News & Politics

Women’s Groups Demand NYPD Reopen Greenpoint Date Rape Cases

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In response to an NYPD commander’s assertion that he wasn’t “worried about” ten instances of rape because they weren’t “true stranger rapes,” a group of women protested in front of his precinct in Greenpoint yesterday afternoon, demanding that the ten unsolved “acquaintance rape” cases be reopened.

Reported instances of rape rose 62 percent in Greenpoint’s 94th Precinct between 2015 and 2016. In ten of them, the victims knew their attackers, but the cases were deemed unsolved after police said victims grew uncooperative.

Captain Peter Rose told an audience at a community council meeting last week that the sharp uptick was made up of date rape, where victims knew their attacker. “Some of them were Tinder, some of them were hookup sites, some of theme were actually coworkers. It’s not a trend that we’re too worried about because out of 13 [sex attacks], only two were true stranger rapes,” he said.

Rose added: “If there’s a true stranger rape, a random guy picks up a stranger off the street, those are the troubling ones. That person has, like, no moral standards.” Just 14 percent of rape cases nationwide involve attackers who are strangers to the victims, according to the National Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Two of the sexual assault complaints reported last year were classified as stranger rapes, including one additional case involving a minor who became pregnant, according to DNAInfo.

“Captain Rose’s comments are outrageous, but they are symptoms of a larger problem,” said Sonia Ossorio, president of the New York chapter of the National Organization for Women (NOW), which organized the rally. “The atrocious idea that acquaintance rapes are less serious is a widespread belief in our criminal justice system. It is a prejudice that stands between countless sexual assault victims and justice.”

Rose’s comments drew heat from women’s groups, and city and state officials, including the Mayor’s Office. An online petition started by national group UltraViolent got over 45,000 signatures calling for Rose to be fired.

Senior NYPD brass denounced the comments and said they were not representative of department procedure. Police Commissioner James O’Neill called them “insensitive” and was quick to point out that the Special Victims Unit investigates sex crimes, not cops like Rose, in an op-ed published in the New York Daily News yesterday. O’Neill went on to detail department-wide efforts to sensitively reach out all victims of sexual assault, including placing victims’ advocates in each precinct and training transit officers with the help of nonprofit Hollaback.

NOW delivered a letter to O’Neill yesterday, requesting a meeting with him and demanding, among other things, department wide reforms that would ensure every police officer understood that all rape must be treated seriously. The letter also asks that the ten unsolved cases in Greenpoint be reopened.

Jane Manning, director of advocacy at NOW, said that Rose’s comments were indicative of a pervasive rape culture that plagues not just police, but society, one in which women are expected to assume the risk of rape if they use dating sites like Tinder. The group wants data that will reveal whether the 0-for-10 statistic for arrests in acquaintance rape versus stranger rape is an anomaly citywide, or the norm.

“Either we are not being told the whole story or this is a red flag for how victims are being treated in the 94th,” said Jane Manning, director of advocacy at NOW. “If [stranger rape] is so much more challenging why were they able to make arrests in 100 percent of stranger rape cases and zero in known identity cases?”

Rose issued an apology from the precinct’s Twitter account saying that he misspoke at the meeting, and that his comments “were not meant to minimize the seriousness of sexual assault.” There have been no announcements of plans for disciplinary action.

“Discipline is irrelevant to the actual issue. He is simply the face of a general attitude that pervades our police force,” said Morgan Moreira, 28, a Williamsburg resident and member of NOW. “Reprimanding one person is not going to change what an overhaul of education for an entire force is going to do.”

The small group chanted in front of the precinct while at least a dozen community-affairs officers, clad in signature royal blue jackets, stood watch, silently, from across the street.

Their lack of engagement is “representative of their philosophy toward protests. I can only conclude that they aren’t taking this as seriously as they should,” said Andrew Adair, 30, a member of NOW from Greenpoint. Adair held a sign that said: “A rose is a rose is a rose. A rape is a rape is a rape.”

Some protesters said this issue is even more pressing on the cusp of the inauguration of a president-elect known to speak disparagingly about women, and who has been accused of multiple sexual assaults.

“With the inauguration, it’s important we take these issues seriously. Words are one thing but taking action is a completely different thing,” said Abby Szpekman, 19, a freshman student at Rutgers University who was in the city for the protest. “We want to see [Rose’s] apology put into action with legislation and how all rape is handled, and then his apology will be real.”

UPDATE/4:30P.M.: DNAInfo reports that police commissioner James O’Neill said today at a news conference in the Bronx that he is considering reopening unsolved acquaintance rape cases in Greenpoint’s 94th Precinct following broad criticism of Captain Peter Rose’s comments. O’Neill said that his office was in “ongoing discussions with the National Organization for Women,” but Jane Manning, director of advocacy at NOW, said they have yet to be contacted by the commissioner’s office.

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