaints (such as failure to investigate or dismissive behavior) fall outside of the definition of police misconduct reviewed by the Office of Police Complaints and would not be sustained by them, but referred to the MPD to handle internally. Also, many of the concerns raised in this report have been brought up informally with the MPD by various stakeholders during the time this report was researched, yet the MPD has often not addressed those concerns.

Referrals to Community Resources

MPD’s Standard Operating Procedures recognize that,

Taking the time to address the victim’s needs will ultimately lead to a more successful involvement of the victim in the criminal justice process.[639]
Furthermore, a General Order states,
The policy of the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) [on sexual abuse cases is] … to provide information and assistance throughout this traumatic event.[640]

However, police do not seem to make sufficient efforts to refer sexual assault victims to community services or address their needs. Although a victim specialist is assigned to the SAU within the police department, she appears from police orders and interviews with victims and community workers to have a very limited role.[641]

Not one advocate for sexual assault victims interviewed knew of any victim who had been independently referred by the police to the rape crisis center (apart from calls or referrals made by the hospital call center as part of standard procedure).[642]

When questioned in 2008, police officers said that it was not practice then for uniformed officers responding to sexual assault cases to provide complainants with information about resources available in the community for sexual assault victims.[643] In 2012, an MPD sergeant told Human Rights Watch that detectives now pass on referral information orally.[644] One victim did say that detectives suggested she contact the Deaf Abused Women’s Network after her assault.[645]

Some written material with information for survivors is available at police headquarters. However, in response to our records request for public outreach materials on sexual assault, the MPD only provided four, apparently very dated documents. All four referred victims to Howard University Hospital, which has not been staffed to provide forensic exams since 2008.[646] One document included advice like “using a whistle” if attacked.

During a Human Rights Watch visit to the MPD on May 30, 2012, Victim Services provided us with three additional one-page pamphlets about crime victims’ compensation, the role of Victim Services, and a program (VINE) that informs victims of a change in an offender’s custody status.

Nor is it clear that other forms of support described in police policies are actually made available to victims. According to a police department General Order, a victim specialist assigned to the SAU must ensure that the victim receives an assistance package containing an application to receive compensation for crime-related expenses, and the victim specialist should be “available for any additional questions from the victim.”[647]

However, only one victim interviewed—Susan D.—had spoken to the victim specialist, whom she had only found by searching the MPD website and calling directly, rather than contacting her via a police referral. Advocates who work with survivors said they had not met the MPD victim specialist or heard of her from survivors.[648] Victim service providers also report not knowing or being able to reach the victim advocate at the MPD.[649]

According to the program manager for Victim Services, the unit contacts victims as soon as it receives a PD-251. The unit has 10 specialists, most of whom have master’s degrees in counseling, who are able to inform victims of their rights, help with victim compensation, refer them to resources, and help them through the investigative process before handing them off to the US Attorney’s Office victims unit for support after the investigation. One or two of the staff members primarily deal with sexual assault victims, though others are available to assist if necessary.[650]

The victims we spoke with may not have been referred to the unit because their cases were not classified as sexual assaults but rather as allegations or office information. However, the MPD says the SAU has now “expanded its involvement of its Sexual Assault Victim Services Representative to include contacting and following up with victims where the victim’s initial report did not indicate all the elements of a sexual assault.”[651]

Following Human Rights Watch’s recommendations, a memorandum was issued on June 12, 2012, that requires all sexual allegation and sexual abuse cases to be referred to the “CID Victim Services Unit” who will contact the complainant within 72 hours of the report. [652] The Victim Services Branch program manager confirmed that their caseload has increased substantially since June and that she was given approval to hire two more staff members to assist with this work. [653]

Training

The poor police response to victims may be partly due to lack of training, which has repercussions both for victims and the progress of investigations.

Hospital staff indicated that officers’ lack of understanding of medical reports means they are unable to recognize injuries that are helpful in corroborating an assault.[654] A counselor and others who work with victims expressed concern that detectives’ expectations of victims immediately after the assault may be unrealistic because they do not understand the effects of trauma, leading officers to wrongly think victims are untruthful.[655]

Deposition testimony, witness interviews, and the response to our Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for all MPD training material reveal little formal training for responding officers or detectives on handling sexual assault cases. In his 2008 deposition, a sergeant could recall only three or four trainings on sexual assault within the MPD during the previous two decades. [656] Indeed, two sources indicate that SAU detectives would like more training. [657]

Members of the SAU do not receive any specialized formal training in handling sexual assault cases before being assigned to the unit. In interviews with an SAU sergeant, lieutenant, and the commander responsible for criminal investigations, they said that detectives are not required to attend any training other than the basic investigator course prior to becoming a member of the unit. No specific class on investigating sexual assault is required for either detectives or supervisors in the unit.[658]

Nor are SAU detectives required to undergo any training regarding sexual assault medical forensic examinations, or drug- facilitated sexual assaults, or interacting with sexual assault victims.[659] According to the MPD, in June 2010, SAU detectives attended a training at the US Attorney’s Office conducted by an expert in drug-facilitated sexual assaults.[660] Generally, though, any guidance given to detectives is “on the job,” according to members of the MPD.[661] This involves new detectives pairing with veteran counterparts for three to four weeks of training before taking cases on their own.[662] In a letter to Human Rights Watch, this was described as a “mentoring program.” After the first month, the “mentor detective remains available for questions and advice to the new detective, and also remains available for case discussion.”[663]

Although Standard Operating Procedures are provided to SAU members, it is not clear the extent to which detectives in the unit consult them.[664] In any event, the Standard Operating Procedure manual, as provided to Human Rights Watch, is itself deficient. For example, it contains no information on drug-facilitated sexual assaults and does not discuss non-stranger sexual assault—even though most assaults are committed by someone whom the victim knows.[665] Nor is there mention of possible effects of trauma.

According to a February 24, 2012 letter from Chief Cathy Lanier to Council Member Phil Mendelson sent ahead of a performance oversight hearing, recruits received 28 weeks of academy training, and 12 to 16 weeks of on-the-job training with an experienced field training officer. [666] However, little of that time appears to be devoted to training on sexual assault. [667]

In response to a request for all training materials for officers or detectives pertaining to sexual assault since January 1, 2008, Human Rights Watch received notes from a course entitled “Recruit Officer Training Program,” dated May 2011. The lesson plan for the 40-hour course, entitled “DC CODE Crimes against Persons,” includes a brief section on the definition of sexual abuse but does not go through the elements of the crimes.

Since sexual assaults are investigated by the SAU, the materials say, “it is not necessary for patrol officers to understand the exact elements of each of the four degrees of sexual abuse.”[668] Although examples are provided to generally familiarize recruits with the contents of the sex abuse statute, there is no instruction on interviewing victims other than a directive to officers to “remain professional” and “use proper terminology.”[669]

Human Rights Watch also received “instructor notes” for a 28-hour lesson plan for recruit officers on preliminary investigations, dated October 1999, that does not include information about sexual assault, but does say, “Should an investigation prove that a false report was made investigating officer shall consider charging the person making the report with ‘False Report.’”[670] 

The final training document provided, “DC Code part 1,” defines crimes in the D.C. Code, including sexual abuse, and does include the definitions of the degrees of sexual abuse, including drug-facilitated sexual assault. [671]

Patrol officers confirmed in deposition testimony that in 2008, they did not receive any training on sexual assault or the MPD policies related to investigating sexual assaults before or during their MPD work.[672] Patrol officers did not receive training on drug-facilitated sexual assault,[673] nor were they familiarized with the purpose of a sexual assault forensic medical examination or what it entails.[674] Patrol officers will only receive sexual assault investigation training if it is included in annual “in-service” trainings, which it rarely is.[675] Indeed, an experienced patrol officer said he had not received in-service training on handling sexual assault cases in 10 years.[676]

In contrast, all officers receive significant training on intra-family offenses. According to a 2003 General Order, “Prior to permanent appointment, newly hired sworn members shall receive a minimum of twenty (20) hours of basic training in responding to intrafamily offenses. Sworn members shall receive a minimum of eight (8) hours of in-service training designed to familiarize them with the dynamics of intrafamily offenses.”[677]

Although police are required to undergo 40 hours of “in-service” training each year and receive a brief training as part of roll call, the MPD does not often avail itself of these opportunities to train its members on the realistic dynamics of and appropriate handling of sexual assault cases.[678] Community groups report that police refuse to accept their offers to train officers or detectives on sexual assault or trauma.[679]

Although the D.C. Rape Crisis Center used to train police, as of May 2012, it had not conducted a training with the MPD in five years.[680] According to a SART team participant, the SAU has refused offers to bring in other sexual assault investigation experts to train detectives or officers without charge. It also long refused to participate in SANE training.[681]  

Three MPD detectives and a sergeant attended an international conference on sexual assault, domestic violence, and stalking in San Diego in April 2012.[682] The MPD SAU lieutenant reported that an experienced detective conducted a one-hour in-service training for all SAU detectives on “interviewing victims and witnesses” in late 2011 and a proposal has been made to have an outside expert come in and train detectives more extensively in the fall of 2012 and possibly again in 2013.[683] However, the MPD was unable to schedule training with the expert in 2012.

After the findings of this report were sent to the MPD on May 30, 2012, some detectives registered for free on-line training with End Violence Against Women International. The MPD’s Victim Services Branch also contacted Legal Momentum with regard to an on-line training course for officers on intimate partner sexual violence in October 2012.[684] In December 2012, the MPD indicated that the Network for Victim Recovery of D.C. has provided training to all members of the SAU “on the impact of trauma and the proper approach to victims of sexual assault.” The MPD also states it “developed online Sexual Abuse training which was mandated for all sworn members of the force.”[685]

The prosecutors interviewed for this report supported training detectives in the handling of sexual assault cases. One described annual training of detectives in human trafficking (a specialized group within the major narcotics division) that has taken place since 2004 as an example of successful implementation of regular training that could happen for SAU detectives.[686] Training in victimization of sex workers by pimps is also included at roll call training for all officers.[687] Training on trauma and cultural sensitivity for survivors in particular groups, including immigrants and members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community, would also be an important component of any training program that is implemented.[688]

Nonetheless, as important as training is, training alone, without accountability, transparency, and proper supervision, will not lead to necessary changes.

[406] See, for example, Dean G. Kilpatrick, et al, National Crime Victims Research & Treatment Center, Medical University of South Carolina, “Drug-Facilitated, Incapacitated, and Forcible Rape: A National Study,” Document No. 219181, US Department of Justice Award No. 2005-WG-BX-0006, February 1, 2007, https://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/nij/grants/219181.pdf (accessed November 19, 2012) (finding 16 percent of all rapes are reported to law enforcement).

[407] See, for example, Debra Patterson, Megan Greeson, and Rebecca Campbell, “Understanding Rape Survivors’ Decisions Not to Seek Help from Formal Social Systems,” Health & Social Work, May 2009, p. 127.

[408]Human Rights Watch interview with Cindy Teller, D.C. SANE director from July 2008 through December 2009, Newport Beach, Virginia, June 24, 2011; Human Rights Watch telephone interview with R.L., March 9, 2011; Human Rights Watch group interview with advocates, Washington D.C., March 28, 2011.

[409]  Rebecca Campbell, “What Really Happened? A validation study of rape survivors’ help-seeking experiences with the legal and medical systems,” Violence & Victims, vol. 20, February 2005, pp. 55-68; Human Rights Watch telephone interview with medical staff P.R., May 10, 2011; Rebecca Campbell et al., “Community Services for Rape Survivors: Enhancing Psychological Well-Being or Increasing Trauma?” Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology , vol. 67. no. 6, 1999, pp. 847-858.

[410] See Debra Patterson, “The Impact of Detectives’ Manner of Questioning on Rape Victims’ Disclosure,” Violence Against Women, January 11, 2012; and Debra Patterson, “The Linkage Between Secondary Victimization by Law Enforcement and Rape Case Outcomes,” Journal of Interpersonal Violence, March 17, 2010.

[411] Human Rights Watch telephone interviews with S.R., assistant US attorney, Washington D.C., September 18, 2012; and with M.G., assistant US attorney, Washington D.C., September 19, 2012

[412] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with C.L., assistant US attorney, Washington D.C., September 18, 2012

[413] Human Rights Watch telephone interviews with S.R., assistant US attorney, Washington D.C., September 18, 2012; and with J.F., assistant US attorney, Washington D.C., September 18, 2012.

[414] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with G.D., September 27, 2011; Human Rights Watch interview with K.V., Washington, D.C., March 28, 2011; Human Rights Watch telephone interview with L.O., June 13, 2011.

[415] Human Rights Watch interview with L.O., Washington, D.C., March 28, 2011.

[416] Letter from Chief Lanier to Human Rights Watch, December 20, 2012.

[417] In a telephone interview with Dr. Janis Orlowski, chief medical officer and chief operating officer for Washington Hospital Center, she indicated that though she is not directly involved with the SANE program activities, in her position she receives “assessments of the quality and safety of clinical programs, including the SANE program.” In this capacity, she said that she was aware of some early complaints about the MPD and had done an internal review and believed that they “surrounded a particular individual” and that the internal review—conducted in 2010 or early 2011—did not support the complaints. However, as no other individual interviewed for this report—including 14 individuals who work or have worked in the SANE program at WHC—raised the existence of or confirmed the existence of such an internal review, Human Rights Watch was not able to confirm the report’s existence or assess its contents. The information gathered for this report primarily took place after the time period that the report would have covered (2009). Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Dr. Janis Orlowski, September 20, 2012.

[418] Human Rights Watch telephone interviews with Kristin A. (pseudonym), May 17, 2011; with C.S., October 21, 2011; with medical staff L.L., March 23, 2011; and with Kelly Higashi., assistant US attorney, Washington, D.C., June 4, 2012.

[419] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with R.W., October 5, 2011.

[420] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with J.F., assistant US attorney, Washington D.C., September 18, 2012.

[421] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with S.W., assistant US attorney, Washington D.C., September 19, 2012.

[422] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with C.L., assistant US attorney, Washington D.C., September 18, 2012.

[423] Human Rights Watch telephone interviews with J.F., assistant US attorney, Washington D.C., September 18, 2012; and with S.W., assistant US attorney, Washington D.C., September 19, 2012.

[424] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with J.F., assistant US attorney, Washington D.C., September 18, 2012.

[425] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with C.L., assistant US attorney, Washington D.C., September 18, 2012.

[426] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with M.G., assistant US Attorney, Washington D.C., September 19, 2012.

[427] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with S.W., assistant US attorney, Washington D.C., September 19, 2012.

[428] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with S.R., assistant US attorney, Washington D.C., September 14, 2012.

[429] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with C.L., assistant US attorney, Washington D.C., September 18, 2012.

[430] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with S.W., assistant US attorney, Washington D.C., September 19, 2012.

[431] David Lisa et al., “False Allegations of Sexual Assault: An Analysis of Ten Years of Reported Cases,” Violence Against Women, December 16, 2010, 16:1318 (finding a false report rate of 5.9 percent over a 10-year study of reported sexual assaults at a major northeastern university).

[432] Sgt. Joanne Archambault, Dr. Kimberly Lonsway, and EVAWI, “Clearance Methods for Sexual Assault Cases,” July 2007 (updated August 2008), p. 28.

[433] See Debra Patterson, “The Impact of Detectives’ Manner of Questioning on Rape Victims’ Disclosure,” Violence Against Women, January 11, 2012; and Debra Patterson, “The Linkage Between Secondary Victimization by Law Enforcement and Rape Case Outcomes,” Journal of Interpersonal Violence, March 17, 2010. If the police do not believe the victim, they may perhaps make this known to her by aggressively questioning on the absence of injury or a delay in reporting. The victim may become upset and withdraw cooperation, which in many places may in itself be grounds for considering a case unfounded.  In addition, if investigators have already interviewed the suspect, who may claim the act was consensual, they may aggressively question the victim using information from the suspect, leading the victim to recant. The investigation may stop with the initial interview. This in turn serves to confirm the investigators’ belief that the victim was lying. Dr. Kimberly A. Lonsway, Sgt. Joanne Archambault, Dr. Alan Berkowitz, and EVAWI, “Excerpt from False Reports: Moving Beyond the Issue to Successfully Investigate and Prosecute Non-Stranger Sexual Assault,” February 2009.

[434] Metropolitan Police Department, General Order, “Adult Sexual Assault Investigations,” December 22, 2006, p.3; Metropolitan Police Department, General Order, “Adult Sexual Assault Investigations,” August 25, 2011, p. 4. 

[435] Human Rights Watch telephone interviews with medical staff G.M., March 11, 2011; with P.S., March 15, 2011; with medical staff D.S., March 29, 2011; and with medical staff I.L., December 7, 2011.

[436] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with R.L., March 9, 2011; Human Rights Watch group interview with advocates, Washington D.C., March 28, 2011.

[437] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with medical staff I.L., December 7, 2011.

[438] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with R.T., February 16, 2011.

[439] Human Rights Watch interview with Cindy Teller, D.C. SANE director from July 2008 through December 2009, Newport Beach, Virginia, June 24, 2011.

[440] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Shelly G. (pseudonym), Washington, D.C., October 12, 2012.

[441] Deposition testimony of Detective Sergeant Kevin Steven Rice, October 14, 2008, p. 221. Another officer testified that, in his opinion, a woman may lie about being a victim of sexual assault to get a boyfriend in trouble or to get access to a pregnancy test or the morning after-pill (See, for example, deposition testimony of Detective Vincent Spriggs, October 23, 2008, p. 239).

[442] Human Rights Watch notes from review of MPD investigative files, SA09-XXX, August 21, 2012, on file at Human Rights Watch.

[443] Human Rights Watch notes from review of MPD investigative files, SA10-XXX, August 21, 2012.

[444] Human Rights Watch group interview with sexual assault survivors (including Estella C.), Washington, D.C., September 30, 2011.

[445] Human Rights Watch notes from review of MPD investigative files, SA11-XXX, August 21, 2012.

[446] Human Rights Watch notes from review of MPD investigative files, SA11-XXX, August 21, 2012.

[447] Human Rights Watch notes from review of MPD investigative files, SA11-XXX, August 21, 2012.

[448] Human Rights Watch notes from review of MPD investigative files, SA10-XXX, August 21, 2012.

[449] Human Rights Watch notes from review of MPD investigative files, SA10-XXX, August 23, 2012.

[450] Human Rights Watch notes from review of MPD investigative files, SX11-XXX, August 21, 2012.

[451] Human Rights Watch notes from review of MPD investigative files, SA10-XXX, August 21, 2012.

[452] Human Rights Watch notes from review of MPD investigative files, SA10-XXX, August 21, 2012.

[453] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with R.L., March 9, 2011; Human Rights Watch group interview with advocates, Washington D.C., March 28, 2011.

[454] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Maya T. (pseudonym), May 10, 2011; Complaint form, Office of Police Complaints, May 9, 2011 (provided by Maya T.); narrative of events provided by Maya T., on file at Human Rights Watch.

[455] Human Rights Watch group interview with sexual assault survivors (including with Dolores R.), Washington D.C., September 30, 2011.

[456] Human Rights Watch interview with Cindy Teller, June 24, 2011.

[457] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with medical staff D.S., March 29, 2011.

[458] Human Rights Watch telephone interview L.P., March 16, 2011.

[459] Human Rights Watch group interview with sexual assault survivors, Washington D.C., September 30, 2011; Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Maya T. (pseudonym), May 10, 2011; Complaint form, Office of Police Complaints, May 9, 2011 (provided by Maya T.); narrative of events provided by Maya T., on file at Human Rights Watch; Human Rights Watch telephone interview with medical staff P.R., May 10, 2011; Deposition testimony of Officer Ginette Leveque, April 14, 2008, pp. 250-51.

[460] Human Rights Watch telephone interviews with medical staff B.C., March 8, 2011; and with C.B., May 12, 2011.

[461] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with medical staff P.R., February 18, 2011.

[462] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with C.B., May 12, 2011.

[463] Human Rights Watch joint interview with Cyndee Clay and colleague, March 28, 2011.

[464] Office of Police Complaints, Complaint Form, May 4, 2007, on file at Human Rights Watch.

[465] Human Rights Watch interview with Cindy Teller, June 24, 2011.

[466] Human Rights Watch notes from review of MPD investigative files, SA11-XXX/SX11-XXX, August 21, 2012.

[467] Human Rights Watch notes from review of MPD investigative files, SA11-XXX, August 23, 2012. Other cases found include SA10-XXX (“The [complainant’s] name was run through Colombo and NCIC. The complainant has no warrants.”); SA10-XXX (The [complainant] name was run through Colombo and NCIC. The [complainant] had no warrants but had been arrested for unregistered ammunition and leaving scene of accident.”); SA11-XXX; SA11-XXX.

[468] Human Rights Watch group interview with advocates, Washington D.C., March 28, 2011.

[469] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with L.S., October 21, 2011.

[470] Complaint form, Office of Police Complaints, May 9, 2011 (provided by Maya T.).

[471] Human Rights Watch group interview with sexual assault survivors (including with Susan D.), Washington D.C., September 30, 2011.

[472] Human Rights Watch notes from review of MPD investigative files, SA11-XXX, August 21, 2012.

[473] Incident-Based Event Report, Complaint No. 11058XXX, April 28, 2011, on file at Human Rights Watch.

[474] Human Rights Watch notes from review of MPD investigative files, SA11-XXX, August 22, 2012.

[475] Human Rights Watch notes from review of MPD investigative files, SA11-XXX, August 21, 2012.

[476]Human Rights Watch interview with Cindy Teller, June 24, 2011.

[477] Human Rights Watch group interview with advocates, Washington D.C., March 28, 2011. Another observer noted that while a detective took a statement from a male homeless victim, his partner stood tapping her foot looking off in the distance, as if the interview was wasting her time. Human Rights Watch telephone interview with R.W., October 5, 2011.

[478] Human Rights Watch group interview with sexual assault survivors (including with Estella C.), Washington D.C., September 30, 2011.

[479] Letter from Susan D. to Chief Lanier, May 3, 2012, on file at Human Rights Watch.

[480] Email correspondence dated April 6, 2009 from advocate, forwarded to the Office of Victims Services, and on file with Human Rights Watch. An additional problem was noted by observers of police handling cases involving deaf victims. When police sign for themselves and take a statement, observers have noticed they tend to make mistakes. For example, in one case the victim said there was no weapon, but the police wrote down there was a weapon. Also, victims of trauma often sign faster than usual, so interpreters need to be specifically trained to work with trauma victims. The role of the interpreter is not sufficiently appreciated. Human Rights Watch interview with K.V., Washington, D.C., March 28, 2011.

[481] Louise Ellison, “Closing the Credibility Gap: The Prosecutorial Use of Expert Witness Testimony in Sexual Assault Cases,” International Journal of Evidence and Proof, vol. 9, no. 4, p. 243; J. Michael Rivard, M.D. et al, “Acute Dissociative Responses in Law Enforcement Officers Involved in Critical Shooting Incidents: The Clinical and Forensic Implications,” Journal of Forensic Science, vol. 47, no. 5, July 2002; David Lisak, “The Neurobiology of Trauma,” 2002 (unpublished article, on file at Human Rights Watch); Sgt. Joanne Archambault, Dr. Kimberly Lonsway, and EVAWI,  “Interviewing the Victim,” May 2007, p  21; PPCT Management Systems, Inc. (1989), Use of Force Human Factors  (Chapter One);  Mary P. Koss, Shannon Tramp, and Melinda Tharan, “Traumatic memories: Empirical foundations, forensic and clinical implications,” Clinical Psychology: Science and Practice, vol. 2, no. 2, June 1995, pp. 111-132.

[482] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with R.L., March 9, 2011.

[483] Human Rights Watch email correspondence with Julie M. (pseudonym), April 3, 2011.

[484] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with C.B., May 12, 2011.

[485] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with K.M., November 9, 2011.

[486] Human Rights Watch notes from review of MPD investigative files, SA11-XXX/SX11-XXX, August 21, 2012.

[487]Human Rights Watch notes from review of MPD investigative files, SA11-XXX, August 21, 2012, on file at Human Rights Watch.

[488] Human Rights Watch notes from review of MPD investigative files, SA09-XXX, August 23, 2012.

[489] Dr. Kim Lonsway and Sgt. Joanne Archambault, “Advocates and Law Enforcement: Oil and Water?” Sexual Assault Report, vol. 11, no.6, pp. 81-82, 86-95; Rebecca Campbell, “Rape Survivors’ Experiences With the Legal and Medical Systems: Do Rape Victim Advocates Make a Difference?” Violence Against Women, 2006.

[490] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Suzy N. (pseudonym), October 29, 2011.

[491] EVAWI, “Interviewing the Victim,” pp. 47-48; International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP), “Investigating Sexual Assaults Model Policy,” pp. 2, 3, 7; San Diego Police Department, Sex Crimes Unit SOP, pp. 1-15.

[492] Cal. Pen. Code Section 679.04 Victim of Sexual Assault, Right to Advocate and Support Person; Iowa Code Ann. Section 915.20, Victim Counselors; LSA-R.S. 46:1844: Basic Rights for Victims and Witness (Louisiana); MCA 46-24-106 Crime Victims—Family Members—Right to Attend Proceedings—Exceptions—Right to Receive Documents—Rights During Interviews (Montana); McKinney’s Exec. Law Section 642, Criteria for Fair Treatment Standards (New York); Or. Code Section 147.425, Victim’s Personal Representative (Oregon); Wash. Rev. Code Ann. Section 70.125.060, Personal Representative May Accompany Victim During Treatment or Proceedings (Washington state); W.S. 1977 Section 1-40-203 Victim and Witness Bill of Rights (Wyoming). 

[493] EVAWI, “Interviewing the Victim,” p. 56.

[494] Kimberly A. Lonsway et al., “Excerpt: The Role of Victim Advocates in the Criminal Justice System: Community and System-Based Advocates,” May 2012, p. 2. Training module currently in development for the OnLine Training Institute hosted by End Violence Against Women International, http://olti.evawintl.org (accessed January 10, 2013).

[495] Metropolitan Police Department, Special Order, “Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners Program (SANE),” April 2, 2001, p. 3.

[496] Human Rights Watch group interview with advocates, Washington D.C., March 28, 2011; and Human Rights Watch telephone interviews with medical staff C.J., May 10, 2011; with medical staff I.L., December 7, 2011; with medical staff B.C., March 8, 2011; with M.W., March 24, 2011; and with R.L., March 9, 2011.

[497] Human Rights Watch interview with medical staff P.R., Washington D.C., March 28, 2011.

[498] For example, Washington Hospital Center exam exemption reports (forms prepared for OVS when SANE nurses are called in to perform an exam but then do not do so) read, “SANE did not get to speak to patient but according to detective, pt.[patient] asked for ride to boyfriend’s house. 2 known acquaintances gave her a ride. She fell asleep in car, woke up, 1 man was performing anal sex on her while the other was forcing her to perform oral sex on him. That was all the history I received. Reason for exemption: During interview with det. [detective], patient cursed at det. and ran out of ER.” District of Columbia, Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners Exemption Report, dated October 8, 2009, on file at Human Rights Watch; Also  “Pt. left before I could speak to him. Medstar informed me that MPD and DRCC were notified but pt. left after talking to law enforcement. I spoke with charge RN who confirmed pt. left after initially asking for kit and MPD then left on own after speaking with MPD.” District of Columbia, Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners Exam Exemption Report, dated May 15, 2010, on file at Human Rights Watch.

[499] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with medical staff M.W., March 24, 2011.

[500] Human Rights Watch interview with Cindy Teller, June 24, 2011.

[501] Human Rights Watch interview with university staff L.O., Washington, D.C., March 28, 2011.

[502] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with medical staff C.J., May 10, 2011.

[503] Human Rights Watch group interview with sexual assault survivors (including with Dolores R.), Washington D.C., September 30, 2011.

[504] District of Columbia Sexual Assault Information Form, dated November 24, 2011, on file at Human Rights Watch; Human Rights Watch telephone interview with medical staff I.L., December 7, 2011.

[505] Office of Police Complaints, Complaint Form, November 5, 2010, on file at Human Rights Watch.

[506]Human Rights Watch notes from review of MPD investigative files, 7DDU10-XXX, August 23, 2012.

[507] IACP, “Investigating Sexual Assaults Model Policy,” July 2005, p.4; Human Rights Watch group interview with Kansas City SART, July 22, 2011; Human Rights Watch interview with Sgt. Liz Donegan, Victims Services Unit, Austin Police Department, Austin, Texas, December 13, 2011.

[508] EVAWI, “Interviewing the Victim,” p. 43.

[509] Human Rights Watch notes from review of MPD investigative files, SA09-XXX, August 23, 2012.

[510] The Violence Against Women Act of 2005, 42 U.S.C. Sec. 3796gg-4(d), specifies that states and territories may not “require a victim of sexual assault to participate in the criminal justice system or cooperate with law enforcement in order to be provided with a forensic medical exam, reimbursed for charges incurred on account of such an exam, or both.” As of January 5, 2009, all states must certify that they are in compliance with these requirements in order to remain eligible for STOP Grant funds from the Office on Violence Against Women (OVW). See also deposition testimony of Detective Sergeant Kevin Steven Rice, October 14, 2008, pp. 97-98, 113; deposition testimony of Sergeant Ronald Reid, September 25, 2008 pp. 96-98, 100-104 (indicating that these policy changes went into effect at the MPD in 2008).

[511] Handwritten note of nurse, dated January 20, 2009, on file at Human Rights Watch.

[512] Human Rights Watch notes from review of MPD investigative files, SA11-XXX, August 22, 2012.

[513] Human Rights Watch notes from review of MPD investigative files, SA09-XXX, August 23, 2012.

[514] D.C. SART Meeting Minutes, March 17, 2011, on file at Human Rights Watch.

[515] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with P.S., March 15, 2011. Others also note that if there is no rape kit, police say there is no case. Human Rights Watch interview with Cyndee Clay, March 28, 2011; Human Rights Watch telephone interview with L.P., March 16, 2011. When reviewing investigative files, Human Rights Watch noted a September 2011 case in which “The complainant was asked what her delay in making a report sooner was.” Yet the report was made the evening after the assault. The case was deemed a misdemeanor despite a claim of forcible vaginal penetration. Human Rights Watch notes from review of MPD investigative files, SX11-XXX, August 21, 2011.

[516] Ibid.; Human Rights Watch telephone interview with N.Z., May 17, 2011.

[517] Dr. Kim Lonsway and Sgt. Joanne Archambault, “Advocates and Law Enforcement: Oil and Water?” Sexual Assault Report, vol. 11, no.6, http://www.sane-sart.com/filemgmt_data/files/Advocates%20and%20Lwa%20Enforcement_SATI_DEC%202007.pdf (accessed May 25, 2012), p. 6.

[518] Cassia Spohn and Katharine Tellis, “Policing and Prosecuting Sexual Assault in Los Angeles City and County: A Collaborative Study in Partnership with the Los Angeles Police Department, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, and the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office,” Document No. 237582,  US Department of Justice Award No. 2009-WG-BX-0009, February 2012, https://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/nij/grants/237582.pdf (accessed January 10, 2013), p. III; Human Rights Watch email correspondence with Cassia Spohn, October 25, 2012. 

[519] Human Rights Watch notes from review of MPD investigative files, SA10-XXX, August 21, 2012; see also Human Rights Watch notes from review of MPD investigative files, SX11-XXX, SA11-XXX, SX11-XXX, August 21-23, 2012.

[520] Human Rights Watch notes from review of MPD investigative files, SA11-XXX, August 23, 2012.

[521] Metropolitan Police Department, Sexual Assault Unit SOP, January 14, 2003, p. 43.

[522] Ibid., p. 42.

[523] Metropolitan Police Department, General Order, “Adult Sexual Assault Investigations,” August 25, 2011, p. 11. The policy as of 2001 states, “This should be done immediately after the examination, or at least within 24 hours.” Metropolitan Police Department, Special Order, “Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners Program (SANE),” Series Number SO-01-06, effective date April 2, 2001, p. 7.

[524] Human Rights Watch telephone interviews with medical staff D.S., March 29, 2011; with medical staff B.C., March 8, 2011; with P.R., February 18, 2011; with medical staff M.H., March 2, 2011; and with medical staff L.L., March 23, 2011.

[525] Human Rights Watch notes from review of MPD investigative files, August 21-23, 2012.

[526]Human Rights Watch telephone interviews with medical staff D.S., March 29, 2011; with medical staff B.C., March 8, 2011; with P.R., February 18, 2011; with medical staff M.H., March 2, 2011; and with medical staff L.L., March 23, 2011.; email correspondence from nurse to SANE director, April 11, 2009, on file at Human Rights Watch.

[527] D.C. SART Meeting Minutes, April 30, 2009, on file at Human Rights Watch.

[528] D.C. SART Meeting Minutes, June 18, 2009; D.C. SART Meeting Minutes, May 21, 2009; D.C. SART Meeting Minutes, April 8, 2009, all on file at Human Rights Watch.

[529] Letter from Chief Cathy Lanier to Human Rights Watch, June 8, 2012, on file at Human Rights Watch.

[530] Human Rights Watch telephone interviews with medical staff D.S., March 29, 2011; with medical staff B.C., March 8, 2011; with P.R., February 18, 2011; with medical staff M.H., March 2, 2011; and with medical staff L.L., March 23, 2011.

[531] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with medical staff B.C., March 8, 2011.

[532] Ibid.

[533] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with medical staff D.S., March 29, 2011.

[534] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with medical staff B.C., March 8, 2011.

[535] Human Rights Watch interview with Larry Kobilinsky, Toxicology Department, John Jay College of Criminal Justice, New York City, September 15, 2011.

[536] Criminal Investigations Division, Metropolitan Police Department, Division Memorandum, “Sexual Assault Investigations,” June 12, 2012, p.3.

[537] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Shelly G. (pseudonym), October 12, 2012; case information cover sheet from Shelly G.’s case provided by MPD, on file at Human Rights Watch.

[538] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with medical staff T.N., March 29, 2011.

[539] Letter from Susan D. (pseudonym) to Chief Cathy Lanier,  May 3, 2012, on file at Human Rights Watch; Human Rights Watch group interview with sexual assault survivors (including with Susan D.), Washington D.C., September 30, 2011. 

[540] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with R.W., October 5, 2011.

[541] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Maya T., May 10, 2011; Complaint form, Office of Police Complaints, May 9, 2011 (provided by Maya T.); narrative of events provided by Maya T., on file at Human Rights Watch.

[542] Human Rights Watch group interview with sexual assault survivors (including with Susan D.), Washington D.C., September 30, 2011.

[543] Letter from Susan D. (pseudonym) to Chief Lanier, May 3, 2012, on file at Human Rights Watch.

[544] Ibid.; Human Rights Watch notes from review of MPD investigative files, SA11-XXX, August 21, 2012.

[545] Human Rights Watch notes from review of MPD investigative files, SX08-XXX, August 21, 2012.

[546] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with medical staff M.W., March 24, 2011.

[547] Human Rights Watch notes from review of MPD investigative files, SA10-XXX, August 21, 2012.

[548] Human Rights Watch notes from review of MPD investigative files, SA11-XXX, August 21, 2012.

[549] EVAWI, “Interviewing the Victim,” p. 73.

[550] Human Rights Watch group interview with sexual assault survivors, Washington D.C., September 30, 2011; Human Rights Watch telephone interviews with Shelly G. (pseudonym), October 12, 2012; and with Maya T. (pseudonym), May 10, 2011.

[551] Human Rights Watch interview with K.V., Washington, D.C., March 28, 2011; Human Rights Watch telephone interview with medical staff C.J., May 10, 2011; Human Rights Watch group interview with advocates, March 28, 2011.

[552] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with medical staff M.W., March 24, 2011.

[553] Human Rights Watch group interview with sexual assault survivors (including with Estella C.), Washington D.C., September 30, 2011.

[554] Human Rights Watch notes from review of MPD investigative files, SA10-XXX, August 21, 2012.

[555] Ibid.

[556] Human Rights Watch group interview with sexual assault survivors victims (including with Dolores R.), Washington D.C., September 30, 2011.

[557] Office of Police Complaints, Complaint Form, November 12, 2009, on file at Human Rights Watch.

[558] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with medical staff C.J., May 10, 2011.

[559] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with H.U., November 14, 2011.

[560] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with medical staff C.J., May 10, 2011.

[561] Human Rights Watch notes from review of MPD investigative files, SX11-XXX, August 21, 2012.

[562] Human Rights Watch notes from review of MPD investigative files, SA10-XXX, August 23, 2012.

[563] Human Rights Watch notes from review of MPD investigative files, SA09-XXX, August 23, 2012. The notes go on to say that when the “detective tried to get detailed information, the complainant would add more to her story the second time.” However, notes indicate the complainant was unable to focus, falling asleep and slurring her speech, while being asked repeatedly details of her story.

[564] Kara Brandeisky, “Prevent Sexual Assault by Blaming the Perpetrator,” The Georgetown Voice, September 9, 2010,

http://georgetownvoice.com/2010/09/09/prevent-sexual-assault-by-blaming-the-perpetrator/ (accessed January 10, 2013).

[565] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with G.D., September 27, 2011.

[566] Human Rights Watch video interview with Michelle B., April 12, 2011.

[567] Office of Police Complaints, Complaint Form, May 14, 2008, on file at Human Rights Watch.

[568] Letter from Eleanor G. to Chief Cathy Lanier, October 4, 2011, on file at Human Rights Watch.

[569] Human Rights Watch notes from review of MPD investigative files, SA11-XXX, August 21, 2012.

[570] Human Rights Watch notes from review of MPD investigative files, SA11-XXX, August 21, 2012.

[571] Human Rights Watch notes from review of MPD investigative files, SX10-XXX, August 21, 2012.

[572] Human Rights Watch notes from review of MPD investigative files, SX09-XXX, August 22, 2012.

[573] Human Rights Watch notes from review of MPD investigative files, SX08-XXX, August 21, 2012.

[574] Louise Ellison, “Closing the Credibility Gap: The Prosecutorial Use of Expert Witness Testimony in Sexual Assault Cases,” 9 International Journal of Evidence and Proof, vol. 9, no. 4, p. 243.

[575] See J. Michael Rivard, M.D. et al., “Acute Dissociative Responses in Law Enforcement Officers Involved in Critical Shooting Incidents: The Clinical and Forensic Implications,” Journal of Forensic Science, vol. 47, no. 5, July 2002; David Lisak, “The Neurobiology of Trauma,” 2002 (unpublished article, on file at Human Rights Watch); Sgt. Joanne Archambault, Dr. Kimberly Lonsway, and EVAWI,  “Interviewing the Victim,” May 2007, p. 21; PPCT Management Systems, Inc. (1989), Use of Force Human Factors  (Chapter One); Mary P. Koss, Shannon Tramp, and Melinda Tharan, “Traumatic memories: Empirical foundations, forensic and clinical implications,” Clinical Psychology: Science and Practice, vol. 2, no. 2, June 1995, pp. 111-132.

[576] Metropolitan Police Department, General Order, “Adult Sexual Assault Investigations,” Series 304, Number 06, effective date August 25, 2011, p. 12. The 2006 policy also indicated the detective shall “schedule a follow up interview with the victim at the SAU’s office,” but did not indicate a time frame. It also referenced the SAU detective on-scene “conducting an interview with the victim to obtain additional facts, and to make proper notifications.”

[577] Human Rights Watch interview with Commander George Kucik, Lieutenant Pamela Burkett-Jones, Sergeant Keith Ronald Reed, and Tyria Fields, program manager for Victim Services, Washington, D.C., May 30, 2012. The letter from the chief of police to Human Rights Watch, dated June 8, 2012, also references the quiet room as established to ensure victims are interviewed in a quiet, private location.

[578] Deposition testimony of Officer Michael Minor, May 14, 2008, pp. 88-89.

[579] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with medical staff P.R., February 18, 2011; Human Rights Watch interview with Cindy Teller, Newport Beach, Virginia, June 24, 2011; Human Rights Watch group interview with advocates, Washington D.C., March 28, 2011; Human Rights Watch telephone interview with medical staff I.L., December 7, 2011.

[580] Human Rights Watch group interview with sexual assault survivors (including with Susan D.), Washington D.C., September 30, 2011.

[581] Letter from Susan D. (pseudonym) to Chief Cathy Lanier, May 3, 2012, on file at Human Rights Watch.

[582] In Susan D.’s file, the detective’s notes from the interview consist almost entirely of an account of the consensual part of Susan’s date with the suspect. There is no mention of the signs of trauma she was showing at the time of the interview. Nor is there an indication that Susan physically resisted the assault, was pinned down, felt threatened by some of the language used by the suspect, and felt intimidated because the suspect was much larger than she was. Furthermore, Susan explained that the consensual sexual activity was undertaken as an effort to avoid rape, but that context was not included anywhere in the file reviewed by Human Rights Watch. Although the detective’s notes say that she went over her statement with Susan “to ask if it was accurate and she said yes,” Susan flatly denies that. In a letter to Chief Lanier, she wrote, “I have also not been allowed to review Detective [--]’s notes from my interview, during which I don’t believe she understood what I was saying and consequently was not writing complete notes.” Letter from Susan D. to Chief Cathy Lanier, May 3, 2012, on file at Human Rights Watch; Human Rights Watch notes from review of MPD investigative files, SA11-XXX, August 21, 2012.

[583]  Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Maya T. (pseudonym), May 10, 2011; Complaint Form, Office of Police Complaints, May 9, 2011 (provided by Maya T).

[584] Human Rights Watch interview with Cindy Teller, Newport Beach, Virginia, June 24, 2011.

[585] D.C. SART Meeting Minutes, April 8, 2009; D.C. SART Meeting Minutes, June 18, 2009; D.C. SART Meeting Minutes, May 21, 2009, all on file at Human Rights Watch.

[586] District of Columbia Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners Exam Exemption Report, January 13, 2011, on file at Human Rights Watch.

[587] Human Rights Watch group interview with advocates, Washington D.C., March 28, 2011.

[588] Human Rights Watch interview with K.V., Washington, D.C., March 28, 2011.

[589] District of Columbia Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner Exam Exemption Report, July 18, 2011, on file at Human Rights Watch

[590] District of Columbia Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner Exam Exemption Report, September 14, 2010, on file at Human Rights Watch

[591] Human Rights Watch notes from review of MPD investigative files, SA11-XXX, August 23, 2012.

[592] Human Rights Watch notes from review of MPD investigative files, SA10-XXX, August 22, 2012.

[593] Human Rights Watch notes from review of MPD investigative files, SA10-XXX, August 23, 2012.

[594]Human Rights Watch notes from review of MPD investigative files, SA09-XXX, August 21, 2012.

[595] Human Rights Watch notes from review of MPD investigative files, SA11-XXX, August 23, 2012.

[596] Human Rights Watch notes from review of MPD investigative files, SX11-XXX, August 21, 2012.

[597] Human Rights Watch interview with Sgt. Joanne Archambault, Addy, Washington, May 31, 2012.

[598] Criminal Investigations Division, Metropolitan Police Department, Division Memorandum, “Sexual Assault Investigations,” June 12, 2012, p.1.

[599] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Dr. Heather Devore, SANE medical director, October 10, 2012.

[600] Human Rights Watch group interview with advocates, Washington D.C., March 28, 2011; Human Rights Watch interview with university staff L.O., March 28, 2011 and by telephone on June 13, 2011.

[601] Human Rights Watch email correspondence with R.L., May 31, 2012; Human Rights Watch interview with P.S., March 15, 2011.

[602] Human Rights Watch interview with R.L., March 9, 2011.

[603] Human Rights Watch interview with university staff L.O., March 28, 2011.

[604] Office of Police Complaints, Complaint Form, November 12, 2009, on file with Human Rights Watch.

[605] Human Rights Watch group interview with sexual assault survivors (including Susan D.), Washington D.C., September 30, 2011.

[606] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Shelly G. (pseudonym), June 18, 2012.

[607] Human Rights Watch video interview with Michelle B. (pseudonym), April 12, 2011; Deposition testimony of [Rachel G.’s sister], March 31, 2008, p. 205; Human Rights Watch email correspondence with Julie M. (pseudonym), April 3, 2011.

[608] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Kristen A. (pseudonym), California, May 17, 2011.

[609] Human Rights Watch joint interview with Cyndee Clay and colleague, Washington, D.C., March 28, 2011.

[610] Human Rights Watch interview with university staff L.O., March 28, 2011.

[611] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with P.S., March 15, 2011.

[612] Human Rights Watch interview with university staff L.O., March 28, 2011.

[613] Ibid.

[614] Criminal Investigations Division, Metropolitan Police Department, Division Memorandum, “Sexual Assault Investigations,” June 12, 2012, p.2. 

[615] EVAWI, “Interviewing the Victim,” May 2007, p 6.

[616] Metropolitan Police Department, Special Order, “Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners Program (SANE),” Series Number SO-01-06, effective date April 2, 2001, p. 2.

[617] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with medical staff M.H., April 8, 2011.

[618] See, for example, Human Rights Watch notes from review of MPD investigative files, SA11-XXX, SA10-XXX, SA11-XXX, August 21, 2012.

[619] Human Rights Watch group interview with sexual assault survivors (including Estella C.), Washington D.C., September 30, 2011.

[620] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Sgt. Joanne Archambault, September 26, 2012.

[621] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with M.G., assistant US attorney, September 19, 2012.

[622] Human Rights Watch group interview with sexual assault survivors (including Estella C.), Washington D.C., September 30, 2011.

[623] Ibid.

[624] Ibid.

[625] Human Rights Watch telephone interviews with medical staff D.S., March 29, 2011; and with R.L., May 17, 2011.

[626] Human Rights Watch notes from review of MPD investigative files, SA11-XXX, August 23, 2012.

[627] Human Rights Watch group interview with sexual assault survivors (including with Susan D.), Washington D.C., September 30, 2011.

[628] Ibid.

[629] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with medical staff P.R., May 10, 2011.

[630] Human Rights Watch telephone interviews with attorney A.J., March 22, 2011; and with staff member J.Z, June 6, 2012.

[631] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Maya T. (pseudonym), May 10, 2011; narrative of events provided by Maya T., on file at Human Rights Watch.

[632] Email communication from a Washington Hospital Center SANE nurse to the Office of Victims Services, April 6, 2009, on file with Human Rights Watch.

[633] Human Rights Watch group interview with sexual assault survivors (including Estella C.), Washington, D.C., September 30, 2011.

[634] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Shelly G. (pseudonym), June 18, 2012.

[635] Human Rights Watch interview with university staff L.O., Washington D.C., March 28, 2011. Also in contrast, Sheri  P. (pseudonym) was assaulted in North Carolina in 1988. The detective assigned to her case was so concerned about storing her evidence properly that he brought the forensic evidence kit home and put it in his refrigerator. It meant so much to her that he believed her. She described it as the only thing that made the situation bearable. Human Rights Watch group interview with sexual assault survivors (including with Sheri P.), Washington D.C., September 30, 2011.

[636] Letter from Metropolitan Police Department letter Phil Mendelson, council member, February 24, 2012, p. 15.

[637] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Chief Cathy Lanier, June 1, 2012.

[638] Letter from Chief Cathy Lanier to Human Rights Watch, June 8, 2012, on file at Human Rights Watch. 

[639] Metropolitan Police Department, Sexual Assault Unit SOP, January 14, 2003, p. 19.

[640] Metropolitan Police Department, General Order, “Adult Sexual Assault Investigations,” August 25, 2011, p. 2.

[641] Although prior to June 2012, one person in Victim Services was primarily responsible for sexual assault cases, other members of the unit were available to assist her as needed. Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Tyria Fields, September 19, 2012.

[642] Human Rights Watch telephone interviews with J.V., March 7, 2011; with R.L., March 9, 2011; with L.P., March 16, 2011; and with L.S., October 21, 2011; Human Rights Watch interview with Y.L., Washington, D.C., September 30, 2011.

[643] Deposition testimony of Officer Ginette Leveque, April 14, 2008, p. 102; deposition testimony of Officer Tandreia Green, May 8, 2008, pp. 113.

[644] Human Rights Watch interview with Commander George Kucik, Lieutenant Pamela Burkett-Jones, Sergeant Keith Ronald Reed, and Tyria Fields, program manager for Victims Services, May 30, 2012.

[645] Human Rights Watch email correspondence with Julie M. (pseudonym), April 3, 2011.

[646] One, a “Handbook for Victims of Sexual Assault,” was written in July 2001. While it contains helpful information about sexual assaults and myths about sexual assault, it is outdated. It sends victims to the Howard University Hospital, which has not been staffed to provide forensic exams since 2008. D.C. Rape Crisis Center, “Sexual Assault: A Handbook for Victims,” July 2001. Another similar pamphlet is undated, but it also refers victims to Howard University Hospital. See D.C. Rape Crisis Center, “If you’ve been raped … what to expect, where to turn, what you can do.” A third document is a one-page flyer that emphasizes prevention measures against stranger assaults with tips such as making sure all doors and windows have sturdy locks and “avoiding walking or jogging  alone, especially at night.” It advises readers to “use a whistle to alert others if you are threatened.” Though it is dated January 2011, it still refers victims to the Howard University Hospital for treatment. This document also appears on the MPD website. See http://mpdc.dc.gov/mpdc/cwp/view,a,1237,q,547802,mpdcNav_GID,1551.asp (accessed April 26, 2012). The final document is a pamphlet prepared by the Victim Witness Assistance Unit of the US Department of Justice. It is not clear whether or how the handbooks are distributed to victims.

[647] Metropolitan Police Department, General Order, “Adult Sexual Assault Investigations,” August 25, 2011, p. 13.

[648] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with L.S., October 21, 2011

[649] Ibid; Human Rights Watch telephone interview with L.O., June 13, 2011.

[650] Human Rights Watch interview with Commander George Kucik, Lieutenant Pamela Burkett-Jones, Sergeant Keith Ronald Reed, and Tyria Fields, program manager for victims services, May 30, 2012.

[651] Letter from Chief Lanier to Human Rights Watch, June 8, 2012, on file at Human Rights Watch.

[652] Criminal Investigations Division, Metropolitan Police Department, Division Memorandum, “Sexual Assault Investigations,” June 12, 2012, p.4. The Victim Specialists Unit is part of the MPD’s Victims Services Branch.

[653] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Tyria Fields, MPD’s program manager for Victim Services, September 19, 2012.

[654] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with medical staff P.R., February 18, 2011.

[655] Human Rights Watch telephone interviews with Y.L., May 26, 2011 and September 30, 2011; with medical staff P.R., May 10, 2011; and with R.T., May 26, 2011. Research shows that trauma decreases a person’s ability to provide information that is complete, consistent, and 100 percent accurate. Trauma can also cause loss of cognitive and motor skills, meaning that a person may not be able to concentrate or may behave irrationally. Other research indicates that because of the short-term impairment caused by trauma, the ability to recall might actually increase later. EVAWI, “Interviewing the Victim,” May 2007, p. 21; Louise Ellison, “Closing the credibility gap: The prosecutorial use of expert testimony in sexual assault cases,” The International Journal of Evidence & Proof, vol. 9, no. 4, pp. 243-44.

[656] Deposition testimony of Sergeant Ronald Reid, July 9, 2008, pp. 38-39.

[657] Human Rights Watch interview with two city government officials, October 3, 2011, Washington, D.C.; and SART Meeting Minutes, Thursday June 16, 2011, on file at Human Rights Watch (mentioning a request from the head of the Sexual Assault Unit for “additional training/information on progressive disclosures, trauma impact on memory.”).

[658] Human Rights Watch interview with Commander George Kucik, Lieutenant Pamela Burkett-Jones, Sergeant Keith Ronald Reed, and Tyria Fields, program manager for victims services, May 30, 2012.

[659] Deposition testimony of Sergeant Ronald Reid, September 25, 2008, pp. 21-23; deposition testimony of Detective Sergeant Kevin Steven Rice, October 14, 2008, pp. 92-93.

[660] Letter from Chief Cathy Lanier to Human Rights Watch, June 8, 2012, on file at Human Rights Watch.

[661] Deposition testimony of Detective Sergeant Kevin Steven Rice, October 14, 2008, p. 140; deposition testimony of Detective Elgin Wheeler, October 3, 2008, p. 46.

[662]Human Rights Watch interview with Commander George Kucik, Lieutenant Pamela Burkett-Jones, Sergeant Keith Ronald Reed, and Tyria Fields, program manager for Victim Services, May 30, 2012.

[663] Letter from Chief Cathy Lanier to Human Rights Watch, June 8, 2012, on file at Human Rights Watch.

[664] At the time of the 2008 lawsuit, deposition testimony suggested that detectives did not extensively consult the Standard Operating Procedures. See Deposition testimony of Sergeant Ronald Reid, September 25, 2008, p. 261; deposition testimony of Detective Sergeant Kevin Steven Rice, October 14, 2008, pp. 90-91, 261; and deposition testimony of Detective Vincent Spriggs, October 23, 2008, pp. 39-43.

[665] Division of Violence Prevention, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “The National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey: 2010 Summary Report,” November 2011, www.cdc.gov/ViolencePrevention/pdf/NISVS_Report2010-a.pdf (accessed November 19, 2012), p. 22.

[666] Letter from Metropolitan Police Department to Phil Mendelson, council member, February 24, 2012, p. 9.

[667] Washington D.C. was one of eight US cites selected to take part in the “Making a Difference” project, designed to improve handling of sexual assault cases, and participated in the project from 2003 to 2005. As part of the project, the city reportedly initiated a four-hour training of first responders on sexual assault in collaboration with the D.C. Rape Crisis Center and the SANE program. In addition, the US attorney’s office was to provide one hour of training to all detectives on sexual abuse, domestic violence, and crimes against children. EVAWI, Making a Difference Project, Reform Efforts, Washington D.C., www.evawintl.org/mad.aspx?subpage=4 (accessed January 10, 2013). However, the MPD said it could not locate any records in response to our request for information on training materials received or generated as part of this project. Nor was any material included in its response to our request for all training on sexual assault. The sergeant in charge of the unit who attended the conference does not recall any changes made to the SAU’s practices as a result of that project, so any changes may have been short lived. Deposition testimony of Detective Sergeant Kevin Steven Rice, October 14, 2008, pp. 290-291.

[668] Metropolitan Police Academy, Recruit Officer Training Program, “DC CODE Crimes against Persons,” Sergeant Richard Ehrlich, May 2011, pp. 38-39, on file at Human Rights Watch.

[669] Ibid, p. 39.

[670] Metropolitan Police Department, Institute of Police Science, Lesson Plan, Officer N.B. Dahlenburg, October 1999, on file at Human Rights Watch.

[671] Deposition testimony in 2008 indicates that this course is for new detectives and devotes about an hour and a half to sex crimes. Deposition Testimony of Sergeant Kevin Steven Rice, October 14, 2008, p. 19.

[672] Deposition testimony of Officer Michael Minor, May 14, 2008, p. 12, 23, 27; deposition testimony of Officer Ginette Leveque, April 14, 2008, pp. 38.

[673] Deposition testimony of Officer Michael Minor, May 14, 2008, pp. 28-29; deposition testimony of Sergeant Ronald Reid, September 25, 2008, pp. 23-25; deposition testimony of Officer Ginette Leveque, April 14, 2008, pp. 38, 60-63; deposition testimony of Detective Elgin Wheeler, October 3, 2008, p. 53; and deposition testimony of Sergeant George Maradiaga, July 14, 2008, pp. 35, 44, 97-98.

[674] Deposition testimony of Officer Ginette Leveque, April 14, 2008, pp. 119-21; deposition testimony of Detective Elgin Wheeler, October 3, 2008, pp. 52-53; deposition testimony of Sergeant George Maradiaga, July 14, 2008, pp. 90, 201-202.

[675] Deposition testimony of Sergeant Ronald Reid, September 25, 2008, pp. 23-25, 27; deposition testimony of Detective Sergeant Kevin Steven Rice, October 14, 2008 p. 17-18, 92. Deposition testimony indicates there was one video prepared for first responders on how to interact with sexual assault victims, but it is not clear that it has been shown and it was not produced in response to our request for training materials. It was not shown between 2005 and October 2008. Deposition testimony of Detective Sergeant Kevin Steven Rice, October 14, 2008 pp. 46-48, 92-93; deposition testimony of Officer Tandreia Green, May 8, 2008, pp. 24, 46.

[676] Deposition testimony of Officer Michael Minor, May 14, 2008, p. 17.

[677] Metropolitan Police Department, General Order, “Intrafamily Offenses,” GO-OPS-304.11, effective date November 7, 2003, https://go.mpdconline.com/GO/3743000.pdf (accessed January 7, 2013), p. 3.

[678] See Metropolitan Police Department, “Scheduling and Attendance of In-Service Training,” GO-PER-201.30, effective date July 27, 2001; Metropolitan Police Department, “Roll Call Training,” GO-PER-404.06, effective date July 31, 2002.

[679] Human Rights Watch telephone interviews with R.L., March 9, 2011; with R.T., May 8, 2012; and with J.V., March 7, 2011.

[680] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with R.T., May 8, 2012.

[681] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with medical staff I.L., December 7, 2011; Human Rights Watch interview with medical staff P.R., Washington D.C., March 2, 2011. The former SANE director, Devin Trinkley, offered to create an online training program for officers and SAU detectives, but MPD would not return her calls and the program was not implemented.  Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Devin Trinkley, July 19, 2012.

[682] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Sgt. Joanne Archambault, May 14, 2012.

[683] Human Rights Watch interview with Commander George Kucik, Lieutenant Pamela Burkett-Jones, Sergeant Keith Ronald Reed, and Tyria Fields, program manager for Victim Services, May 30, 2012.

[684] Human Rights Watch email correspondence with staff at Legal Momentum, October 17, 2012.

[685] Letter from Chief Lanier to Human Rights Watch, December 20, 2012.

[686] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with M.G., assistant US attorney, Washington D.C., September 19, 2012

[687] Ibid.

[688] The US Department of Justice similarly recommends training on cultural sensitivity for forensic nurse examiners. See US Department of Justice, Office on Violence Against Women, “National Training Standards for Sexual Assault Medical Forensic Examiners,” June 2006, https://ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/ovw/213827.pdf (accessed November 19, 2012).