Police have declined to charge two men accused of raping a woman in a portable toilet in Greenpoint, citing “too many inconsistencies” in the victim’s statements. The alleged attack occurred on Monday at 6 p.m., three blocks away from the NYPD’s 94th Precinct station.
Witnesses to the aftermath of the assault told police they found the victim on the sidewalk outside the toilet, extremely distraught but coherent enough to clearly identify her attackers.
Maria Rizzo, 42, chef and owner of the Halcyon Gourmet on the same block [where the alleged assault occurred], said she was unloading supplies from her car with her husband when she saw two men rushing through, with one of them appearing to pull up his pants.
She remembered chastising her husband for saying to the man, “Pull your pants up and you’d be able to get there faster.”
Moments later, she was approached by a jogger who asked for their help with a woman who was on the ground near the portable toilets crying.
“She was distraught. She was shaking, crying, but coherent,” Rizzo recounted. The young woman told them that she was at a concert two blocks away and had left to go find another friend who was lost on the way to the venue.
“It all happened really fast,” Rizzo said. “This happened in broad daylight. It was 6 o’clock. There were dads and moms pushing kids in strollers. The jogger was jogging safely. I’ve never felt unsafe. The police precinct is right around the corner.”
The woman said one of the men stole her phone and demanded oral sex for its return, running off with the second man after throwing the victim out of the toilet.
Unnamed law enforcement sources today told DNAinfo that the victim later told investigators she could not remember whether the encounter was consensual and declined to press charges. This and other reported changes to the woman’s story emerged during a second interview at Wyckoff Heights Medical Center, where the victim had just submitted a rape kit.
These details are concerning to Sonia Ossorio, the president of the National Organization for Women of New York. “Whenever we hear the phrase ‘inconsistency in her story,’ that raises a red flag for us. [In our work with] many survivors, we’ve found that the inconsistencies arise because of the way that they’re interviewed,” Ossorio told the Voice.
Ossorio added that, too often, officers take an interrogational approach that can be overwhelming for victims. “I’ve seen women who are in a hospital bed, who have just had their rape kit, who haven’t slept or eaten and are in shock, and there are ten officers around them interjecting with questions. You can give up.'”
For other victims of sexual assault, a story like this can be discouraging, Ossorio says. “It sends a message to victims that it’s not worth coming forward if you’re not in tip-top shape and ready to write a thesis on what happened — that you are going to be deemed not credible. The fact is that inconsistencies in statements do not mean the allegations are unfounded. That is the wrong conclusion to draw from that.”
Earlier this year, 94th Precinct captain Peter Rose sparked public outcry after saying that his officers declined to make arrests in 76 percent of rapes reported in 2016 because most were not “true stranger rapes” and thus of lower investigative priority. Rose later made an apology on Twitter but was not disciplined.
The NYPD declined a Voice request for specific comment on this case. In an email, Detective Sophia Mason of the NYPD’s press office said simply that “every report of a sexual assault is thoroughly investigated by specially trained detectives in the NYPD’s Special Victims Unit.”